On New Years Eve I had a really interesting conversation with someone about New Years Resolutions. We spoke about the idea of making small changes rather than big dramatic ones, and the reasons I feel strongly that it’s a better idea then doing something substantial like, say, giving up beer or smoking. I’ve been thinking about it since and thought that it would make a timely post, especially if, like me, you’ve not yet finalised a resolution for the year.
The main problem with New Years Resolutions is the fact that they are made at the start of a new year – something that, however you celebrate it, heralds new beginnings, a clean slate and a fresh chance to try again. Therefore any resolution you make automatically becomes a Big Deal and puts pressure on ourself to succeed.
The problem with Big Deals is that if they go wrong, the fall-out is much bigger. We beat ourselves up about it – the fact we’ve failed, that we’re weak, incapable of sticking to even the tiniest thing and woe woe woe – I’m so useless!
I feel it’s really important, especially for women, particularly prone as we are to doing it, to avoid putting yourself in situations that could end with you berating yourself for not doing as well as you could. Obviously this is unavoidable to some extent (and actually undesirable) – we want to suceed and if we were comfortable with failing we wouldn’t get anywhere. What I’m talking about is disproportional beating. Setting realistic goals is the first step to doing this – you need to have a hope in hell of achieving what you set out to do, otherwise life becomes a spiral of failing, self-flagellation and trying again – not at all a healthy way to live.
So I actually think it’s much better to keep your resolution(s) to things that are small and manageable. Now is not the time to give up chocolate, fags, beer or anything else you’ve spent the past year (or 30) thoroughly enjoying. They are significant life changes that require considerable thought as to how the practicalities of kicking them out of your existence could work. For some people, who have given a lot of throught to these matters and geared themselves up to a change on the 1st of January they will work fine, but let’s face it – that’s not most of us.
Small steps are the way to do it – pick something that seems almost insignificant but that over time (either that year or the rest of your life) will make a significant difference. Say you live for another 50 or 60 years, that’s another 50 or 60 resolutions that could be made, and more small changes that could add up.
As an example, the two resolutions (in 2010 and 2011) that have worked best for me have been to stop picking up free newspapers and to stop buying bottles of shower gel. Hmm, I realise on typing that how weird they may sound… let me explain: I don’t like creating needless waste. I wanted to cut down on the amount of rubbish I created, and a simple way seemed to be switching from buying a bottle of shower gel every couple of weeks to using bars of soap. Not only to they last longer, are cheaper and relatively less chemical-laden, but they mainly come wrapped in a bit of paper instead of a chunky multicoloured plastic bottle. It’s the same with the papers – if I don’t pick up two papers a day, that’s their audience reduced by two.
They probably sound completely daft, but think about if everyone did that. We all go around in our little bubble, especially in London, safely cosetted in our own little world where we don’t give too much of a shit about other people and the world around us, but if everyone made little changes then the effect would be massive.
2012 wasn’t quite so successful, with a somewhat unrealistic resolution – quitting “drunken cigarette smoking” (yeah – sometimes I like a beer and a fag – sue me). I did pretty well – 6 months well to be precise – but then got drunk and, well… Looking back I realise that it’s just not a realistic thing to quit – I have no particular motivation since it’s something that happens every three months or so, smoking (or drinking) has no real control over me, and I am otherwise healthy so don’t have the driver of looking after my health to fall back on.
So if you’ve not yet made a resolution and are thinking about it, go for something small that you can sustain for at least a year, if not the rest of your life, and have as your motivation the idea that in time all those little steps can take you up a very big mountain.