The end of an old year warrants looking back on what went right — and wrong — in the previous 12 months.

But at the same time, the beginning of a new year merits looking ahead to how to make things better over the next 12 — and beyond.

That practical principle applies to all aspects of life, both individually and collectively.

So as 2013 commences today, rather than wallowing in lingering problems, look at this fresh year as a fresh opportunity for finding solutions.

And on the public-policy front, as the dust settles from the fiscal cliffhanger drama (or was it a farce?), recognize that despite this most recent demonstration of our national leaders’ shortcomings, its outcome might not be all bad.

Indeed, the changes many Americans will soon experience could serve as a long-overdue wake-up call on government’s limits.

For instance, as of this writing on Monday night, it appeared certain that with the start of 2013, the Social Security tax cut of the last two years expires.

That will hit American workers in their paychecks — and presumably remind them that at some point along the reckless federal spending way, somebody must pay for government benefits — including our demographically imperiled entitlement programs.

And that’s not the only big financial bite that big government will impose on ordinary Americans this year: The misnamed 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, will also take a rising toll as more of its cost-boosting regulations begin to kick in.

The fiscal-cliff furor created a false illusion of finality in the argument over whether — and how — Washington can stem its record gushing stream of red ink.

However, that defining debate will — and must — continue.

Maybe in this new non-election year, our elected officials even make some bipartisan progress not just away from the fiscal cliff but toward fiscal reality.

Maybe this is finally the year when Democrats, including President Barack Obama, accept the indisputable fact that we can’t contain our runaway debt without significant spending cuts.

Likewise, Republicans should admit that after four straight years of trillion-dollar-plus deficits under this president, the formula for reducing them must include some increase in tax revenues.

The new year also offers new hope in finding better ways to handle many ominous foreign-policy challenges, including Iran’s persisting pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, North Korea’s persisting pursuit of missile technology capable of delivering its nuclear weapons, the seemingly imminent fall of the mass-murdering Assad dynasty in Syria, our exit from Afghanistan, and the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

On the state and local levels, we also have new hope for improved public policies in 2013.

The wide range of important issues facing Gov. Nikki Haley and the General Assembly includes finally crafting effective strategies for road funding, moving forward with the overdue restructuring of state government and fixing the laws that caused 250 candidates to be tossed off the ballot in 2012.

Locally, controversy persists over the lack of controls over the cruise industry, the extension of I-526 and assorted concerns involving public education.

Yet you don’t have to agree on how we should proceed on any of those crucial tasks to agree that a new year offers a new chance to take the correct path.

Meanwhile, lest you become too bogged down in politics or other inevitably worrisome topics (including football), keep in mind the joys of life — including life itself.

After all, if you’re reading this, you survived 2012.

So happy new year — and good luck in 2013.