Shakespeare's words, “the past is prologue,” remind us that events of the past year have created conditions to reconsider and reshape our lives. It is difficult to look back on 2020 with anything but a sense of relief and gratitude that we survived—hundreds of thousands dead from COVID-19 including more than 1000 health care workers, social unrest related to unresolved issues of structural racism, major storms and forest fires ravaging parts of the United States fueled by climate change, curtailed travel, the discontinuation of social gatherings, and fear of a new COVID-19 surge concurrent with flu season. At the writing of this editorial, there is no definitive COVID-19 vaccine, though several are in the offing engulfed in the political chaos of the day. There is no general agreement on how to ameliorate the negative effects of climate change or even that such effects exist. Disruptions to work, education, and social life are likely to persist into 2021. Confusion, polarization, and disorganization may accompany such disruptions. Yet, here we are moving hopefully into the New Year, celebrating albeit with masks and social distancing, and reviewing our options and “resolutions.”
The Babylonians were the first to celebrate the “New Year” 4000 years ago. Expressions of gratitude to the king and to the gods accompanied promises to pay debts and wishes to prosper in the coming year.1 Resolutions to act more responsibly or accomplish goals in the coming year spread among Eastern and Western religions. Today, 60% of Americans make New Year's resolutions related to health or career, though only 6% follow through or accomplish their goals.2
Developing resolutions for 2021 seems a herculean task. How can we use what we have learned this past year to develop meaningful and doable New Year's resolutions? Instead of that self-absorbed checklist of health and career related “to do's,” it might serve us well to focus on gratitude for surviving and thriving through 2020, kindness toward others, especially those with whom we have had the most difficulties, activation of our social and political consciousness so that the world becomes a better place for all, and refinement of our problem-solving skills—our willingness to acknowledge and resolve problems.
In my research of memorable New Year's resolutions, I discovered this thought, by the writer Susan Sontag, that resonates perfectly with the times.3 I offer it to our readers as we slide, carefully, into 2021.
Kindness, kindness, kindness. I want to make a New Year's prayer, not a resolution. I'm praying for courage.
—Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, FCPP
Editor in Chief
1. Pruitt S. The history of New Year's resolutions. History.com
. Accessed September 15, 2020.
2. Economy P. Top 10 New Year's resolutions for success and happiness in 2020. INC.com
. Accessed September 16, 2020.