“Men will be good or bad builders as a result of building well or badly…
Thus, in one word, states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind…”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
The activities we perform must be of a certain kind; that is, if we are going to become persons of a certain kind.
This is one of the most basic truths about human life. To a great extent, in the actions I choose to perform each day I am choosing who I will be.
But for some reason, even though we truly want to become persons of a certain kind, we find it difficult actually to make the choices that correspond to our good intentions.
This is why New Year’s resolutions are very fitting. Truly good intentions call for taking serious steps to make them effectual. At issue here is not finding the magic trick that will finally work. Rather, at issue is strengthening and deepening our good intentions by making appropriate efforts to bring them to fruition.
Should we snicker at the man who finds himself making the same resolutions again and again, year after year? Nay, I think rather we can see in him a man who knows what he wants, and who really intends to close the gap between where he would like to be and where he is now.
One might wonder: why make specific resolutions now? What makes this time different from any other time?
Of course there is not a greater objective urgency this time of year. But experience shows that the beginning of the calendar year is a natural time to think about starting anew. Sure, New Year’s resolutions for some might amount to nothing more than a passing effort at some passing good.
But for anyone who realizes the gap between where he would like to be and where he is today, and who really intends to close that gap, this is a perfect time to act like it.
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Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his major ethical work.
Image: Van Dyck (1599-1641) self-portrait