New Year, New Start?

Happy new year to you.

How many of us, at this time of year, make promises to ourselves that this year, things will be different. Some of us have a vague idea of things that we would like to tackle, some have a clearer idea of what we want to change about ourselves or our circumstances. Still others produce elaborate lists of resolutions of things that they will change this year.

This year, they will give up smoking, drinking to excess, swearing, wanking, whatever. Gym memberships swell with well meaning chubbies intent that this is the year that they will make a real and lasting change.

How many of these resolutions last beyond the end of January? Why are we so good at knowing what we ought to do but so bad at actually doing it?

The fact that we feel the need to make a ‘resolution’ about what we ought to be dong demonstrates that we are, when all is said and done, crap at just getting on with stuff. Once the first flush of earnest intent has worn off we just slip back into old ways for another year.

This is quite a powerful time of year in many respects. Long before Christianity claimed the season for its own, the pagan religions celebrated the winter solstice. Yule. My favourite author, Angela Carter, refers to this time of year in her short story “The Company Of Wolves” as being the hinge on which the door of the year swings. The door is ajar and the supernatural is able to slink through.

There is undoubtedly a different atmosphere at this time year. The simple fact of one year ending and another beginning is bound to lead any thinking person to consider what the year ahead will bring and whether there is anything that they should be doing themselves to contribute to a happy and prosperous new year.

Self reflection at any time is a good thing. We are all so busy that we rush through our lives, every spare minute filled with things that we ‘must’ do such as checking our Facebook feed.  Any time that we spend actually thinking about where we are in life and where we are going must be a good thing, yes?

How then to turn good intention into action? Well, I’m not sure there is an easy answer to that. I think that there is a ‘tipping point’ that we all have where something seems important enough to us for us to actually take action. It is usually a combination of the seriousness of the consequences of inaction and the timescale for those consequences manifesting themselves. For instance, most people know that being overweight is bad for them. They know that they may die young. When someone is in their 20s or 30s, those consequences may seem long way off and, therefore, not especially pressing. When someone is in their 50s and is being told by their doctor that they have serious health issues and if they do not change their ways they are likely to die in the next year or two, you would expect most people to make immediate changes.

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic. When I turned 40 I was overweight and unfit. I committed to a regime of gym and healthier eating because the thought of being fat AND middle aged was too much to bear. I lost the weight, got in shape and have kept it off, even now, several years later.

The trick then, is to associate a sufficiently attractive outcome with the action that you want to commit to. I’d suggest that you need to be really clear about exactly what the benefit to you is going to be in sticking to your resolution and keep that constantly in mind. Visualisation, the topic of a later post, may help. Strongly picture, regularly, the desired outcome to give yourself the ongoing impetus to stick to the task in hand.

For myself, this is already going to be a year of change. I was made redundant at the beginning of December. I have a fixed 6 month contract to go to which suits me quite well. I’m considering my long term options, employment wise, and may decide to take a completely different path. It’s going to be an interesting year for sure. I’m reminded though of the ancient curse: “may you live in interesting times..”

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