In the first week of a new year it’s normal to spend some time soul-searching. We tend to evaluate the previous year in detail. Some of us might decide we came up trumps and others might conclude it was all an abysmal waste of time, energy and spirit. A third group might decide it was a mixed bag. We search for lessons in the cacophony of the previous year - learnings we can wear as talisman. We might have failed but at least we learnt something. Others might celebrate the wins. Social media tempts us further with “your year in review” and other applications. We’re told to summarise, find a common narrative, a thread - as human beings and storytellers it’s only natural for us to look at the big picture and try to make sense of it all. Otherwise it’s just one more rotation around the sun, purposeless and meaningless. To battle the void we have to narrate.
From there we feel the compulsion to make new year’s resolutions. A list of sorts that we can aim for in this new year (2019 on this occurrence). According to Peter Economy (The Leadership Guy) the top 10 new year’s resolutions include:
Diet or eat healthier
Save more and spend less
Learn a new skill or hobby
Find another job
Drink less alcohol
Spend more time with family and friends.
I would be lying to you if I said that some of those goals hadn’t been on my list before!
Many of us start off with good intentions, but by January the wheels have already come off the cart and we’re back to square one - back to the person we were in 2018, same old sloth with no skills and a boring job. So, why do we make them? Why do we aim for the perfectible self when we’re imperfect in every way - and why can’t we embrace the person we are? New year, same me (only more acceptance that self might trip up a few times). We do live in a world where striving for perfection is a constant agenda item. Whether it’s that bikini body, or a curated mind, or the ideal work situation. Yes, all of these industries are fuelled by a modern consumer society, but they go way back. Aristotle was considering what the components were of the “good life” thousands of years ago. If we only get seventy-five rotations around the sun (give or take a few years) then shouldn't we aim to be spending them in the best way possible?
So, are we concluding it’s okay to strive for that person (the one we so hope to be)?
Yes - I think it is. As long as we go into it with an open heart, and the notion that we might trip up along the way.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
Very true - we’re active participants in our lives. Around us chaos swirls - we’re not responsible for that person dropping coffee on our white shirt this morning, that sickness which took you out of the game for weeks (maybe more), or the behaviours of family and friends. We can only control the elements within our remit … and sometimes those things are the hardest to control. They take discipline, lifestyle changes and mental rigor. They take practise. They take failure. They take resilience … and those things are tough.
When we’re making our resolutions - we need to remind ourselves that we’re in control of making them happen, and that might be hard. We have to commit to discipline as well as the other things on our list. Jane Collingwood from PsychCentral tells us these are the ways to keep a firm grasp on their resolutions:
Keep your resolutions simple
Create bite-sized portions (chunk down your resolutions into achievable goals)
Plan a time-frame
Treat yourself (not all the time but sometimes)
Don’t give up
Put yourself in charge.
Also, remind yourself that the 1 January is not the only time that you can make a resolution and keep it. You can do so in March, June or even December. Whenever you like in fact! While the 1 January serves as a promising milestone, we’re always in charge of the changes we want to make in our lives.
Visualising things often keep them present and in the forefront of our minds. You might like to physically create a list and tack it up on the fridge or near your computer at work. Document how you’re going, on a daily basis if necessary, to keep the momentum and set up some check points.
… and always remember, if you fall off the wagon you can always get back on.