Call me old-fashioned, but I love a new beginning. Every New Year’s Eve, in the words of Brooks Anderson, I like to “Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go” and celebrate the arrival of a fresh start, another go and another chance to change my life for the better.
Trying to work out why it take us so long to create the kind of life we want to live completely does my head in sometimes, but as Oprah Winfrey says, “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”
No matter where I am, by 12 o’clock the New Year’s resolutions are normally all lined up like little, red tin soldiers ready to march into the New Year. I generally have at least one biggie and maybe a few foot-soldiers representing decisions I want to action.
Last year’s big New Year’s Resolution was just one word – Declutter. The aim was to dramatically cull the unworn clothes in my wardrobe, unused linen in the linen cupboard, items like unused placemats in the incidentals drawer and any general clutter including that was unnecessary, unwanted or unused for a number of years.
I made my adult children go through the boxes of things they’d left here and either take most of it with them or throw it out. When one didn’t show up to do it, I packed up their gear and delivered boxes to their flat. Collectively that cleared a lot of space.
Strangely, it made a massive difference not just in the house, but also to my head. When I saw say an old guitar or a pile of CDs, my mind would automatically clock back to a memory which made me miss them that little bit more than usual. Now that they’re living in their own homes getting on with their own lives, I’m trying to let them go ahead and do that while I kickstart more of my own life so getting rid of their stuff was a great step towards that.
I blitzed all the magazines and newspapers I’d written for and threw a lot of them out before starting on the great magazines I’d savoured and held on to and then, the book shelves. The house looked so much better a month or two later, but what I didn’t anticipate was how much better I felt and continued to feel for many more months afterwards. It was like clearing out the past.
One little decision and one big ask lined up as the first two easy contenders in this year’s New Year Resolution stakes, but this year has proved different from all the rest in that part of the New Year’s Resolution Army is off the parade ground looking for concrete ways to combat my increasingly solitary life and empty nest, but more about that later.
Health and Exercise
The first easy, peasey resolution was to go to see my GP about a few little things that have been niggling for some time and in one instance, years. This might sound silly but I’ve only been to see my GP once or twice in the last year. I’d been putting up with, an old prescription medication that wasn’t working, troublesome sinuses that over the counter products weren’t sorting and a bad reaction to a shampoo that I hadn’t been able to fix by changing products. By my reckoning, a visit wasn’t really justified.
However when I got there, my GP didn’t think so as the shampoo reaction had turned into an infection, turned out the sinuses were infected as well and I’d been given the wrong medication. A specialist referral was issued and so in the end, I was really glad I went as there is no need for these issues to carry on accompanying me much longer into the coming year, let alone the next decade.
The big ask New Year’s Resolution is to try and fit some kind of exercise into every day. Twenty one days is the number often cited as necessary to make or break a habit, though some psychologists often argue it can be a lot longer and may be as many as 66 so it is important to start off as you mean to carry on. This is the bogey that is already seriously struggling for breath long before the initial 21-day finish line is even in sight. But I’m not giving up. I really need to see this happen partly for health, but more importantly stress management and so I went in search of tools to help me change my life.
I found a fantastic set of 11 tools I can choose from to help me stick to the straight and narrow in Forbes magazine ranging from Jerry Seinfeld’s grid of X’s (one for every day you meet the challenge) where once you get going, you won’t want to break the chain to FaceBook and other apps where you announce your resolutions to online communities that cheer you on and make you accountable. There’s even a tool for those you can’t break a habit without some money on the line called ’21 Habit’. If you fail for a day in your endeavour, the site gets to keep one dollar of the $21 you pay. Conversely if you achieve what you set out to do you get your dollar back. Good incentive huh?
’43 Things’ is the one I like best where you work with a partner in a pool of 3 million members to stay accountable on your Top 3 goals. Check these killer tools out so you won’t look back and your New Year’s Resolutions join the vast majority gathering dust on life’s threshing floor.
This year, changes are in order that will be fairly major for me so these are the ones that are still in the pipeline. Having fallen into a fairly solitary way of life due to the kids moving out, friends shifting to other centres or countries or being increasingly absorbed into their businesses, careers or grandchildren, the plan is to step out of my comfort zone to meet some like-minded, new people by taking up something new. But the question is what and how?
I got as far as deciding by doing more of what I enjoy, but getting beyond that to define those things has proved tricky.
The Happiness Project
For someone with a busy, if solitary life, this is pretty daunting so I was relieved to come across potential help in ‘The Happiness Project’, a book by Gretchen Rubin that topped the New York Times 2009 best-selling list.
Gretchen encourages everyone to have a Happiness Project: “A “happiness project” is an approach to changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse. Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions.”
Giving your resolutions a “one-word” theme, a single word or phrase with an overarching theme for the year, she says, can be a good strategy for actually making them happen. Examples given include “Fame”, “Free time”, “Renewal”, “Play”, “Healthy”, “Possibility”, “Action”, “Move” and “Believe”.
Others could be “Romance” either keeping romance alive in a relationship or finally getting into gear and asking that girl out on wonderful dates. “Pride” could be another one if you’ve decided to take more pride in your appearance. “Fun” is another brilliant option. What I like about the one-word idea is it’s the principle, not the detail, which rules so you don’t have that sense of failure if you fail to say exercise every day. Doing more exercise or dancing or laughing or whatever you want to do is still a win-win.
If you are in the same boat and wanting to make a change, there are a million ways you can do it like learning another language, doing a community class or a course at Summer School, picking up that old arts and crafts project and joining others to do it, learning to paddle board or play a new sport or game and pursue a long-standing but seldom-enjoyed interest.
The challenge is to make the decision and try. Good luck and all the best in keeping your resolutions for the year ahead!