If the earlier holidays of the season are more socially-driven, New Year’s is the more personal, the more private. Sure, there are the parties, the throngs in Times Square, and the general cycle of media hoopla surrounding New Year’s Eve, but the real crux of this annual event is contemplative. The party hats and noise makers have their heyday for a few hours (for some of us the hangover  claims a few more). But the more insistent, pensive theme of the holiday is the part that lingers – first drifting into our psyches after the bigger festivities have cleared away and the guests have all gone home.
Even if we scoff at the concept of resolutions , no amount of cynicism can keep us from at least entertaining the thought of a new year as a new beginning. After all, there’s something universally hopeful and tantalizing about a transition. We can’t help but think of the possibilities: “Maybe this year….” In some cases, we may just be grateful to kiss the current year goodbye. (We all have those times.) But even if we’ve just wrapped up a pretty decent year, we ascribe to the New Year’s potential for change. On some level, we allow it to influence our hopes – and outlook – on the coming year.
Personally, I think this is a good thing. Grok  and his kin undoubtedly celebrated the natural transition of the seasons and the metaphorical narratives that they designed in connection to them. It’s human to seek out beginnings. I’ll of course offer up a more traditional call for the New Year next week, but I wanted to throw out something more nuanced and inexact than a “resolution,” something akin to vision, a musing that I call “Primal actualization.”
When we talk about self-actualization, we usually think of it in the psychological sense (related but not limited to Maslow’s definition ) of realizing our highest personal potential, which for many of us tends to pigeonhole us into specializing  in a particular endeavor. (I will be the reigning ping-pong player in all of history!) Truth is, actualization in many respects contradicts such a narrow mindset of specializing. Actualization, in fact, encompasses a broad spectrum, influencing everything from one’s capacity to bond with other people to the ability to develop perspective on life and society, from pursuing a creative pursuit to witnessing the profound details in any given moment. I’d argue it’s a kind of open-ended wisdom that is fully engaged with life. Sounds like a great goal, eh?
I know I always have caveman on the brain, but I can’t think of actualization without contemplating the primal undertones. Too often we cast self-actualization as transcending beyond of our “lesser” or “baser” selves. In the traditional hierarchical view, actualization is a process not just higher but separate from the fulfilling of lower needs like eating, sex, and socialization. But what if we looked at self-actualization less as a rising above our humanity and more as a living the full measure of it?
Living our full humanity includes honoring the primal rhythms and genetic expectations that course through us, vestiges of our evolutionary roots and directives of our primal operating systems. It means embracing the wisdom of our ancestors not just as anthropological origins but as wellsprings, for a fulfilled and healthy life. It means allowing ourselves to explore and exercise our primal dimensions by spending time in the wild , getting ample sun , and playing every day .
Primal, in other words, is more than just a metaphor. When we live and connect Primally, we actively access our inner potential. We harness the power of the mind-body connection , the effects of flow  and euphoria , the energy of sensory experience. When we approach it primally, actualization can feel like potent therapy in the modern world.
So, what would it be like to Primally actualize our relationships with others this year? How about devoting the year to Primally actualizing our relationship with sleep or food or our pursuit of play? I mean more than just trying it or working it in here and there but making a point of “realizing” its full potential in our lives. When we live each day discovering and unfolding these deep layers of our humanity, we’re inevitably changed. In unearthing ourselves, we come into our own. I’ve heard readers say it feels like a homecoming of sorts.
What is possible when we envision living by this compass in the coming year? How could we find ourselves changed next New Year’s? What would Primal actualization, living the fuller measure of humanity, mean for you? It isn’t a resolution, per se, but a way of re-envisioning the potential impact of a year’s time and purpose.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Share your thoughts and comments on making the new year Primal.
The Sequel to The Primal Blueprint Releases on January 8
In just two weeks I’ll be releasing The Primal Connection, the long-awaited sequel to The Primal Blueprint . As friends and colleagues within the ancestral movement have so generously described, The Primal Connection offers the first really new dimension in the paleo/Primal space in years. Is there any better way to start the new year – not to mention the fact that we all survived the Mayan apocalypse? In all seriousness, I’ve been pumped about this launch for months now.
Like The Primal Blueprint , The Primal Connection is both a culmination and expansion of principles I’ve first introduced here on MDA. It picks up where The Primal Blueprint left off, by extending the primal theme beyond the diet and exercise basics. In it I present a comprehensive plan to overcome the flawed mentality and hectic pace of high-tech, modern life and reprogram your genes to become joyful, care-free, and at peace with the present. Inherent to The Primal Connection is the concept that we can use the model of our ancestors to create not just a healthier existence but also a more balanced and fulfilling life. My hope is that upon reading it you’ll emerge with a renewed appreciation for the simple pleasures of life and our most precious gifts of time, health, and love.
Just as I did for Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings  earlier this month, I’ll have something special put together for devoted Mark’s Daily Apple readers when this book is released on January 8th, 2013. So mark your calendar and be ready to jump on the offer while it lasts.
P.S. If you’ve pre-ordered a copy of The Primal Connection , don’t worry. All pre-orders will be eligible to receive the free bonuses that will be part of the book release offer.