New Year — New Me!
What’s on the resolution roster this year? Quit the cigs, lose the pounds, start a business, find ‘the one’?
I made the mistake of getting a gym membership at the start of this year. Not that sort of gym membership; the one you pay for in December to blackmail yourself into attending in January. I work out every single morning—no exceptions, no excuses, no drama. I just wanted the opportunity to workout at lunchtime and to swim and sauna in the evening.
This taught me a few things.
Numero Uno. Gyms rake it in when resolution season sets in. The place was packed in January. Awkwardly, unworkably overcrowded in the evenings. Even during my off-peak slots in the early afternoon, it was busy.
Numero Dos. (Is this Spanish, I’m speaking?) Gyms need to contractually tie you in for several months of membership. Otherwise they cannot capitalise on the well-intentioned, yet ultimately deluded,New-Year-New-Me’s. The gyms are quieter come February. By March the place is laughably depleted. It becomes an eerie hangar of refurbished medieval torture devices; personal trainers menacingly monitoring the slack pulleys; plates neatly piled, and metal chains, swaying ever so slightly to the sound of club remixes. In the evening, with the New-Year-New-Me’s dispersed to their pubs and sofas, the maniac treadmillers, muscle Mary’s and spouse-avoiders reclaim their gym.
Numuru Trīs. (Wait, that’s Latvian.) If it is easy, everyone will be doing it. This is why your social media feed will shortly be inundated with New-Year-New-Me’s, yet the gyms will be evacuated by spring. Easier said than done. Resolutions require resolve, determination and planning to make possible.
To kick off the season of self-betterment with a kick-ass spirit, here are 3 Dos and 3 Don’ts for your 2020 New Year resolutions.
1. Do Whatever You Want.
Do what you want and do it for you. I’m not squinting at you through bong smoke, croaking, “Don’t do what the man says, man.” However, your goals and your expectations of yourself will differ from those of your family, your colleagues or your social media friends. So what if Steve resolved to start a business and Cheryl resolved to run a marathon? It might not be important or even possible for you to jump on those bandwagons.
You need to close your eyes and take a second to ask yourself: what is it that Iwant to attempt and achieve? This differs from: what is it that I might attempt to achieve for maximal glory, attention, likes? To be carried into a half-arsed resolution by the breeze of the thousand New-Year-New-Me windbags on social media is to fail. Stay true to your dreams, stay true to your (new) self.
2. Do Plan to Succeed or Prepare to Fail.
Do plan—that is, if you are serious about succeeding. Wishlists will not make the cut. “I will quit X,” and “I will start Y,” jotted on a piece of paper on the last day of December reeks of desperation, of failure. You need to cast a solid plan into the future, not a wishy-washy wishlist. Planning is concrete: planning should be specific and detailed whilst taking reality into account, i.e., planning for when the plan goes to pot.
RESOLUTION A – “I will start exercising.”
- Riding to work
WHEN & WHERE:
- I will ride to work on weekdays
- I will go to the gym 7am on weekdays
- I will swim on Tuesday and Thursday evenings;
- After work on weekdays 5.30-7pm
- Gym with a friend to stay motivated
- Get waterproofs for riding to work
- Get membership for gym and swimming
- If I oversleep or cannot make the gym, I will go to the gym in the evening
- If I miss swimming, I will go another day in the week
- If it is too stormy to ride to work, I will catch the bus and read the book I’ve been neglecting
- I want to start exercising because I want to improve my health, lose some weight, feel happy and energetic, etcetera
RESOLUTION B – “I will quit smoking.”
- Stop smoking cigarettes
WHEN & WHERE:
- I will stop smoking after 01 January 2020
- I will not smoke at anytime or any place thereafter
- I will dispose of my cigarettes
- I will read Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Alan Carr
- I will start (guitar, basketball, cooking) to ensure I am occupied when I have a craving
- If I have a craving, I will remember and repeat to myself the reasons why I want to quit
- If I have a severe craving I will remember it is short-lasting and choose to (play guitar or basketball or cook something)
- If I am offered a cigarette, I will turn it down immediately without complaining about quitting
- If I do succumb to a cigarette, I will not ‘fall off the wagon’ – I will get right back on the wagon
- I want to stop because I want to improve my health
- I want to stop because I want to see my children grow up, and live to see my children’s children
- I don’t want to cough up tar and feel my heart pound from within my chest every day of my life
- I want to be the sort of person who is not owned by a meaningless, mirthless and self-destructive addiction
Note how the resolution expanded into the whys and wherefores; the what, when, where, how, what if and why. What if and why: both extremely important. The “why”—the reason for your resolution—as we discussed above, needs to be more substantive than following and/or impressing your peers.
The “what if” is interesting and important to understand for planning. It is a contingency plan, a plan for when the plan doesn’t go to plan. There will be a pathetic part of you looking for a way out, an excuse to ditch the newly resolved habit or restart the old nasty one when things don’t go to plan. You need to be one step ahead of this part of you to stop it in its traitorous tracks. Otherwise you fall at the first hurdle.
Prove the pathetic part of you wrong! Plan to succeed, even when you fail.
3. Do Focus.
Do focus on your resolution. Note resolution is in the singular. To focus is both to concentrate and to exclude. To focus on everything is to focus on nothing. Focus implies the exclusion of all else. To quit cigs and chocolate the same day as starting to eat clean, go the gym and play the guitar sounds like a noble escapade, but really, it’s wishful thinking. The failure rate is going to be multiplied by each of the unrealised resolutions you make at the same time, even with all the planning in the world.
Let’s dream and plan and grab life by horns—but let’s be realistic and refined about it. Don’t splice your focus and squander your energy on half-arsing several resolutions all at once. Pick a resolution, two at most, and focus your energies on succeeding at the exclusion of all else.
1. Don’t be a New-Year-New-Me.
Don’t be a New Year New Me. The new year resolution is not all-or-nothing, make-or-break, balls-out-or-tits-up. Do you know there will be other times in the year when you’re sprawled on your sofa with a hangover, a mild self-loathing, and prickling motivation to sort yourself out? The only difference is you’ll be bloated by something other than mince pies; sweating something other than mulled wine out of your sorry system. There is no peculiar aspect of a mulled wine hangover that must result in a resolution; likewise, there is no real difference between the start of January and any other month when if comes to self-betterment.
I was a woefully addicted smoker of Golden Virginia roll-ups at one stage, “quitting” several years in a row, before “really” quitting—apart from rollies with a beer on weekends—before really quitting, mid-August 2014, at a music festival. The first time in my life having a beer with friends without cigarettes was at a music festival, possibly the most conspicuously improper time to ditch the dirty habit. I have not smoked a cigarette since. You just don’t know when your efforts and energies and experience will merge to manifest a time when you feel empowered to say—“No! No more!” Or, better still, “Yes! I live only once, and I will live this life doing X and not Y!”
2. Don’t (Just) Be a Quitter.
Don’t just quit. New Year New Me’s are quitters. You want to be starting something, something new and positive with momentum for the New Year. I am not saying you shouldn’t quit something, but if all you are doing is quitting something, you are just halting a downward spiral of some sort. You, surely, would like to instigate some sort of upward spiral! A suitable resolution should therefore be a principle or a habit around which an improved and improvable lifestyle should be arranged.
An example: the core habit and fundament of my day is throwing myself into the sea. Everyday, since September 2018, with few exceptions. I sacrificed the sleep-in snoozer-loser edition of myself for one that leaps out of bed and into the sea. It eventually became so habitual, so ritual, that a day without the sea feels odd, off-kilter. Everyday starts with a thrill, with a smile, with a win. It has, with time, become a part of my identity, my personality. It’s about half the conversation people engage me with at work—“You’ve not been in the sea today?!” Yes, of course I have, because that is who I am and that is what I do.
To succeed with a New Year resolution, your identity will have to be permanently updated in this way, absorbing a new habit or excreting a dirty one. A new habit should become what you do and who you are; a dirty habit becomes what you did and who you were. It takes time and effort, at first. The reward is a better you.
3. Don’t Beat Yourself Up.
Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon, because it will happen. But as the timeless adage goes: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up again.” This links with the dictum: Do Plan. You are not planning to fail. You are planning how to get back up when life throw you the unexpected at inopportune moments.
If you have a puff on a cig or a pig-out or miss a gym session or are otherwise waylaid from your original goal: this does not make you a failure—if you get back up again. To fail is not only part of life, and New Year resolutions, it is actually essential to success; in the realm of both nature’s and humanity’s activity. Failures teach you lessons that successes cannot: how to be humble, what to be wary of, and why success is so rewarding.
Season’s Greetings and good luck with your 2020 resolutions! And remember: “New year resolutions don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do.”