In 2018 I will . . .
I hate New Year's Resolutions. They always feel like a millstone round my neck. It's almost as if the fear of not succeeding, stops me from even starting. No matter whether its a personal NYR or a business related one, I rarely achieve the results I am hoping for - probably because I set the bar too high, or look at the end goal rather than the steps needed to get there.
The only NYR that I have ever succeeded with is stopping smoking. I kicked that habit way back. What was different about that one? How did I make that NYR work, when so many before and since have failed? .
I smoked heavily for many years - then I stopped! I really just stopped. Oh I had tried twice before, succeeded for a couple of months, but then gradually slipped back into the habit - and before I knew where I was I was back to a couple of packs a day. But somewhere, deep inside, I knew that one day I would stop and when that day came twenty years ago, I woke up and just said to myself 'I am not going to smoke today'.
And I didn't - nor the next day, nor the next; and I have never had another cigarette since.
Not being renowned for having an excess of will-power, I amazed even myself. I carried 20 cigarettes in my handbag for a year after I quit - and there was another pack in the car, and another in the kitchen, so I knew that if I really really needed one, they were there. All I had to do was open the packet and light one. Having them available stopped me panicking about 'never being able to have another cigarette ever again' which on a couple of previous rather halfhearted attempts, had been what scuppered me. It was the fear of losing my prop, my pleasure, my habit that was stopping me from getting started. Keeping that prop by me in case of absolute desperation allowed me to let it go somehow.
My husband was still smoking at that time ... and for another ten years after I quit, and there were times, especially when holidaying in France where everyone still seems to smoke with relish, when the thought of a cigarette quite appealed - but actually, having got that far, I found that I was just too bloody minded to go back to something I had managed to do without for so long.
So what did I learn from this? Firstly, that I am more 'in charge' and 'in control' than I thought I was.
Secondly that I had to do it my way. There was so much contradictory advice out there about how to stop, all valid for someone else, but not necessarily for me.
Thirdly, that by taking small steps, that I will get to where I want to be without even really noticing - but if I concentrate on the 'end goal' those tiny step seems so distant from where I actually want to get to that it's just too daunting. I lose impetus.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, that it really is all about being realistic, concentrating on one goal at a time and getting there before starting on the next goal. The problem with NYRs is that in the enthusiasm of turning over a new leaf as the New Year comes in, we overload on NYRs - weight loss, fitness, stopping smoking, reaching a career goal, and being really nice to everyone you know ... something of an overload.
At this time of year, many people (me included) make a NYR that involves getting healthier, losing weight and raising fitness levels. Now I admit that I have not a fan of 'the gym'. I've never enjoyed the pain, the sweating, the breathlessness, the lycra, the mirrors, the over loud music or even the grinding monotony of swimming length after length in heavily chlorinated water. Even when I have succeeded in actually using my annual membership regularly(ish), I see and feel no more visible benefits than I do from my thrice daily dog walks. Going to the gym does not make my weak knees stronger, does not remove my bingo wings or turn me into a superfit super-gran. I still turn a delicate shade of puce and look like a sack of spuds in exercise gear no matter how hard I try to imitate the latest keep-fit goddess.
I have a similar problem with 'diets'. I can stick to a diet reasonably well - and have in the past lost a lot of weight and 'got to target', but at what cost? Feeling miserable all the time? Developing an obsession with food, feeling constantly hungry and dreaming about home made cream of tomato soup? As soon as I start to 'diet' I crave sugar, chocolate (which I don't really like), butter, calories, bread and puddings. And to cap it all, when all those extra pounds have vanished, people constantly give me a sympathetic look and ask in hushed tones "Are you OK? You're looking ever so peaky"
But this year ... somehow, everything feels different. I know what I need to do ... and think I know how to do it. In small bits, day by day, one day at a time.
But what about what I want to achieve for my working life? How shall I approach that?
I suspect that everyone who is self employed sets goals for their business and what they would like to achieve each year: you know the kind of thing, do better work, increase your output, make more money, take more time off, achieve a better balance between life and work, be more creative, get more clients, work harder, do better, achieve more - the list can go on and on.
However, if you make a huge to do list of everything you want to achieve you soon realise that you've just taken on too much - the dreams start causing nightmares as you miss targets, you lose heart, get demotivated and fed up with making all that effort that seems to be leading nowhere and before you realise it, you've given up, your list is in the bin and you feel that you've failed.
My advice then:
It's so easy to get carried away at New Year and, with the best of intentions, aim too high. Keeping our expectations of ourselves within realistic limits can really mean the difference between success and failure.
I'll let you know in six months time how I am getting on! Promise.
"It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward"
I've gleaned quite a lot of knowledge over the years, knowledge that might be of interest to others, especially authors, actors and voice actors. Because I read so much, for pleasure and professionally, I also occasionally write reviews of what I read - so they're here too.
All opinions and views are my own!