How to Renew Your Sense of Purpose

Easter doesn’t get much of a look-in when it comes to making resolutions. January is, of course, the top time for vowing to put ourselves through agony as we determine to do the things we believe we should, and beat ourselves up when we have broken every resolution by Burns Night.

September, a month often associated with new starts, is a much more hospitable period for making changes. The mellow, fruitful atmosphere of autumn (thank you, Mr Keats) can soothe our way into different behaviours, as gentle a transition as the soft autumn wind and the wafting mists.

But Easter is a time of renewal. It’s associated with new life, with burgeoning growth. Easter imagery is a yellow burst of flowers and bunnies and chicks and painted eggs and Easter egg hunts and baskets and ribbons… As for hot cross buns, I’d take one over a slice of Christmas cake any day.

Yet we’re not in the habit of of applying notions of spiritual and natural and seasonal regeneration to our own lives.

That means that the field is wide open. There are no preconceived ideas or inherited notions about the practice of making and keeping Easter resolutions. So you can be as playful as your Easter bonnet (aah) and as soft on yourself as the creamy inside of a chocolate egg (yum). Why not? In the quest for a better life and a better self, there is nothing to lose by trying something different.

Use different words

Play around with phrases which avoid the term ‘resolution’. This is the word we automatically use, but it has a harsh ring. It suggests a determination to succeed, often with an inbuilt anticipation of failure. Try some more expansive phrases. Think in terms of developing different approaches, of finding ways of making things work, of exploring how a change of habit may enhance your life.

Choose something not associated with ‘should’ or ‘ought’

If you regard this season as an extra window of opportunity in the resolution calendar, you can afford to focus on changes that will enhance your life in a less functional way than, for example, the perennial goals of losing weight and keeping fit.

The pursuit of a healthy lifestyle is obviously in everyone’s interest, and to some people it’s a natural and enjoyable part of life. If you’re not one of those people, you are very likely to express your determination to become more fit in terms like:

  • ‘I should go to the gym more often.’
  • ‘I must cut down on (insert favourite things to eat and drink).’

The same is true of resolutions to spend less money, or stick to a budget. We say:

  • ‘I really need to control my shopping channel habit.’
  • ‘I ought to organise a system to keep track of where the money goes.’

There is lots of excellent advice available about how to achieve the ‘shoulds and oughts’ goals. This type of resolution is instantly recognisable and relatable, and the benefit of making such changes is obvious.

Focus on something personal

More personal, less quantifiable, aims are often buried among goal-related resolution lists. Intentions to spend more time with particular people, or to learn something new just for fun, or to explore an interest further are not as clear-cut. Intentions of this nature tend to get pushed to one side as the demands of daily life lay claim to our time. Also, they are not so easily met by applying specific actions.

For example, if you want to build or improve a relationship with a friend or family member, you may schedule in a time to talk, or meet. This is fine, but developing or repairing or enjoying a relationship isn’t a linear process, and success or progress can’t be assessed by ticking a box.

There is likely to be less external support for these areas of our lives. You probably find that when you say you want to get fit, or lose weight, or train for a marathon, people are generous with their offers to help. They come up with ideas to help you stick at it, or they offer to go on walks with you, or they find suggestions for healthy meals, and so on.

If you’re studying for an exam or a professional qualification, you are likely to get lots of encouragement and practical support in the way of help with revision, suggestions about study techniques, and possibly a continuous supply of brain-friendly or just delicious snacks.

But it’s different when your aims and resolves are to do with personal development or emotional and mental growth and well-being. If your aim is, say, to get on better with your mother-in-law and you are losing confidence that you are going about it the right way, or if you are struggling to keep going with the piano practice or ceramics course which you are doing just for your enjoyment, you may well have to find the motivation to continue from your own inner resources.

Don’t count or measure

Come on, just for fun! We all know about smart goals and smart resolutions. We all know how to monitor our actions and behaviour. We can quantify what we eat in terms of precise nutritional value. We can measure our pulse and our heart rate. We can count our steps. We have a multitude of gadgets, some of which are constantly on our person, to track how and how often we move.

But sometimes it is good to go for a walk without measuring the distance travelled. It’s nice to eat a meal without mentally totting up the calorific content. Sometimes the right thing to do is to respond to an unexpected situation without bemoaning the interruption to our planned schedule.

So how do you know if you’re doing all right in the goal-pursuing field? Check in with the way that you feel. After all, the ultimate aim of embarking on a programme of behaviour change must be to arrive somewhere better. If you feel better in yourself for having exercised, or for having done some piano practice, or for having created order in a living area, maybe you could enjoy the feeling rather than calculating what you have achieved and how much further you have to go until you reach the nirvana of total achievement.

You’ve heard it before — Not everything worthwhile can be counted, and not everything that can be counted is worthwhile.

Will these approaches work? Maybe, maybe not. But they might give you a boost which chimes with a time of year that heralds brighter days and brighter spirits.

Happy Easter!

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