…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
For me, the point of making New Year Resolutions is part reflection and part making steps forward, and these two things become cyclical, just like the passage of the Earth around the Sun – I reflect on the past year and what my previous Resolutions and goals were, and then plan for the next. The term Resolution in this sense must be like saying:
The beginning of a new year is a somewhat arbitrary point in space and time that someone else has chosen for us – indeed different cultures have different dates for their new year, the changing of the seasons, the passing of the shortest day or other sign in nature. A birthday can also be a similarly significant moment in time for reflection and planning, but this is a personal time, or something significant may happen in our lives on a random day that causes us to “take-stock”, reflect and consider where we’re going: the death of someone close to us, an accident, or illness – something life-changing in itself but it flicks a switch in our mind and sets us on a new path, potentially with new energy. At any of these times I seem to grab the potential that I feel before me and grasp it with both hands.
A new year though, is a point in time that many people share together, rather than the more personal time like a birthday (although, again, people in different time zones will experience the exact moment of new year beginning at different times due to the rotation of the Earth) – that we share this turning of the past year into the new is helpful in that it can be a group exercise: we can all share this time, the reflection, the looking forward, our plans and aspirations, and motivate and encourage each other.
New Year Resolutions can often be personal things but there are many common things too, like ones relating to health and fitness, and others that involve other people by their very nature, like joining groups or starting classes.
Some people don’t make New Year Resolutions, perhaps this is because they have done so in the past and either the exercise wasn’t as fruitful as they had hoped, or it was, and they achieved all they aimed for. For me, I have this ingrained and constant desire to better myself in various ways, and for this reason the beginning of a new year is an opportune moment to re-focus, but I don’t only use the new year for this, I also use my birthdays, the changing of the month, the beginning of a new week (I quite like Mondays) and even each individual day. Although, admittedly, each of these in turn is less and less significant, the combined significance, however slight, though becomes… significant: A new year might be about big new targets and goals, but a day can be filled with micro targets too, and this is how those big goals are reached. However, saying all of that, I have on occasion decided to stop setting certain things as a goal only to find I still achieve the same as during years when I did set a target, so some things don’t require that conscious effort.
To write a list of Resolutions is all well and good, I try to make a list of ten things each year, but I think we need to reflect on this at moments throughout the year. Also, we can’t just put a huge goal on the list and expect it to be magically achieved: we have to set ourselves on the path to achieve that goal – surely we have to set micro-targets, those little stepping stones that light the path for us. We also have to consider, rationally, what we can change – aiming to change other people is perhaps not the right approach, and changing the world even is something beyond what is practical on its own – first we have to change ourselves, as deep as that might sound… then, I believe, our world will follow suit. Lead by example.
Part the way through December I set myself a list of final goals for 2015 [link at the end of this post]. There were 20 days left so I divided those goals into daily ones – like, I wanted to finish cycling 5,000 miles, so I divided the number of miles left among those days, I did the same for running, and books I wanted to finish reading, and for my German language lessons I worked out how many words were left to learn and found out there was only three per day. I wanted to write each day, and “finish” singing some songs, and finish some DIY jobs on my house. In the end I didn’t achieve all of these things, but I discovered a helpful trick along the way: I marked the achievements each day with red ticks.
All the red ticks I accumulated on my plan really stood out and made me appreciate the effort I was making – how else can you measure effort? It’s not always about the time alone that you put into something.
My German language lessons particularly made me appreciate my efforts: The Memrise course has a gentle way of coaxing you – it mixes new words to learn with ones you already know, so if you struggle with the new ones or keep getting them wrong you’re immediately made to feel better by being reminded what you have learned already, a sort of, pat on the back “keep trying.” This is important because it keeps your energy positive rather than making you hard on yourself, which is what can happen when you set your goals and then they slip – remind yourself what you have achieved. Reflect, but keep it positive.
I also think being flexible is important. Making a list or a strict schedule can mean we miss out on random moments that could be more important if we take the chance to embrace them. So, with that, I urge you, make your Resolutions, aim high, but plan small, and be gentle and kind to yourself, and enjoy your 2016.