Sunday, 2 January 2011

Make changes, not resolutions.

For the last few days, a flyer from the local gym has been sitting in our mailbox. This is the marketing slogan: 'make changes, not resolutions'. How many of us come upon the new year and make lists of resolutions? This year I'm going to.... And we grit our teeth and strive towards that higher goal that we have set for ourselves. Through pure determination we promise ourselves that this will be the year that we take bold strides and become a better version of ourselves. But in my experience pure resolve is not enough and the real key to living a better life is about making changes.

The slogan from the local gym is now my mantra for the new year and the refrain that I playback when I find myself wishing that things were different. It is actually much more empowering to set about changing things rather than resolving to try harder at something.

And so, in 2011 I am going to make changes. First, I am going to go to bed early at least one night per week in order to get more sleep. Even if this means losing out on some time to myself once the children are in bed. In the long run sleep is more important. I've had some tough days simply because I've been too tired and that's going to change....

Once I've had more sleep, I will no doubt be in a better frame of mind to consider all the other things in my life that need attention! But staying with the subject of how to approach the 'new year, new start' craze, I was encouraged to read a fascinating expose on new year resolutions by Oliver Burkeman in Saturday's Guardian Weekend (1.1.11). Mr Burkeman writes a weekly column actually called 'This column will change your life' and so he is probably best placed to approach the issue of how to attack the seasonal urge to re-invent oneself as a better and (usually) fitter being.

His advice is to abandon new year resolutions and his reasoning certainly rings true: the energy expended in striving to achieve one's goals is willpower and this is a 'depletable resource'. Far better, Mr Burkeman argues, is to change habits and then willpower is reserved. The example he gives is that it is easier to watch less television when you don't have one. I have certainly found that it is easier to go to bed early one night of the week if I know that I can get my time to myself in the evenings of the other six days of the week.

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