Next week I’ll experience my third New Year’s Day here in Hyderabad. It’s amazing how quickly time passes. I’ve become such a confirmed Hyderabadi that I can even contemplate the possibility of staying up with friends celebrating New Year’s Eve and making it until breakfast is served at 4 am. (I’m not sure that I’ll actually achieve it, but at least I can contemplate it!)
As we prepare to usher in 2013, it seems as though the world is drowning in bad news. Horrific crimes in the U.S. and in India create a pervasive sense of insecurity and highlight the fact that man is capable of unspeakable evil as well as of good. Discussion of the U.S. economy is focused on the threats of debt and rising inequality, while in India growth has moderated and power woes have intensified. Turmoil continues to afflict many parts of the world, with the Central African Republic presenting the latest crisis. There are plenty of reasons to engage in negative thinking.
In this context, the resolution I am making for the New Year is to think and act positively. By that, I don’t mean ignoring the negative, but refusing to let it immobilize me. As an individual, it is hard to feel powerful in the face of bad news, but by acting positively, one fosters hope and offers encouragement. And concerted positive action makes change possible. Indians and Americans both share this experience; the civil rights movement in the U.S. and the independence movement in India were two of the greatest examples of peaceful citizen activism of the 20th century.
What is true about momentous social events is also true on a personal level. If things go wrong in the office, I remind myself that I love my job, and the minor obstacles that arise don’t get me down. I’m not perfect, and there are times I let negative emotions affect me, causing me to behave in ways I’m not proud of and affecting both my own happiness and the enjoyment of others. For example, it happens sometimes when I make a couple of really bad shots on the golf course. If I get mad at myself and think negatively, I start playing worse, I become much worse company for my playing partners, and I stop enjoying myself. If instead I take the bad shots in my stride, I generally recover my usual standard of play and I enjoy the game.
It’s a long way to go from my golf game to the mobilization of citizens to fight violence against women, but in both cases, despair is not helpful. Envisioning a more positive future provides the energy to make it happen. And you never know how big a difference your individual decision might make. A recent editorial column by Nicholas Kristof described how a casual thought of Ted Turner’s transformed millions of lives. Read it and it’ll make you smile—a great way to start 2013.
Happy New Year!