So, you’ve got the new year off to a cracking start!
You’ve already got up early every day, you’ve been to the gym six times, you’re loving the new diet of mashed-up green stuff and you just romped your way through every book on the last Man Booker list. No, me neither.
We’re not alone. Most New Year resolutions are broken by the end of January, in spite of our good intentions and all the available advice about how to carry them through consistently.
We know we should set specific goals and chart our progress, and go public with friends and family for extra support and encouragement. All that. But something makes us give up.
An explanation for our continued failures to deliver could lie in the very phrase which encourages us to resolve to make beneficial changes.
The word ‘new’ is glittery and enticing, beckoning us towards the possibility of reinvention, and it ties in so neatly with the annual rhythm of weeks and months.
What better time than the start of a new year to draw up some rules for a new way of life? Well, actually, what worse time?
You’re exhausted, broke, still recovering from excesses of food, drink, spending, company, guests, dare we mention family, travel and general enforced jollity. What we really want to do is hibernate in our nests and burrows, and feed on box sets and leftover chocolates until spring arrives.
Instead, we choose this moment to begin to make changes which require determination and willpower, qualities which may not head our list of personal attributes at the best of times.
Resolution is the other word that might alert us to the possibility of ‘failure’.
It suggests gritted teeth and fierce application to do things which don’t come naturally and which don’t give us pleasure.
You don’t have to ‘resolve’ to follow your favourite team, or eat something you like, or cuddle your child. But we feel differently when it comes to behaviour which we know will be good for us but which is likely to be difficult.
And the language of change, with its goals and targets and indicators, seems hard-edged and challenging rather than encouraging and supportive.
Try a different way of looking at the prospect of making changes in your life. Try these two simple questions:
What would I like more of?
What would I like less of?
Your responses to the first question might include things such as:
I’d like to be healthier
I’d like to spend more time with people who matter to me
I’d like to be more effective at work
I’d like to spend more time doing things I enjoy
I’d like to find more ways of being sporty/creative/community-focused/socially active
I’d like to have better relationships with…
I’d like to have more money
I’d like my home to feel more welcoming/elegant/energising/serene/cosy
Your responses to the second question might include things such as:
I’d like less stress
I’d like to spend less time commuting/driving kids around
I’d like to have fewer regular commitments
I’d like fewer arguments at home
I’d like less aggro from my boss/co-worker
I’d like fewer hangovers
I’d like less hurry in my life
I’d like to spend less time online
Check your gut reaction to your responses. Go through each one in turn, and check how it feels. If you like, you could give each of your replies a mark out of ten to indicate the strength of the difference this change would make to your well-being.
Now, you need to do something to get things going. Choose one item from each of your lists, and decide how you could bring about this change.
Focus on just one aspect. For example, if you want to feel healthier, what one thing could you do to contribute to this? If you want to spend less time online, what one thing could you do towards achieving this?
Decide on one action for each of these choices. Make it something tangible and achievable. If your one thing towards a healthier life style is eating more vegetables, your first action could be to buy some veg.
If your one thing towards lessening some of your commitments is sharing the school run or the club admin, your first action could be to pull up the contact details of the best person to contact to set this in motion.
Once you have taken the first action, the next should follow quite easily.
Before you know it, you’re on your way. With your healthy grub there on the kitchen table, it’s not a huge stretch to put them in a pan. When you’ve got the phone number or the email in front of you, you can just write the mail or make the call. Step by step means that it’s less easy to put things off.
You should be feeling better already. It’s up to you how much you do in the areas you have identified. There’s no need to rush, but at the same time there’s no point in letting things slip.
Stop and check now and again. Ask yourself if you are getting more of the activities and circumstances that make you feel good, and less of the stuff that brings you down.
Keep on with the single actions to add to your positive experiences. Just don’t call them resolutions.
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