Sunday 21 July 2019

John Masterson: 'I am not SMART... I am DUMB or DUMBER'

Mind matters...

The New Year is often viewed as a time to make positive changes in life
The New Year is often viewed as a time to make positive changes in life

John Masterson

I am very fortunate. I am surrounded by perfect people. I base this on having asked many of them if they were making any New Year resolutions. None of them were planning any much needed improvements. Frankly, I could give them a short list with a few suggestions but I fear the conversation might not have ended well. Some of them are smokers. Enough said.

A common theme that did emerge was that January is the very worst time possible to make a behavioural change. They didn't want to get caught up in all the "how are you getting on?" pressure. As one put it "I don't need any of the 'New Year/ New Me' stuff". Several people I spoke to point out that you can make a resolution any time so why not do it at a time when you are more likely to succeed. One person told me that "every day is an opportunity to improve" and I felt the urge to throw up. I am still not sure if she meant it or if she just wanted to get a rise out of me. She succeeded.

We are all brainwashed into the same few resolutions and I suspect that between stop smoking, do more exercise, lose weight, eat better, drink less and maybe learn a foreign language I have covered about 99pc of people. The ones who will actually do what they set out to do is probably more like 9pc and more power to their elbow. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" is my favourite proverb. It is such a good line that it has found its way into lyrics by people as diverse as Chris Rea, Billy Joel, Nelly Furtado and heavy metallers In Fear In Faith.

It pays to be SMART if you want to achieve your goal. That means that you will have to put a bit of thought into it. You should also write it down. I am a great believer in graphs and lists and putting them somewhere easy to see.

SMART means that what you want to change is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based. This means you are not just going to lose weight, but lose specific amount by a specific time. So 5kg in five months will have you in great shape for the summer, while a 10kg target of a more rapid loss will probably just mean you will give up and enter the summer lacking the same six-pack that you are currently lacking. If you want to do more exercise set yourself a target that is more than you currently do but difficult to fail at. Enlist a companion and you will increase the chances of success for each other. Some years back I did the Dublin City Marathon. I would never have done the training without a schedule worked out with a friend. We kept each other going and we both did it.

Perhaps my marathon success was the exception. I said I would do it and I did it. Since then my resolutions are probably less SMART and more DUMB. That is Don't have a chance of success, Utterly unachievable, Measurable, but only in the magnitude of their failure, and Best not attempted. This year I decided it was time for some real self-improvement. I decided to be less judgemental, less critical, more tolerant and in general an all-round nicer person. I lasted until just after breakfast. What is one supposed to do when served undrinkable coffee?

Why wait? "Procrastination is the thief of time."

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