Opinion | The Gauge
Hopefully the festive season is providing some respite for you from the seemingly perpetual strain of modern life.
My own experience of the Christmas and New Year period has certainly changed in recent years as my children grow up. The season is a trigger for me to consider their lives even more than usual as the yearly rituals play out and their roles in them evolve.
The next little ritual of course will be New Year's resolutions. This is a widespread practice that can be traced back to Babylon nearly six thousand years ago.
The exercise of thinking about New Year's resolutions provides a global opportunity for some reflection and self-assessment as we consider what it is about ourselves and/or our lives that we would like to change.
Any opportunity for change is often realised, or not, based on how wishful or wilful the thinking is behind the resolution. It seems to me that belief in the opportunity is also a critical component of genuine commitment. In the end though, a resolution without resolve is a bit like a train without a track - pointless.
I have come to the conclusion that there are broadly three types of people when it comes to changing things. There are people who deny the need for change. There are people who see the need for change and think someone else should do something about it. There are people who see the need for change and do something about it.
The first two categories are disempowering. I fear that as a society we occupy too much of them and it feels very un-Australian to me.
I understand the tendency to ignore problems and resist the need for change, because effecting change is often hard. Denying the need for change seems easier for a while, but often the longer you leave it the harder it is.
I understand the tendency to think someone else should do something about a problem that affects us, but it is kind of fatalistic. It is the enemy of personal affirmation or action because assuming a problem is someone else's responsibility means we don't have to do anything ourselves. The real risk here is that you probably won't like the change someone else forces on to you.
When you look at what we have achieved as a species, good and bad, it is staggering how much can be achieved when people commit to changing their circumstance. The evidence of our capacity to get things done is overwhelming, particularly if you consider what a Babylonian might think of our civilisation.
I think this goes to the core of the quintessential Australian trait of having a go - seeing a problem and doing something about it. It is ironic that The Little Engine That Could is an American story that epitomises such an Australian concept.
Nearly every human construct can be changed. Nothing should be off the table. So when you pause to reflect on what changes you would like to see in the year(s) ahead, aim high, follow through and have a go at doing something about it.
Having a go has a habit of building belief. Belief in turn creates hope. It seems to me that being hopeful is subtly different to being wishful and a lot more constructive, personally and collectively.
There is a lot in our future that is uncertain and this weighs heavily on my mind when I consider what sort of opportunities my children will see. All I really know is the future will not look like the past, so I strive to instil in my children a sense of hope that comes from believing in their own ability that will empower them in the face of adversity.
I am not a religious man, but I do identify with the Serenity Prayer in this context.
"Grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference".
I hope you can make 2020 your best year yet.
- Peter Mailler is a third generation grain and cattle farmer on the NSW/Queensland border.