I am a resolution-maker from way back. As a child, I loved going back to school. Apart from the fact that I was never terribly good at entertaining myself so got bored by about day 3 of the summer holidays, each back-to-school was a chance at a fresh start, to miraculously transform myself into something perfect (the inevitable and exponential annual deterioration somehow forgotten/denied/justified). I made New Year’s resolutions and birthday resolutions… not to be naughty, never to cry again (I’m not sure why this was such a point of shame but for some reason crying in front of other people was one of the biggest embarrassments I felt I could suffer as a child), to keep my room/desk/locker tidy, to wash my face every day, to be more “grown-up” (ironically I think if I wrote a list now it’d include “be less grown-up and more fun”), to always write neatly…. In fact, the handwriting resolution was renewed with every new exercise book throughout the year.
Albert Einstein is famed (among other things) for saying insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Every year I made these resolutions and, no surprise, every year I broke them. They were often the same old resolutions re-hashed, gaining a veneer of maturity as I got older, but essentially they were all in the same vein- be healthier, be nicer, work harder, ie BE BETTER.
Resolutions are great for making you think more about the way you want to live your life and what you think you can improve on, but they set you up for failure, really. You can’t be bothered exercising January 3rd and you’ve “failed” the daily exercise resolution. Ah, well, only 362 days until you can renew that one. You finish the last piece of Christmas cake on New Year’s Day- bang, there goes “eat healthily”. Essentially, a conventional list of New Year’s Resolutions sums up the perfect being you think you want to be without really giving any concession (or credit) to the flawed, busy, conflicted, trying-your-best (well ok sometimes) being you actually are.
And so I think it was the year I turned 30 that I decided “enough with all this”. Instead of writing a list of resolutions, I set myself some goals for the year. Some of them were a bit lame- I think I resolved to “go out more” and “meet new people” which are probably almost as pointless as “write neatly all the time”- they are as vague as the old ones were specific and therefore set themselves up for failure because they aren’t really very well defined and when you can’t define what you’re trying to achieve you can’t really achieve it.
But that year I decided I’d do a half marathon. There was some consideration as to “how” (run 3 times a week, follow training plan x, y or z- I suppose you could call them “sub-resolutions”) but my goal/resolution/whatever you want to call it was simply “Do a half marathon”. And I did. I didn’t run 3 times every week. I did follow training program x, y AND z, as well as a to w, sporadically and inconsistently. But I did it. I ran 21.1km in roughly 1 hr 50 minutes. It was the furthest I’ve ever run and as I was crossing the finish line in the Opera House forecourt I felt strangely emotional. The same kind of feeling I’ve had after accomplishing anything major despite the fact that your preparation is never perfect and you’re not quite sure you’re going to make it, you somehow do. (I’ve done loads more halves since, it’s my favourite running distance and is no longer the big deal it was to me then but I think therein lies another lesson- or blog post- about challenges and perspective and lots of other blogworthy themes.)
Since then, I try to think each year of what’s coming up and what I want to do in the year ahead. My list isn’t necessarily full of “goaly” goals- the items on it might include a holiday that’s already been half-planned, developing a hobby I already have (such as “do a photography course”) or even just an event that’s happening in my life that year (eg June: give birth). I try to make sure there aren’t too many of them and that they are some of the things a good goal should be- realistic and time-specific and all that self-help speak. Some of them get crossed off when I realise they’re not quite right for me this year- maybe they’re unnecessary, unrealistic or simply something I’m not prepared to put the time into just yet. Sometimes life goes off in a direction you don’t predict earlier in the year and your list needs to be amended. It’s kind of hard to always foresee where you’ll be in December when it’s only January, that’s part of the fun.
And so I’ve been thinking, “What’s on the cards for this year….?” My list is only half formed, there’s a big(ish) question mark hanging over the second half of 2014 at this point and things are about to change big time for the little Ls and myself when I go back to work in 3 weeks.
So let’s just say my list’s a work in progress and for the moment, to be continued….