So today, we are all committing to be better people in 2023.
We’re going to hit the gym, eat less meat and more plant-based food, ride a bike, write a novel, give up smoking (if there are any smokers left), train for a 10k run, read more, grumble less, lose 10 pounds, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (some aspire to greater heights), drink less beer and more water, paint a landscape, knit a woolly scarf, organize the desk/drawers/wardrobe and, well, get off the couch once in a while.
Pick your own resolution. You’ll likely forget about it in two weeks anyway and spend the next 11 months alternating between guilt and regret.
The thing about all these self-improvement goals is that they’re all, by and large, essentially selfish, self-absorbed and inward-looking. All about me, me, me. Which is fine. As far as it goes.
But here’s a goal for 2023: How about doing One Good Thing (I put it in capital letters to give it more importance and gravitas). I’ll even give it an exclamation point.
One Good Thing! There you go.
One Good Thing for someone else, that is.
Just think: There are 750,000 or so souls on Vancouver Island, and more than 4 million in British Columbia. If most of us did One Good Thing for someone else, imagine how much better we’d feel as we go into the dark abyss of the unknown that is 2023.
It may yet turn out to be OK if we can get inflation below 90 per cent and cauliflower below 10 bucks.
I watched the new Bill Nighy movie Living this week, written by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s garnered much Oscar buzz. It was inspired by the 1952 film Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa, which, in turn, was inspired by an 1868 Russian novella by Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ikyich.
The central premise is simple: A man is a virtual zombie for all his life. Then he receives a diagnosis from his doctor saying he has only months before he will die. He breaks free from his suffocating life and begins to live. First, he goes into a spiral of reckless hedonism but then realizes this will not give him fulfillment.
So he goes off and does One Good Thing. Something meaningful.
Nighy, everyone’s favourite older actor since his appearance as a louche rock star in Love Actually, gives a beautifully understated performance. He plays a civil servant hidden behind bureaucracy and red tape, and inertia. His good thing is to help build a small playground in a slum area.
A small good thing.
Between Tolstoy and Kurosawa and Ishiguro, you’d think we’d have got the message by now. Real fulfillment comes from helping others. Not yourself.
British newspaper columnist Susie Dent wrote recently about words that had gone out of fashion, words we don’t hear anymore. One was Confelicity, which means finding joy in another person’s happiness. A nice word to rediscover and put into practice.
There are many on the island, in this province and around this country making a point of doing good things.
And a whole bunch who don’t.
Doing your One Good Thing is your choice, your pass-it-on moment, your random act of kindness, your thing.
One Good Thing.
Try it. Because one good thing often leads to another.
Sermon over…back to the gym. Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately?
Ian Haysom is consulting editor with CHEK Media.