No More New-Year Resolutions
Every year someone asks you. 'What's your New Year's Resolution?' Well, not to make any spur or the minute resolutions is a good one. Not to make the same damn resolution, which I am just about guaranteed to break is another. Never again am I going to promise anyone that I will give up chocolate. Or take up a sport. Or de-cobweb my bike and go out cycling. Resolutions are just too easy to break.
Why do we wait till New Year? There's nothing magical about this date. Besides, what a terrible time to decide how to transform yourself – half-a-bottle of cava the worse for wear, in a silly singing crowd, wearing a tinsel crown and certain you can still dance like you used to, isn't the setting for a mature decision on lifestyle change!
I suppose it does no harm to make resolutions, if you think them through before hand. Working out what you want from the-rest-of-your-life and how to get there makes sense. But it's not just what to change, but why. Giving up chocolate is an obvious idiocy: even without a choc-addiction as strong as mine, giving-up is a doing-nothing, a miserable negative reminding you that you've banned yourself from fun: bound to fail. Apparently, the commonest resolutions include:
1. Stopping smoking
2. Losing weight
3. Drinking less
4. Getting out of debt
5. Taking more exercise.
All of which I understand. But it's so negative: stopping, losing, less. No, a resolution worth its salt aims at gain. And has a reason. 'I resolve to make and eat three really yummy fruit desserts a week instead of chocolate' – now, that has a chance! 'I'm going to practise tennis so I can beat my smug next-door neighbour who thinks he's Rafael Nadal'! Or how about 'I'm going to go walking so I can chill out, unwind, and enjoy the countryside and the views'.
The commonest resolution, the most popular in both the USA and the UK, and the most broken, is to give up smoking. Of the top five resolutions it is probably the hardest to keep, with the physical addiction as well as the ingrained habit to beat. I suppose the advantage to this resolution is that you might be doing less drinking after the yearly Christmas and New Year binge: refusing the proffered ciggie is much harder after a couple of whiskey-and-cokes in you. But perhaps, also, too many smokers are trying to give up because it is a 'good thing to do', or to please their family. That vague thought isn't much of a motivator. Think instead of the daily advantages. These include an improved sense of taste, smell and touch: food, drink and sex are all more pleasurable for smokers! Also important as we all feel the economic pinch is the huge amount of money freed up to spend on other things. But don't resolve to give up smoking: resolve to take up living!
Once you've made your resolution the tough part starts. The advice for keeping resolutions is, along with deciding on your goal before that booze-sozzled New Year midnight, that you don't choose something you've failed with before, or at least you chose a different approach. You should also try to keep just one or two specific resolutions, because if you have a list as long as your arm you've no hope with any of them. 'Bring about world peace', always on my theoretical wish-list sounds great but isn't very practical.
Funnily enough, psychologists recommend different tactics for sticking to resolutions for men and women. For men, having a really specific goal is essential. Women can chose to 'lose weight' (any weight) but a man is more likely to succeed with 'lose half a stone by Easter'. Just why this is I can't guess
Women, on the other hand, should tell family and friends all about their resolution. The psychologists presume that this works because women get lots of help from their “social support networks”, but I know different. It's the power of shame. It's so embarrassing when yet another friend asks you, for the third year in a row, how the diet's going, or whether you're keeping up the aerobics, or if you are still doing meditation. It's not good, after boasting about your Tour-de-France ambitions, having to admit that the bike is still in the shed with a flat tyre and no, you still haven't managed to get rid of the Christmas-induced spare tyre round you middle. After that experience, you will be sure to only tell friends and family about resolutions you are certain to keep. So no more I'm-giving-up-chocolate emails from me!