THE ANDALUSIAN SHEPHERD BOY in Paulo Coelho's 1988 novel "The Alchemist" observes, "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." That's what makes a new year interesting too.
For now, the year 2006 isn't tainted by negative associations. It remains a blank canvas, equally likely to become a masterpiece, a mediocrity or a mess. Its fate is mostly in your hands. One of the joys of the new year is unveiling a new calendar as yet unfilled by appointments, or a crisp new agenda book still months away from being dogeared. The year is devoid of any undone to-do lists or unmet goals. Today, 2006 is that wonder of wonders: an opportunity. Relish it, and seize it.
Focus on core truths, and on your ability to discern them. We lead such frenzied lives -- all those supporting technologies we've invented to make our lives more manageable often succeed only in making them more frantic -- that it can be hard to find the time to acquire self-knowledge. And that's a shame, because in order to make a dream come true, you have to know yourself well enough to identify the right dream.
New Year's resolutions can be useful, but their value is inversely proportional to their number and specificity. Yes, for a few weeks the neighborhood gym may be more crowded -- maybe even at the expense of the local doughnut shop -- and more people will strive to eat broccoli, do push-ups, take their vitamins and squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom. But don't turn your new year into a laundry list of pedestrian refinements.
To weigh yourself down with too many resolutions is to lose sight of the truly important. As much as a step forward, a new year is an occasion to take a step back -- to acquire perspective and consider that possibility of having a dream come true.
Coelho's construction is passive, as if fulfilling our dreams were somehow beyond our control, and perhaps that befits an Andalusian shepherd boy. A worthy New Year's resolution for the rest of us is one that focuses on advancing that possibility, of turning the shepherd boy's "having" into "making."
The noblest of our dreams involve others -- an estranged or ill parent, a child, a thwarted love -- with whom we want to establish a stronger connection, or make amends, or simply spend more time. So take a moment today to formulate a dream for the new year. Seize the opportunity.
Regardless of whether you are young or in your gloaming years, each new year is a precious gift. Make this one interesting.