EXCEPT for time travellers and the extraordinarily gifted seers among us, we do not know what exactly will happen in 2017. And so, there are two basic choices as we greet the New Year – be hopeful or feel hopeless.
We have to decide between anticipation and dread, between getting ready to work for worthwhile victories over the next 12 months and giving up before the game has even begun.
It is a no-brainer, and yet, some of us still prefer pessimism. Then again, given the kind of year 2016 was, the gloomy outlook is understandable.
The world news seemed like an endless barrage of terrorist attacks, civil wars, natural disasters, divisive debates on prejudice and extremism, listless economic developments, sabre-rattling, farewells to beloved heroes, and the rise of insular and populist politics.
For us in Malaysia, it was hard to shake off the perception that we were spending way too much time and effort on politicking, hate-mongering, the blame game, hand-wringing over our economic direction, and misinformation.
We fell into the trap of allowing the negatives to drown out the positives. We often focused on what went wrong and rarely acknowledged the things that we did well.
Yes, there have been moments when national pride mightily lifted our spirits, such as during the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, but it did not take long for our attention to swivel back to the issues and actions that discomforted us.
But 2016 is over. There is no reason to repeat its harshness and dissonance. None of us enjoy being sapped of confidence and trust.
When we bring bad vibes into the new year, how is it reasonable to expect something pleasant in return?
Bear in mind that in business and the economy, how we collectively feel about what lies ahead can be highly influential.
If we are convinced that we are heading into a rough stretch, many of us will postpone projects and purchases. As a result, we consume and invest less, and that will slow down our economic growth. In other words, we help fulfil our prophecy.
And here is another example of anxiety turning into reality. A country’s political journey takes its cue from the mood of the population.
Leaders need popular support, and that does not come easily if the leaders are insensitive to the issues that are uppermost in the minds of the people.
But this knowledge alone is not enough; the leaders have to respond accordingly, which often means erasing doubts and blunting fears. The best leaders do this without sacrificing the greater good. The less capable ones often opt for short-term solutions that may in the end do more harm than good.
We certainly do not have to go down this path. We are a nation with unique and proud achievements. We have worked hard and endured plenty. We have come far and we dream of more to come.
We do not need to know what precisely is in store in 2017; we only need to be brave and self-assured and to have faith in each other. And that is how we celebrate the New Year.