NOTIONS: Skip the big resolution; play New Year’s “What if?”

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The ball has dropped. The champagne corks have been swept from the floor. And the rose petals have been blown by the breeze down Pasadena Boulevard.

And so we begin anew: Another year. Another 12 months. Another 52 weeks. Another 365 days. Another 525,600 minutes. Another chance to live and learn, work and play, grow and love. And blessed with so much time (and it is a blessing), what will you make of yourself, and those dearest to you and the world around you? Will you map it out or let it come to you? Will you set big goals, little ones or none at all? Will you focus inward or outward? Will you look to Divine intervention or rely on yourself and your fellow humans? Will you mourn what you’ve lost or cherish what you’ve gained? Will you suffer your plight or strive to escape? Will you find joy or fault in all things and all people (including you)? Will you smile or frown each morning at that image in the mirror? Will you embrace change or crave the status quo? Will you long for the way things were or consider what might be? Will you take time for you or merely bear burdens for others? And which will you say in a year, or 12 months, or 52 weeks, or 365 days, or 525,600 minutes from now: “I wish I had” or “I’m glad I did”?

Whatever you resolve to do or be, the new year, with its inherent increments, brings with it the chance to play “What if?” and imagine the consequences.

What if you walked the stairs to your office, instead of riding the elevator, at least once a day?

What if you turned off the TV, and all the lights, and lit some candles, and had a real conversation with someone significant in your life for just an hour each week?

What if you brought at least one new idea to the boss each month?

What if you addressed any lingering regrets, or anger or confusion before going to bed each night?

What if you wrote one page-of a novel, or how-to manual, or short story, or an essay, or a love letter or a soul-baring-each day?

What if you took one continuing-education course each semester? What if you took two courses toward a degree? What if you took one snapshot of someone in your life each day? What if you wrote a thank-you note for some good deed each afternoon before leaving work? What if you cooked one additional meal at home each week instead of eating out? What if you sat down with others to share that meal?

What if you went to a church of a faith different from yours one weekend each month?

What if you gave an additional 1 percent of your salary to charity each paycheck?

What if you took a different coworker to lunch or breakfast once a week and talked of life, not work? What if you read one book per week? What if you spent half an hour reading the news each day? What if you cleaned out your closet once a quarter and sent the long-unworn items to a worthy charity? What if you bought three extra cans of food at the store each week and sent them to a homeless shelter? What if you paid a local shelter to spay or neuter one animal each month? What if you rode your bike to work once a week during the spring, summer and fall? What if you brought one new customer, donor or volunteer to your employer once each quarter?

What if you read to a child once a week? What if you spent an hour each week helping an illiterate adult learn to read?

What if you spent an hour each month conversing with a community resident who speaks a foreign language?

What if you said “I love you” at least once a day?

What if you spent 30 minutes pondering a park, or garden, or riverbank or the stars each week?

What if you phoned or visited an elderly person in your life (or added one) twice a month?

What if you made someone laugh once a day? What if you made yourself laugh twice a day?

What if you asked someone to share a personal story with you each week, and really listened?

You can fill in your own “what ifs” and imagine the consequences. Whatever you choose, you’ll discover that you don’t need big resolutions. A few incremental changes will make a happier new year for you and many others.

Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to

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