I’ve always found New Year’s resolutions to be fascinating. For a long time, I completely disregarded the idea, believing it to be a version of habit forming that came with a ‘get out of jail free’ card for use when everyone else around you has broken their short-term promises to themselves.
Why do these resolutions break so easily? The main reason hides in the name – resolution requires resolve, and most people choose to try things that require a drastic change to their lifestyles. This is something that requires a lot of energy. All this at a time when I for one struggle to get out of bed and go about my normal day-to-day life, never mind try to become something that is so far removed from my present-day self that I’ve half given up before I’ve started.
Perhaps this is why no one really feels too bad when they ultimately give up the ghost on their NYRs. We almost deliberately choose targets that are out of range so we either go hard or go home. Going hard gets us the acclaim and honour of having achieved something significant; and going home we accept that we had set ourselves up to fail by selecting something altogether too difficult.
Is aiming for a more realistic goal, then, not done because some of us have secret fears of success? Or are we afraid that if we accomplish something that is felt to be rather more mediocre, no one will care and we’ll have made a moderate amount of effort for no payoff?
I’m willing to bet that contrary to a lot of popular psychology, most of us aren’t that afraid of success. Actually, we crave attention and the social buy-in that comes with making these New Year’s resolutions.
But what if, through a number of years of more subtle accomplishments, we achieve something really great? We’d be setting ourselves up for even greater success – something that takes years of solid work on our projects and on ourselves.
Here are my new year’s resolutions, so you can get a sense of what I’m going for in 2019.
Blog twice a week using at least 600 words of creative writing.
I had great success last year with keeping my blog going with an average thrice-weekly posting. Of course, I struggled with the regularity, but life is like that and I’m not going to beat myself up over doing it in peaks and troughs – nor will I force myself into the Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday pattern I tried initially. However, I’ve noticed that coming up with so much new content across unconnected areas is a) draining, b) not helpful for increasing blog traffic, and c) counterproductive to my larger goal of writing professionally. It’s c) that I’m really taking a swing at here by making the shift, but you can see how a) and b) are big pluses to trying this out.
Go to the gym three times a week.
There was once a time, following a serious incident of theft at my GymBox gym in Holborn, when I decided to quit the gym for good. They took everything from my house keys, wallet and phone to my great-grandmother’s ring. I was furious and upset, and the gym denied all responsibility and I was unable to get anything for it.
I /ragequit and decided to go it alone with my PT for a bit in the cold outdoors, which was fun for a while, but after I’d completed my marathon goals of April 2018, I noticed how expensive my PT was and quit that, too. I lost my commitment to exercise and my body fat percentage soared since that great low of 11.9% to its current 17.4%. I’m not doughy, but I’m also unhappy with my relative lack of tone.
This gym is super-friendly and very close to home – so close, in fact, that I don’t need to take any valuables along – not even my phone (unless I’m using it in the session). So I feel very safe going. It’s not overly expensive and gives helpful PT advice to suggest programs and classes, and I can chat to my coach through their app. I’ve been going for a week and it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself for a while – particularly the Hot (Bikram) Yoga class, which is set to become another highlight of my week.
Note I’m not setting a ‘get to 14%’ or ‘lose X lbs’ goal because I don’t think that’s a good motivator for me. I want to enjoy exercising – and sure, look good in my wedding suit.
Read a book a month.
I don’t read enough for someone who wants to be a professional writer. That changes this year. Reading more at lunchtimes and bedtimes, not just on long train/plane journeys!
Learn at least 800 kanji by June.
I’ve started using WaniKani to learn kanji – the Japanese characters that originate from China. Lots of them are very similar, but WaniKani helps you by teaching a story and ‘chunking’ the kanji into bitesize pieces. I have hope yet. The June deadline is for the Japan honeymoon!
Moderate my alcohol intake!
I drink more than I used to. I tried ‘sober October’ and it’s too miserable – and again, is a ‘feat of resolve’, without any long-term benefits. So it’s time to cut back more generally. I’ll try to be more conscious of my consumption – particularly during the week (when I think 1 pint on any night out should suffice) and at weekends I’ll allow up to 3. Big nights out are still A Thing, but not every night out should be a Big Night Out. It’s just too painful to do that all the time.
Learn one new song on the piano.
I just want to remember how to play it a little. It sits there, my electric Roland, and looks at me. Not judgementally, but sad and forgotten. It has suffered the worst fate a piano could suffer short of having something spilt on it: it has become a surface to put things on. No more!
So, none of these are particularly ground-breaking goals (maybe the 800 kanji one is pretty impressive, but it’s not the endgame for Japanese learning) – what unites them all is how they are all small, achievable changes or goals.
What are your modest goals for 2019?