Last Day of the Year

It’s December 31st 2015 and the so-called last day of the year. It sounds so final. 2015 is over and done with. If I had anything that had to be done in 2015 and didn’t get done, well, It’s game over.

But really it’s not the last day of anything important. Sure, it’s the last day of the 2015 tax year. And I’m sure there are some other legal entities that officially expire at midnight today. But these are just temporary rules we set up to police ourselves and not laws of Nature.

Nature has cycles and repetition and patterns but not calendars or tax schedules. And Nature’s cycles are much more sophisticated than our rules and regulations can model. None of our human calendar systems really fit the orbit of the Earth around the Sun or the revolutions of the Earth around its axis or even the orbit of the Moon around the earth. The tradition of ending and starting the year in the middle of Winter is an cultural one. It pre-dates the Romans but for our culture the Romans were the core influence. In celebrating New Year’s Eve we’re celebrating a Roman tradition that includes a tribute to Julius Ceaser and the two-faced god Janus. The Romans felt remorse about killing Ceaser so they kept his calendar and voted him into a god on January 1st.

So what does the last day of the year really mean for you and I? Is it something we should take seriously? Is it just an excuse to have a party at midnight? Probably.

Personally I believe the last day of anything (years, sprints, baseball seasons) is good for two important functions: First, for better or worse, it forces us to pause. Take a break. Spend time with friends and family and ourselves. Taking a breather is a great idea in a 24/7 society. When I was a kid TV networks shut down overnight. Even if you wanted to watch TV all night you could not. You have to take a break. We don’t have that tradition any more. Cable TV and the Internet never go offline (on purpose).

Second, for very good reasons, the last day of anything forces us to reflect. Did we get done everything we wanted to accomplish? I hoped to lose 100 pounds in 2015. That didn’t happen. Maybe I need to change my strategy? Maybe I need to change the goal? These are all good questions.

If I could share some advice for a happy and healthy 2016, this is what I would advise: Take frequent breaks. Spend more time alone. Reflect on the impact of your actions and your enthusiasms on others. Don’t take things too seriously. Before you hit submit on that blog post, tweet or facebook message pause and reflect.

Happy New Year!