New Year, New (Old) You

The winter solstice is behind us, the days are again lengthening, and we find ourselves beginning the project of a new year. Just about everywhere you look you’ll find optimistic and helpful suggestions for how to make 2017 your best year yet–often by creating a ‘new you’ for the new year.

Perhaps, though, novelty has its limits. “Everything old is new again,” runs the old adage. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Well, we may not be able to turn back time, but we can draw inspiration from it. As Matthew McConaughey observed, “Sometimes, you gotta go back to actually move forward.”

In that spirit, we offer four ways you can make 2017 your best year yet—not by glancing anxiously at the future, but by calmly examining the past.

In other words, the answer just may be introducing an old you for the new year.


We’re willing to place two bets right now:

  1. There definitely was a year you were in the best shape of your life.
  2. You probably weren’t aware it at the time. (Beauty and strength are peaks best viewed from a distance.)

Without guilt, cast your mind back to that time now. Something got you to that state of fitness—what was it? A regimen of weights or stretching? A sport or outdoor activity? Hiking or swimming, jogging or cycling, yoga, Tai Chi, or [fill in the blank]?

No one’s expecting you in 2017 to beat a path directly back to your physical prime. But perhaps you can rediscover the habits that supported it. Your body—a machine that grows stronger in response to stress—is the most amazing piece of technology you’ll ever own.


Perhaps you remember an afternoon of absorption in…that book—yes, that one. A Penguin classic, wasn’t it? One of the slimmer volumes, dogeared and spine-broken, its pages marked with highlighter and scribbled notes in the margins?

Heady days, weren’t they? A time of excitement and possibility, a time when the world had yet to assert itself as a series of routines, when you were freer to find yourself in it, and recognize yourself when you did. This is the old mindset that’s worth cultivating in the new year.

It might be the act of pulling a dusty favourite from the shelf, or getting around to one of the novels you always intended to, whether the masterwork of E. Annie Proulx (misplaced yours? We’ve got you covered) or Marcel Proust (better found in a library).


Family is perhaps a touchy subject so soon after the holidays, whether the discomfort is born of feast or famine. But if, as the Girl Scouts say, we must make new friends (because they’re silver) and keep the old (gold), how precious a metal is family?

Rubber loses its elasticity over time. People do, too. (Luckily, for humans, the process is reversible.) In the spirit of moving forward by going back, call to mind a time from the less complicated past, and make 2017 the year you make an open-hearted entreaty to a loved one grown distant.


For many of us, small irritations can erode what satisfaction we take from our work. The dreariness of meetings, perhaps a too-stern boss, coworkers who nick your lunch from the fridge—the classic death of a thousand paper cuts.

Irritation is seductive, because it plays to a feeling of having been unfairly treated. To be irritated is to believe we’re being deprived of something we deserve.

But it’s a destructive instinct, argues Seth Godin, and one of the least useful human emotional responses. “People in true distress are never irritated,” he says. “Someone who is hungry or drowning or fleeing doesn’t become irritated.”

No—she faces her challenges directly and with energy. Make 2017 the year you do the same (again). And happy new year!

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