2022 – the beginning of a new year. An overarching sense of hope seems to be the theme amongst us all as a school community. The blank page of possibility as we turn over a new leaf and face a fresh start; an opportunity to reimagine what could be, whilst perhaps questioning the status quo. 

It has been suggested that at least a quarter of people typically start the year by making at least one New Year’s resolution. Such practice of pegging self-improvement goals to a particular calendar date may go back centuries, with literary references to Chinese antiquity and Roman Stoics. Despite the popularity of New Year’s resolutions, current knowledge about them is limited. What seems to be clear is that when we want to change something, we often start with a temporal milestone. The largest and most comprehensive recent study conducted on contemporary New Year’s resolutions (Oscarsson et al, 2020) examined how effectively we sustain the goals we set ourselves. It appears that most of us focus on our physical health, together with common topics such as work, personal finance and interpersonal relationships. Growing in our consciousness are foci on our mental health, consumption behaviour and social engagement. Those of us who receive support in effective goal setting seem to be more likely to succeed, especially where we craft a narrative around this aspect of our big chapter break. “Approach goals”, which involve adopting a new habit, are reported to be at least 25% more likely to be met than “avoidance goals” – so instead of stopping an old habit, we vastly increase our chances of reaching a goal by starting to do new things.  

But what to focus upon and what to expect? If 2021 was the year the world turned the tide against the pandemic, 2022 may well be dominated by the need to adjust to new realities, both in areas reshaped by the crisis and as deeper trends reassert themselves. A few weeks ago, The Economist published its annual reflection on the economic, social and cultural trends that are likely to shape the coming year. It is predicted that themes will be varied and challenging – ‘democracy v autocracy’ (with America’s mid-term elections and China’s vividly contrasting Communist Party congress), ‘pandemic to endemic’ (antiviral pills, improved antibody treatments and more vaccines afoot), ‘the future of work’ (broad consensus growing that the future in many sectors is hybrid), ‘inflation worries’ (from supply chain disruptions and a spike in energy demand), ‘climate crunch’ (a striking lack of urgency amongst policymakers to tackle climate change may catalyse the emergence of innovative research to buy the world more time to decarbonise), ‘travel trouble’ (activity may pick up as economies reopen, although half of business travel is gone for good – surely that will be good for the planet?), ‘space races’ (2022 will be the first year in which more people go to space as paying passengers than government employees, carried aloft by rival space-tourism firms) and ‘emerging technologies’ (with the rapid development of mRNA coronavirus vaccines – a bright spot in 2021 – which drew on decades of work to create what looked like an overnight success, what might be about to burst into prominence?). A McKinsey report published last month analysed various scenarios to understand potential outcomes for 2022 and our transition to the next normal. The conclusions were fluid and inter-related – the milestones dependent upon complex variables.

So how do we position ourselves for this future?  And how do we nurture in our students a spirit of optimism amid continued uncertainty around them? There’s something powerful in challenging our own accepted wisdom. Keeping your mind open and your curiosity sharp are the tenets of an education at The Abbey. Because of it, we learn so much from each other. Without it, we truly believe that we might miss something out there for us. As active agents of change, rather than passive passengers of learning, each of our students is equipped to face the world with resilience and a can-do attitude. If there’s one thing that unites us all, it is this: understand that the world is not fixed and predictable. Things change. We change. And because of that, anything is possible. Happy New Year!

Nisha Kaura, Head of The Abbey Junior School