New year. New hopes. New resolutions.
Most of us make them, even if we don’t declare them out loud. There’s something about a new collective start that brings this inner determination to do something afresh.
I read the following in a newsletter from London-based Lidgates, organic butcher to the discerning.
“Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.
“The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
“In the Medieval era, the knights took the "Peacock Vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
“This tradition has many other religious parallels. During Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one's wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness.”
So there we have it, religious or otherwise, this is the time of year when we feel a deep inclination to do better.
I want to give a slight word of warning here. If you’re going to make one or two, keep them achievable.
“I’m going to go to the gym; I’m going to lose two stone; I’m going to stop drinking.”
These ideas sound fine when you’re full, fatigued, over-partied and bloated and completely dehydrated through drink.
They may seem less appealing one week later when you’ve got post-Christmas blues and it’s dark, dreary and cold outside. The urge to reach out and eat, drink and – dare I say it? – even smoke, may become irresistible.
And then, instead of feeling that sense of pleasure in yourself that you’ve taken charge of whatever it was you felt needed a bit more help, you’re left (if you’re as hard on yourself as I can be) feeling a failure, and all within a week of the new year.
If that’s the case, what hope is there for the next 51 weeks?
May I make a suggestion? Avoid the absolute.
I’ll use those three examples above but it’s applicable to any situation. Instead of: “I’m going to …” how about “I’m going to try to/I’m going to work towards …?”
That leaves you room for manoeuvre. If you slip up, you don’t have to turn on yourself in fury or disappointment and then attack what it was you were giving up with renewed vigour.
The “trying to” approach is kinder and less punishing internally which means you’re more likely to get where you’re planning to go.
Otherwise, you’re in danger instead of meeting that immediate and devilish resistance that suddenly appears to be determined to put you off your stride. For example: “I’m not going to eat that biscuit” turns into an internal dialogue with a voice that says: “Oh yes you are, why shouldn’t you? And why would you want to stop at just the one?”
This idea of course isn't just about what a person takes in from outside. It can be applied to behaviour too. Less of the setting yourself up to fail with the determined “I will” and more of the understanding “I’ll try”.
It’s about not just being kinder to others, but kinder within yourself too. You might find it quite effective.
Happy new year!
By: Lulu Sinclair