I’ve always been a bit of a fan of new year’s resolutions, despite the fact that they tended to fail dismally. However, in recent years, I have taken a different approach to them and, somewhat surprisingly, it seems to work so I thought I’d share this hot tip with you all (you’re welcome). The difference hinges on how I pitch it to myself. Traditionally, resolutions have taken the form of specific goals e.g. lose a stone in weight, learn a new language etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, but to me they have the whiff of defeat before I’ve begun, perhaps due to my aforementioned dismal failure in sticking to resolutions. For instance, if I get to the end of year and have lost 10 pounds, does that make it a failure?
Back in 2008 or thereabouts I revolutionised my resolutions. Instead of making a resolution as such, I declare a year. So, for instance, if I decided I needed to take more exercise I don’t say ‘my new year’s resolution is to take more exercise’ – instead I say it is ‘The Year of Regular Exercise.’ This approach seems to lend itself to less stringent boundaries and gives me more room to explore within the stated declared theme of that year. I’ve found it’s important to get the wording right so play about with some alternatives before deciding. For instance, I nearly went for a weight loss year instead of regular exercise in 2009 but realised that unless I cracked getting some regular exercise into my life then the weight issue would not go away. I usually know I’ve hit the right phrase when I get a gut feeling that is a mixture of expectation and dread.
Here’s a brief summary of my declared years so far and how they’ve gone:
2008 The Year of Living Dangerously : this didn’t mean I flung myself from great heights via a bungee rope – it meant that when something came up and my natural instinct was to be cautious, I tried to choose the opposite. Amongst other things, that year I did a mad personal development course in Atlanta and dyed my hair a completely different colour These might seem lame to you but were completely outside my comfort zone and led to occassional moments throughout the year of complete terror, toe-curling embarrassment, self-revelation, deep gratitude and hysterical laughter. I would not have missed any of it.
2009 The Year of Regular Exercise :I joined a gym and crucially, actually did exercise in it. I deliberately joined a gym with no sauna or steam room as previous experience had taught me that as time went on I spent less time exercising and more time enjoying my ‘reward’ in the steam room. That year I learned a hideous truth; exercise makes me feel better, even when my arthritis pain is quite bad. This truth does not sit well with me, I don’t like it and occasionally pointlessly resent the implications of it i.e. no doctor is ever going to advise that I lie on the couch and eat chocolate as cure for my chronic disease. I still go to the gym. I still hate it but the hideous truth is one of my very important incentives to continue. Oh yes, and during the first year I also worked out what it cost me compared to my membership fee. Gyms make their money by people buying memberships then never turning up. I got my fee under to well under £2 per visit by the end of the year.
2010 The Year of the Complete Book :this was my first time trying a very task specific resolution. I played about with ‘The Year of Regular Writing’ and similar wording but they weren’t doing it for me. I had been thinking about writing this book for years but doing very little about it. For some reason, it would not leave me alone, I thought about it all the time but still did nothing. The implementation of this resolution took drastic action and circumstances conspired to help me. I sold my flat and moved into a tiny rented place with most of my possessions in storage, working on the basis that if I reduced my distractions I’d reduce my excuses not to sit on my arse and get on with it. I got that book finished in September of that year. It is now available in no retail stores near you but I learned that that did not matter. From the moment I wrote the last line that inner voice stopped nagging me, I got that monkey off my back. P.S. Drop me a line if you want to read it and I’ll send you a copy!
2011 The Year of Blogging : I needed to learn how to blog for a website I am involved in that launches in February of this year so a Geek Friend showed me how and I set up ‘Bec & Call.’ My Geek Friend has the patience of a saint and has been a great help when I’ve managed to screw it up somehow. I have a strange electronic force field that creates all kinds of technological mayhem. That’s my excuse anyway.
I should add that the resolution won’t happen on its own. A friend declared ‘The Year of Prudent Finances’ and thought that saying it out loud in a restaurant to those at the table would bring about the end to his spend-thrift ways. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. If it did, I’d be bottling it and selling it with a hefty price-tag to fulfill my capitalist pig aspirations. Declaring a year still means you need to think about what you need to do to make those changes come about. On the other hand, my friend Alison has had success with ‘The Year of Going with the Flow’ ‘The Year of Learning New Things’ and has recently declared 2012 ‘The Year of Adventuring.’ I am still pondering what to declare my year but have hopes of being part of Alison’s adventuring at some point.
Phew. For those of you who got to the end of this State of the Nation Speech on How to Stay Resolved, firstly I thank you. Secondly, I’d encourage you all to try this out in the spirit of social experimentation and get back to me with your results. At the very least, I think it might add a little je ne sais quois to you year.