Who came up with the line, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end?” You might think it came from the band Semisonic in their excellent song, “Closing Time” back in 1998.
Good guess! But you would be wrong.
I recently learned that they borrowed that insightful phrase from an earlier writer. Much earlier. Like 2,000 years earlier. It was written by a Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca for short). He lived way back around the same time Christ was on the earth.
I like his idea, because it is true (and was in the Semisonic song). Every new beginning does come from some other beginning’s end. Sometimes because that new beginning was achieved, sometimes because it had run its course, or simply because it crashed and burned. YMMV.
Definitely an applicable thought as we prepare to enter a new year tomorrow. ‘Tis the season for resolutions. I know many people are anti-resolutions, and I get that. Other people like using the turning of the calendar page as an opportunity to try on some new beginnings.
Me? I’m a little of both. I have had years where I have made careful, prayerful resolutions and attempted to make some important steps forward. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been years where I was simply thrilled to stick a fork in the year was ending and welcome in a fresh one.
Sometimes my resolutions have paid off with progress, other times, they have died an ugly death – often as early as January 2nd.
One thing I have learned over the course of a lot of attempted New Year’s life changes: Change is not easy. I am a creature of habit, and am rather change resistant in some areas. Am I using the same kind of shower soap that I used back in the ’80s? Yup. Do I still watch Survivor on Wednesday nights? Yup.
Habits are tough to break. I’ve spent some time checking out how the experts say we can change habits, including reading the book, “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg, which really digs into how habits are created and broken.
The main quote I took away from the book is meshes with what Seneca was talking about thousands of years ago: “The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”
It isn’t enough to use our willpower and make the changes we want to make. We have to replace the bad habit with a new, better habit: A new beginning rising from the ashes of whatever we were doing before.
An example: “I’m done. I’m staying off of social media.”
Or, “I’m gonna start eating healthier.”
Or, “I’m going to read my scriptures every morning.”
These simple declarations might last a day, a week or even a month – but it is doubtful, unless…they are replaced with something better.
Could I replace mindless Instagram scrolling with scrolling through census records on FamilySearch? Could I replace sitting an eating ice cream with going for an evening stroll? Could I put my alarm clock across the room? That is the kind of replacement that can create change.
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed; They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts; They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.” Charles Duhigg
It takes time and consistent effort to make changes. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “Incorporating new and wholesome habits into our character or overcoming bad habits or addictions often means an effort today followed by another tomorrow and then another, perhaps for many days, even months and years, until we achieve victory.” (link)
Here is where Elder Christofferson offers more than the experts: “But we can do it because we can appeal to God for our daily bread, for the help we need each day.” (link)
As 2023 winds down, and 2024 revs up, there is a natural inclination to attempt change. If you are of a “New Year’s Resolution” mindset, it might be wise to include God in your decisions as to where your focus should lie. As Harold B. Lee taught, “Every one of us, if we would reach perfection, must at one time ask ourselves this question, ‘What lack I yet?’” (link)
If you are anti-resolutions, you hopefully have things besides the calendar inviting you to change .
If you are a “I’m perfect the way I am” person, then you have much bigger problems, starting with a lack of understanding about what this earth life is all about.
Me? My New Year’s resolutions are usually shipwrecked by mid-January, with only a haze of guilt drifting in their shadows. Historically, they have not been very effective, but sometimes, I nail it. This year there are some things I want to work on starting tomorrow: Habits that need replaced; divinely-sanctioned goals that need achieved; endings that need a definitive ending; beginnings that need begun.
Will I succeed? I don’t know. But do I know that not trying is failure.
Good luck and Godspeed, if you are looking to make changes for the new year. May we find what we need to fix, a way to fix it, and divine assistance in our quest.
Happy new year,