With the New Year comes a zeal for all things new: new habits, new physiques, new selves. We resolve to start fresh, to do things right, and to change the things we don't like. There's nothing wrong with wanting new and wanting better, but I'd also urge that you take some time this January to consider things that are old and familiar.
It's easy to lead a life of aspiration. We want things to be calmer, more beautiful, or more complete. We want things to be more organized; we want our bodies to work better; we want to be richer or more inspiring. Sometimes that aspiration is good. It can teach us to dream, strive, and learn. It can teach us to set goals and to work hard toward achieving them.
But sometimes, aspiration can be overwhelming. It can push us to stop feeling satisfied with what we have; it can lead us to forget about the things that we've collected, loved, and achieved in the past; and it can give us perpetual anxiety or, to use a term created for precisely this purpose, it can inspire FOMO (fear of missing out).
To avoid being mired in this unhealthy aspiration, it's important to focus not only on the new, but on the old as well. Doing so has some distinct benefits...
It helps you build a story, not just about who you want to become, but about who you already are. Looking to the past can be quite valuable when you are trying to think about your future. Chances are, there some things about yourself that you like, and understanding these aspects will go a long way toward giving you a sense of purpose and direction. Ask yourself, "What was it in the past year that gave me joy? What traits did I exercise that made me feel like a better person? What kinds of behaviors did I adopt that made me feel strong or happy?"
There is joy in satisfaction and contentment. The line between a healthy desire for self-improvement and an unhealthy perpetual yearning is not always clear. Learning to be satisfied with your achievements, social life, or material belongings will go a long way toward making you feel more secure. If you're content in the present moment, then you will have fewer anxieties about the future. It's always better to cherish what you have rather than fixating on the things that don't quite measure up.
Lots of the old stuff is good stuff. There's a reason that you still have the blanket that your grandma made you when you were little, or the same core group of friends, or the same haircut you've had for years. Lots of the old stuff is good stuff. It's valiant to want to get rid of the bad things in your life, but it's important to focus on the stuff that you want to keep as well. These things are easy to take for granted and to overlook, but they are an important aspect of happiness.
Gratitude is powerful. I'm a fan of practicing Thanksgiving at New Year's. Being thankful for the things that you have can make your life feel much richer, and after the (often-harried) events of the holidays, it can put the coming year into perspective.