Dare to dream but be kind to yourself

TODAY we enter a bright, shiny new year and few of us will be able to resist the temptation to reflect on what it might bring.

And nor should we. Time for reflection is difficult enough to find in our hectic, frantic lives, and so any opportunity to press the pause button on humdrum life, consider what we have and what we want to achieve, needs to be eagerly seized.

So today, many of us will do just that. In a positive fit of enthusiasm for the twelve new months to come, we will vow to do all manner of things.

Many of us will stub out our final cigarette, others will sit on the sofa, eating the last of the festive sweets and watching a film for the very last time ever.

Yet others will begin to save thousands of pounds of their salary for that first house, or clinch a high-flying new job, or become fitter than they have ever been in their lives.

All these things will seem achievable today. We will set ourselves on the path to success, and we will mean it.

We will be resolute and determined. In fact, our jaws and our resolutions wil be equally firmly set.

And yet the thing to remember is that there is probably no need to be quite so hard on ourselves. We know that promises made at the end of one year and the beginning of another are so often broken before winter gives way to spring – and often in the first week they are made.

So, in short, we should allow ourselves to dream, but we should not be too disappointed if we fall short.

After all, it's often said but always true that it is not material success that counts.

But one important promise we can make this New Year is to take greater personal responsibility for our actions.

What we do counts, even though we might not think it on a cold morning in deepest, darkest January.

But the things we do, and our children do, in our own small communities make a difference. We can all do our bit to instill a sense of pride, to restore values, to help others and to be kind and decent human beings, no matter what our politics or our faith.

Too many communities have become fractured, with little evidence of the glue that once held them together and lent them the sense of unity that made them so strong.

The result is that many of our elderly live in fear of crime or sit isolated in their own homes with no contact with another person for months on end.

We can change that.

Perhaps the coming year is the year when we should all make a concerted effort to look out for our neighbours and invest time in the places where we live.

Collective pride can be infectious, spreading through whole communities and bringing people together.

Another important promise at this time of year, and one that is worth keeping, is to appreciate what we have. It's easy to lose sight of the really important things in the race to achieve money and prestige – but today is the day to make a promise to be grateful.

A happy New Year to you all.

EP 3/1/11