News Analysis

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Victoria White: So what if most resolutions fail – it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try

Published 03/01/2014 | 10:43

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Every year I spend the turn of the New Year under the stars beneath a great mountain in the West of Ireland. I look at nature’s grandeur and I think “How great thou art” or something of the kind.

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I am filled with a sense of endless possibility. There is nothing I can’t do if I just put my shoulder to the wheel. 20-blank is the year!

No more time-wasting. No more messing around.

It’s into the swimming pool four times a week/get that novel finished/no drink Monday to Friday/no chocolate...

But, hey, what’s all the rush about? Because in 20-blank I am always going to make time for friends/stop shouting at the children/show my husband I love him every first Tuesday/ visit my friend’s mother.

I’m just going to be, man. Just be.

By the time I’m in out of the wind and the rain I’m gagging for a hot whiskey, so that’s the first resolution gone straight away. By 9am the next

morning I have a headache  and so I shout at the children and eat the face off my husband for not loading the dishwasher.

The novel is on the back burner, to say nothing of the friend’s mother...

I have never, ever kept a New Year’s resolution and this year will probably be no different.

And yet today I still believe it will. I’m still reaching for those twinkling stars far above me.

That endless optimism doesn’t mean I’m crazy. It just means I’m human. Scientists may believe time doesn’t even exist, but we humans have broken the turning of the Earth into years which end when the sun is lowest in our hemisphere.

That way we think we’re leaving something old behind and embracing something new every 12 months.

Although the only thing that is being left behind, really, is our own youth.

We’ve been making New Year’s resolutions at least since the Romans, who used to make pledges to Janus, the god who gave us the word January.

We nearly always fail – research suggests a failure rate of 88pc.

If we succeeded we’d be running out of resolutions instead of making the same ones again and again.

You would despair of our stupidity, really. If you weren’t human and endlessly optimistic.

Take another look at that figure, though, 12pc succeed in their resolution, at least for a little while.

The biggie is stopping smoking and research does show 16 out of 17 quitters failing. The one who succeeds is you, though. Make sure of that.

The other most popular resolutions are around diet and exercise, which are so important to our health and well-being.

If a few of us manage to lose weight it’s worth keeping up those January traditions.

Men do better if they set themselves regular targets, apparently, and women benefit from making their pledge public and getting their friends on-board. Sounds like WeightWatchers or Unislim might help.

Other popular resolutions are about making changes in work or taking a big trip and these are surely easier to achieve.

Resolving to get married is popular too, though the research doesn’t say if you have to have a partner lined up by January 1 to be Mr or Mrs by Christmas.

Anything’s possible. I spent New Year’s once with a woman who told me under the stars that her resolution was to get pregnant.

She marched into an artificial insemination clinic early in the New Year and the following year she had a babe in arms.

Which made me realise that sometimes people succeed in making big changes in their lives just because they resolve to do so.

Mostly, they fail. But sometimes, if they believe in themselves, they succeed.

That’s me and you, sister. This is our year.

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