Don’t Do it! Why I won’t be making any New Year’s Resolutions for 2017

you-are-never-too-old-cs-lewis

I like the ‘new start’, the blank sheet.  I can pick my sorry-self up and start again on my goals and objectives.  So, I’m not trashing New Year’s Resolutions (NYR’s) here.  The sad reality is that most of us will fail. If statistics are to be believed, less than 8% of us will stick to our NYR’s – not an impressive figure.

Why set yourself up for such failure and disappointment?  Your will power maybe Herculean in comparison to mine, you may not have ill-health and ‘stuff’ getting in the way of your plans, but most of us will.

Be realistic.  If you haven’t exercised in 12 months the chances are that a NYR to ‘get fit’ isn’t going to engage you beyond a few weeks.  If you’ve not been paying attention to what you eat, and working at a healthier lifestyle in the previous year, setting a NYR to ‘lose weight’ is probably unrealistic.  Be kind to yourself.  Don’t set yourself up to fail.  I’ve set enough NYR’s – and failed – to know how disempowering this can be.

Last year was different.  Last year I made no NYR’s.  I had one goal: to complete a 5k by the end of September.  I achieved this by taking 10 minutes of exercise a day.  Some days I couldn’t do anything.  As time went by, and I got fitter, I did more – a 15 minute walk, a short swim.  I didn’t beat myself up when I couldn’t exercise because of health issues.  I did what I could, when I could.  I didn’t give up.  I hadn’t failed.  I was simply doing 10 minutes exercise a day.  At the end of September I ran – and walked – the Inverness Marathon 5k in 43 minutes.  Goal achieved.

Had I set myself the NYR to run a 5k in January, I would have failed.  I would have struggled.  I would have been discouraged and given up.  Setting a realistic goal meant I could regularly achieve it, and that builds confidence and resolve.  Increment by increment, step by step, I got fitter.

We take this staged approach in work, breaking a project down into manageable steps, putting them onto a realistic timeline that means we reach our target in a measured achievable way.

As an example of a NYR, that is also about lifestyle change, let’s take ‘becoming a vegetarian’. Instead of cutting out all animals based sources of protein (meat and fish) on day one, and succumbing to a bacon butty on day three, and feeling miserable and possibly giving up, be kind to yourself; break the project down into bite sized chunks (no pun intended). Reduce your meat intake to start with whilst also increasing your vegetable input.  Broaden your vegetable recipe repertoire, stock your cupboards with protein alternatives, learn about how to supply your body’s nutritional requirement without meat.  All these positives to becoming a vegetarian (rather than a negative ‘giving up meat’) will give you a good foundation and encourage you to continue.  You might initially plan to reduce your meat intake to once a week, then once a month.  You might continue eating fish for a few months, or longer.  Whatever you decide you will get there if you plan it in stages and are realistic and honest with yourself.

We are talking about real change here, and it doesn’t have to start on the 1st January, with the implication that there might be an end date too.  Your brain will latch onto that and hijack your resolve by winding down towards the end of the year!  Look at it this way: every day is a new beginning. If you do something you didn’t want to do, or don’t do something you did, start again tomorrow.  Chill out.  You’ll always have another day.  You haven’t ‘failed’ – your ultimate goal is still intact – you have more than 365 days to achieve it.

The important part is the commitment.  Make that decision of the will.  If you want to change something you can.  You will. It really is as simple as taking one step after another until you get to where you want to be.  Use the new year as an opportunity by all means, a kick start to running your first 5k, eating healthier, or whatever your own particular objective is, but think big and act small.  There are 365 days to achieve your goal, and another 365 after that.  Whatever it is, you can do it.  I’m proof!

 

New Year….New You?

Sun up Cromarty firthIt will not have escaped your attention that it’s a new year; in fact, we’re more than a week into 2014 and I’ve not written anything about resolutions or plans, or the exciting things I might be getting up to in the next 12 months.  There’s a good reason for that – I’ve not really made any resolutions this year, for the first time in more years than I can remember.  It’s not that I’m not eagerly anticipating a fresh start, and the opportunity to have my metaphoric slate wiped clean, it’s just that I don’t need the pressure of a diet or a deadline.  I don’t want to set myself up to fail, or prescribe what activities I can take part in.  I want to be more spontaneous, to take opportunities as they arise, and see what happens, rather than chart some prescriptive course that I feel I can’t deviate from; beating myself up for perceived failures and those swerves from the straight and narrow.

There should always be self-improvement in being open-minded, striving to do new things, meet new people, go new places.  We are always changing and growing if we are alive to possibility.  This year I’m remembering that life really is more about the journey than the destination, and although being ‘of the moment’ is both clichéd and probably a bit jaundiced, it is also true nonetheless that we might as well live for and enjoy today because we have no idea what tomorrow holds.

There’s a place for objectivising our achievements and challenging ourselves to do more and be more, but there should also be time for simply ‘being’; walking the path today and seeing what happens and making the most of opportunities that might be missed if we have our eyes fixed on something ahead that we think we should be aiming for.

Now, where’s the shredder?  I need to ditch those ‘to do’ lists for a start!

 

 

Photo, copyright D Ruppenthal, please do not use without permission

The inter-connectedness of Things..

Not a very exciting blog title I feel, and a difficult subject  to write on because it’s potentially so overwhelming.  We are micro-organisms in gargantuan, unknowable universe on the one hand, and on the other we are hugely powerful beings with massive responsibility, co-opted to share the world’s resources in a fair and equitable manner.

Some people I’m sure would dispute the latter statement, and not just hedonists and naysayers, but many people who find life a struggle through circumstances of poverty, ill health or lack of opportunity, and others who don’t think or care, or don’t care to think!

It’s easy to get stuck in our own ‘sloughs of despond’ and feel that we are powerless to help ourselves, let alone anyone else!  What can we do about corruption, or war, or the arms trade, or child prostitution, habitat loss, poverty or global warming?  Thankfully there are individuals and organisations that are working to achieve positive outcomes in these areas and more besides, and millions of us worldwide who support them.  What concerns me is the lack of coherence.  We understand that people power, especially through the power of the internet, has the potential to change things, but we often fail to unite and harness the elemental might that comes from a single voice and a single direction. Third sector organisations do a massive amount to alleviate suffering both globally and locally, and sometimes such as in times of crisis, they work together towards a single objective, which is both laudable and necessary, but is not enough.

We are all trying to fix something which is beyond repair.  Peel away one bad layer, and another takes its place.  The whole is rotten and can’t be rescued.  The earth will recover ultimately, once humanity has been erased from its surface, but if we want to be part of the on-going story of planet earth then we need new paradigms for living.  We have the knowledge, intellect, skill, and physical ability to change and renew, to start again, and we need the heart and will to do so.  Politicians, economists, financial institutions, corporations, as well as individuals, need a new purpose and identity, part of the whole.  People in power are afraid; afraid of losing their power, of becoming insignificant, and they are right to fear because the peaks and troughs of our societies do need to be levelled.  There is no need for famine, poverty, inequality, we have the resources to re-distribute wealth, in all nations of the world, through a new economics that values people above profit: in business, in banking, in trade, in politics; we become truly human, truly powerful when we acknowledge our greed, frailty and mistakes and determine that we will change things – together.

The analogy of a pebble in a pond setting off ripples across its surface is useful, if limited.  The butterfly effect is perhaps over-used and equally simplistic, but it helps to convey how seemingly disparate elements are related.  The reality is EVERYTHING is connected to everything else!  Cheap food in the UK means mono-culture, animal suffering, pollution, habitat loss, reduction in bio-diversity, lack of food security, food miles, oppression of the poor in other countries and rural poverty.  An economy that is based on the need to grow and expand infinitely is one doomed to failure.  A world where farmers go bankrupt whilst supermarkets gain huge profits is not sustainable;  a world where money has become  an electronic blip – extendable  if you are rich and concrete if you are poor – is in danger of losing any grasp on reality at all:  It is not only the farmers who will be bankrupt and suicidal.  Food is a hugely political issue these days, and when you have financial corporation’s dealing in it, diminishing its value by ‘betting’ on its chances in the future, then you really have lost the plot!

The reality is that every financial decision and purchasing choice I make has repercussions, not only in my local community, but across the globe.  This is about far more than being a concerned or ethical shopper, as trendy or good as that may be, it is about reclaiming worth for ourselves and our fellow planet dwellers, making money real and its benefits percolating throughout communities; about valuing what’s real and lasting in relationships, in the natural world, and not being exclusively governed by ‘the bottom line’.

Of course, not everyone will get on board, those who have a vested interest in the status quo, who keep their fingers crossed and ‘fiddle while Rome burns’, but we don’t need everyone on board, just enough to reach tipping point.  Change will come.  It has to.  We can either be a part of it, and acknowledge our place in the world, or we can act with self-interest and greed, failing to acknowledge that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.  It will be a shock to those people when the world swallows them up and spits them out!

I don’t have the answers.  No one person or organisation or political ideology does, whatever they may say, and that’s the positive part – we all have a section of the jigsaw that makes the whole picture, only by collaboration and co-operation can we piece it all together.  I am not a pessimist, but I do believe we need a revolution to take place on a global scale – financial, political, social, and personal.  Global warming, the rise in food costs, and the current turmoil in the financial markets of Europe and beyond are not isolated happenings, but intimately connected to the way we live our lives as nations and individuals. 

I acknowledge that my grasp of this topic is woefully inadequate and ill-informed.  Thankfully there are much better minds than mine working on solutions to the challenges we face. What I do know is that change is both necessary and inevitable – and it will be better to ride the crest of the wave together than crash and burn on the beach alone.

 

 See Positive Money for some helpful information and debate on economics

New Year New You

OK so it’s a cliche.  Fine me.  I am re-posting an article I wrote last year for an on-line publication.  I have re-read it, and some of it’s a bit cheesy, but essentially I still agree with myself!  I’m not sure if this is encouraging or not.  I think the original premise was a bit of  a rant about all the people who sell books and ‘plans’ at this time of year, knowing that many people will be looking to change something about themselves or their lives.  May be I was just jealous.  The net result was a lack of guilt-ridden new year’s resolutions and an article about taking control back for who you are and who you want to be.  Here goes…

A quick scan of on-line bookstores will indicate the sheer volume and variety of multi-media propositions for changing lives.  Particularly numerous at the start of a new year, books on dieting, changing habits, lifestyles, and even personality, proliferate, seducing people into believing that a simple purchase can change a life.  This time of year is a great time to wipe the slate clean and make some changes for the better, but the sheer volume of tools available can be overwhelming, so it is often better to gain a clear focus on the objective, and work out some practical steps to achieving it, before turning to others for assistance.

Lifestyle gurus, nutritionist and diet planners would love people to buy their books.  Most of them won’t be too bothered if the books  are then stacked on the shelf unread, or whether their advice for a new year makeover is followed.  They have their sale, regardless of the outcome.  However, people end up disillusioned: still 5 pounds heavier from Christmas feasting and no further forward on their life plan.

Books that claim to be able to change lives are not inherently bad.  A lot of books contain good advice, sound dietary principles and practical suggestions for improving shape, weight, finances, health, job, or any of the other myriad of things people want to change about themselves and their lives.  The problem with these books is that they are not personal.  They don’t know what motivates one person from another;  what people’s quirks and idiosyncrasies are, their  hopes and dreams, fears and frailties.  You are the only person who knows what you need and what will motivate you to get it.

Feeling fed up with life, often translates into being fed up with something about yourself.  This is not often a message people want to hear.  A book which promises the answers is a much more attractive proposition.  Ultimately, however, it is individuals who need to make the changes – no one else can do it.  Gurus, guides and authors are helping hands; conceding responsibility for making lifestyle changes to these people will end in disappointment.  Take courage and be encouraged by the message that you have the power!

People need some space and time to find out what they want.  It might be a short term goal, like shedding a few pounds, or it might be a longer term objective like being self-employed, or moving to another country.  The beauty of taking the time to discover a personal vision and developing enough self-belief and confidence to believe in it, is that once you do , you are half way to achieving it!

Most people will have come across SMART objectives at some point, be it in  annual reviews or project plans.  The mnemonic ,which stands for, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time limited or Trackable objectives.  However jaded they might seem in a work context, in personal applications they can be a powerful tool for change.  It’s not a mantra, ideology, fad, or yet another quick fix, but a  template for goal setting which works.  Apply them to personal goals for an effective formula.  There are a number of on-line courses and websites which can help you to formulate SMART objectives if you are unfamiliar with the concept.

Vague dreams  about ‘doing something different’ or ‘being a bit slimmer’ will never amount to much more than frustration.  However, deciding to run a B&B in the country within a 2 year time frame could be enough to inspire and challenge you into taking some real steps of commitment towards the project. Similarly, joining a slimming programme for three months and pledging to lose a pound or 2 a week will result in genuine results within that time frame.

And that’s a good thing.  People know in their own hearts that they have things  they want to achieve; they know that no one can give up smoking on their behalf, or get them a new job or find them a life partner.  When people start to be real with themselves, and realistic with their dreams, they know it’s up to them, and that they have the power to do it.  Books and DVD’s and life coaches,  all have their place, but will never replace self-belief, vision, personal dreams, and individual contribution.  Planning to succeed is what leads to the success that people crave.

This year there will me no ‘new’ me.  I PLAN to take up a few new hobbies, and I will succeed in doing so.  If you have changes you want to make and things you want to do, plan for it, and then just do it.

GOOD LUCK!