Monday 24 September 2018

Happy New You: how a bit of resolve can go a long way to making this year a great one

We are all creatures of habit — but change is possible as a new year dawns
We are all creatures of habit — but change is possible as a new year dawns

Gina london

January is named for the Roman god Janus. He was the god of doors and gates. The guardian of entrances and exits. Of beginnings and endings. Of time and transitions. Ancient marble sculptures depict him with a double-faced head - one looking back and the other looking forward.

And here we are on the verge of another January. Another new year. Another new beginning. And with it, another opportunity to make a New Year's resolution.

The first time I remember ringing in the New Year, I was nine. The week after Christmas my parents had driven with my little brother and sister and me to a self-catering hotel in Florida to escape our Indiana snow. Dad announced that, for the first time, we kids could officially ring in the New Year at midnight.

We were so excited about the prospect of staying up late that we dashed into our little kitchen to gather pots and pans as makeshift drums and assorted spoons as drumsticks. Provisional instruments assembled, we paraded around the place - loudly proclaiming our enthusiasm.

As you might expect, this drove my mom crazy. She urged my dad to pretend midnight arrived a few hours early. But he honoured his word to his offspring and we all saw it through to the bitter end. Or beginning.

The next morning, when I woke up, I expected to feel completely different. It was the dawn of the new year. The sun should be shining brighter or something, shouldn't it?

I remember how surprised I was that I was just the same. I was disappointed. Then my mom told me I could make a resolution.

An outward pronouncement that something different is going to happen in the new year. Something that I had the power to change.

To this day, I love the prospect of making New Year's resolutions.

I know, I know. There are basically two types of people in the world - those who make New Year's resolutions and those who make fun of the people who do.

We're creatures of habit, so naturally change is hard.

But lest you dismiss the notion of New Year's resolutions before even making one, let me encourage you that this can be your year to stop procrastinating, to shed those 10 kilos, to be the change you want to see - in yourself.

You can frame your resolve with the word itself: RESOLVE.

Reflect:

Before you decide what your New Year's goal should be, act like one of Janus's faces and look back. It's helpful to review your year. Don't dwell on the negative things, but do reflect upon what you've achieved.

I'll bet each of you have something to be proud of. Maybe you didn't win 'Salesperson of the Year'. But did you enter? By just how much did you miss the mark? Maybe you didn't lose 10 kilos, but did you join a gym? How many times did you go? Reflecting will help you adjust your strategy and behaviour to take another move ahead.

Examine:

Why are you preparing to make a resolution? Whatever you decide, it should come from you, not from real or perceived pressure of an employer or loved one. If you personally don't really want to make a change, then you won't.

Specify:

'Losing weight' is consistently the number one resolution people cite. But that's so vague. One of the main reasons people don't achieve their resolutions, is they're not narrowly defined. Do you mean one kilo or one stone? You need to write down a specific and realistic goal, so you can measure your success. Imagine how impossible "I'm never eating Cadbury again" sounds. Instead, get real and try: "I'll limit myself to three chocolates a week."

Outline:

Now that you've defined your goal, list each of the incremental changes you will need to make to support it. For instance, I know I won't go to the gym unless it's the first thing of the day. So, I would list 'set my alarm an hour earlier' as I outline my steps towards losing those last stubborn five pounds.

Link:

Find someone who will help motivate you or hold you accountable. Or both. Linking up with another person or maybe even a group of people is a big key to resolution success.

Value:

How much do you value yourself? "A lot," you might quickly answer. But, then why are so many of us already convinced we won't see our resolutions through?

Many of us are way too hard on ourselves. That's another reason people don't keep resolutions.

Just because you ate 10 chocolates this week, doesn't mean you have to throw in the towel on the whole year. Forgive yourself and get back at it. You're not perfect. None of us are. But if you value yourself and your goal, you must keep going.

Evaluate:

Schedule time on your calendar at regular intervals to take stock of your progress. Don't wait until the following December. Try every couple of weeks or once a month. Target quarterly milestones to track your progress. Don't forget.

The Romans believed Janus would forgive them their mistakes and shortcomings over the past year. You can take today to forgive others as well as yourself. The Romans also asked Janus to bless them and help them with their goals for the new year. While Janus may not be the one helping you, it's also time for you to make some serious plans.

January first is almost upon us. Like Janus, let us contemplate our past achievements while anticipating success in our future efforts.

Happy New Year. Put your resolve into action.

What are you resolving for 2018? Share by writing to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

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