With January comes a time of renewed hope and expectation, we’ve just completed another trip around the sun, the number of the year has gone up by one and we naturally turn our thoughts to the coming 12 months.
In the dying days of the year, millions of us, confused about the date and full of cheese, start making ourselves, and anyone who will listen to us, promises about how we are going to embrace change in the new year. A new start, a new ME!
And this magical transformation will be accomplished via the completion of:
The New Year’s resolutions.
This is an age-old tradition, founded in religious belief that one’s and the collective’s good actions would bring positive things to the village for the year ahead. Over the centuries this has evolved into what could now be described as a personalised manifesto for the coming 12 months. This usually entails committing ourselves, most resolutely, to a list of goals and objectives that, like most manifestos, rarely come to full fruition.
The fact that these resolutions are usually made at a time of feasting and non-routine-like behaviour, to me, means that they are almost set up to fail before they begin. It’s hard enough just to get back to normal after the festive period, let alone embark upon a transformational life change.
The festive period is often a time of overeating, overconsuming in general, a lack of exercise, and a total change of routine, it’s rarely a time for reflection and clear thinking about one’s future, and for many, it can be a time of stress and even deep anxiety and sadness.
So, the idea of projecting one’s positivity and conviction for change onto day 1 of a new year, the day after probably the biggest party of the year, has always seemed quite bizarre to me, even though I have indeed done it many times myself over the years.
In fact, if I had a pound for every broken New Year’s resolution that I had made, I’d have about £100!
That said though, it is true that the day, the first of a new year, can be seen as a reset button, a time for focusing on a new start, new beginnings, and change for the better.
Interestingly, January and February are the months in which it is considered to be the best time to look for a new Job. One can naturally assume that this is because it is the time when people more frequently leave a position, creating gaps in the labour market.
Whilst listening to the radio in the lost week between Christmas day and New Year’s Eve, I listened to a psychologist talking about the best way to approach the idea of a “new year’s resolution” and I have to say I thoroughly agreed with her, so I thought I would pass it on and see how it sits with you too.
She began by suggesting that one tries to set very attainable goals!
Promising myself I will lose 8 kilos as if by some miracle of inspiration based on a date in the Gregorian Calendar, is most likely doomed to fail. I haven’t managed it so far and so it seems pointless putting pressure on myself to suddenly drop such a large amount of weight and then feel a failure if I don’t do it!
So, with regard to weight loss and fitness, which is by far the most common new year’s resolution (gym memberships soar in January) she suggested setting the intention to lose 1kg, feel great about it, then aim for another and then another would be a far better approach. By not being too hard on myself and taking pleasure in realising the more achievable goals, it would surely give me a better chance of overall larger success.
By removing the far-away goal as a win or lose marker of success, the setting of reachable, smaller steps also serves to remove the sense of stress and pressure around it. This in turn helps develop a stronger feeling of positivity around the process and the outcome rather than fighting against a feeling of pending failure in the face of an insurmountable task.
I thought more about this, and it really made sense to me. I was also taken with the way she reframed “resolution” making by talking about setting “intentions” instead. It feels like far less pressure.
As someone interested in language, the use of language and the weight of words, this very much appealed to me. It got me thinking further about how people tend to put pressure on themselves with the use of “going to”, and how it is said with the kind of emphasis that implies that the chosen verb will be accomplished at all costs.
- I’m going to get fit
- I’m going to stop smoking
- I’m going to learn a language
- I’m going to learn an instrument
That feels like a lot of pressure to me! I think I prefer the idea of softening the language around it, giving it a less absolute feel.
- I’m going to get fitter
- I’m going to cut down on my smoking with the intention of stopping as soon as I feel strong enough.
- I’m going to start learning/ get better at Spanish.
- I’m going to practice more this year and hopefully continue getting better at playing the guitar
This, to me anyway, feels immediately easier on oneself and sets the field for smaller, more attainable wins.
Now, some may say that this somewhat flaky wording hardly smacks of conviction, but my counterargument is that I’ve never kept a New Year’s resolution yet, despite my heartfelt conviction in the days running up to the big day. So, quite frankly I have as good a chance of success as not, however, I say it. At least this way I’m not setting myself up for a hugely disappointing sense of failure when once again I don’t achieve my “I’m going to” statements!
In fact, my biggest successful life changing event to date, giving up smoking, happened on a date at some point in the year that I barely remember now, and it was a spontaneous decision, where I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to do that, and I stuck to it. It had nothing to do with a particular date and the fact that I didn’t pre-plan it, announce it or spend days telling everyone what I was “going to do” most likely served me well in quietly getting on with it and succeeding.
So, with the new year underway and with no fixed day on which to begin any of the following, and trying to avoid the use of “ going to” entirely, here are my objectives/intentions for the coming 12 months. I won’t be putting pressure on myself by making resolutions, but I will be setting myself some intentions that I will work towards. Concepts are by no means unachievable and hopefully, I will enjoy the process of getting there.
- I intend to watch more films in Spanish and speak more often with Spanish friends, to keep up my level and hopefully get it back to how it was when I lived there.
- I intend to practice the guitar more and take time to practice scales and theory rather than just strumming the same things I always do
- I will do my best to eat well, and less (smaller portions), drink less alcohol and exercise more with the aim of losing some weight
- I have an unfinished cookbook that I have been writing for 2 years and I would like to finish it this year
- Finally, I want to read more. I love reading. I used to read a lot and then Netflix happened. I recently started reading again and have really enjoyed it. I intend to continue that!
So, there we have it! Let’s see how the next 12 months go, and how well I manage to do.
I sincerely hope that whatever resolutions/goals/intentions you have set for yourself this year, you succeed without it causing you too much stress, or that should you fail, you do so without it being too much of a disappointment.
There is always next year 😊
Good luck out there, and be kind to yourselves!