Aspirations for 2024

Tom Ellis
3 min readJan 1, 2024

I am 74 years old, and this is my 75th, as of next October. I used to write annual resolutions for New Years, but never kept them. Why should this year be any different? It won’t. Because there is a cognitive paradox in making resolutions to begin with. It presupposes that there is an authoritative parental “self” within us that can tell our child “self” what to do, and that the child “self” will dutifully obey.

But this is a lie, and as long as we maintain it, we suffer. Because a strict, authoritarian “Parent” self (the one who makes resolutions) is already telling the “Child” self that he is a failure, for not having done these things already. And this automatically engenders resentment in the recalcitrant “child” self who, unconsciously, to preserve his own identity, refuses to do what the “parent” self tells him he “should…” This creates an inner, dialectical struggle:

PARENT: You should make your bed every morning.

CHILD: “I don’t want to”

But because the child-voice is unconscious, the “child” simply refuses to yield to the “parent’s” authority — but then feels guilty about it, shifting back to the “parent” role only long enough to sneer, “you’re no good after all!” I call this syndrome “shouldophobia” — our tendency to “should” all over ourselves. “Should” is a preterite-present form of the verb “shall” — and it always implies “should have…” which is past subjunctive — contrary to fact. And that means a refusal to accept oneself as one is, or self-hatred. Because we know we “should” be better.

So that’s why I gave up making resolutions. Instead, I spend every new year listing aspirations — things that I would like to do, not that I “should” do but won’t. And if I fail to achieve an aspiration, I can always just make it again — or make another one.

So here are my aspirations for 2024. I’ll start with the overriding aspiration, not just for this year, but right up until I’m pushing up the daisies:

I aspire…to do the best I can to promote the health, competence, and resilience of myself, my community, and my living planet simultaneously.

Health, competence, and resilience are the three values that promote survival of all forms of life, from bacteria to humans to the entire living planet. Health is internal homeostasis; competence is ability to thrive within a predictable niche, and resilience is ability to adapt to the unpredictable changes in our lives. Therefore, these three values form the cornerstone of an ideal curriculum for all.

Therefore…I aspire to

· Promote my own physical health by eating healthy, locally grown, organic food as much as possible, and by practicing Qigong and Tai Chi, walking, and bicycling whenever possible.

· Promote my competence by learning and teaching Buddhist practice, gardening, and permaculture;

· Promote my inner resilience by meditating daily, and my outer resilience doing my best to learn a new skill, try new things, or acquire new knowledge whenever I can.

These aspirations will enable me to promote the health, competence, and resilience of my community and planet alike by

· Establishing Garden Guilds wherever I can — in my neighborhood and church and in my primary social organizations, when appropriate.

· Political advocacy on behalf of Gaia, our living planet, through environmental advocacy, electoral politics, and other forms of community activism.

· Cultivating benevolence, compassion, selfless joy, and equanimity, in all I do, everywhere.

So be it.



Tom Ellis

I am a retired English professor now living in Oregon, and a life-long environmental activist, Buddhist, and holistic philosopher.