New Year, New Thinking!

Paul Bird demonstrates why the start of the new year might be the perfect time to ditch resolutions and make your life matter.

by @JohnCaruso on Wednesday, 30 Nov, 2016

Summer, Noosa, holidays, Christmas pudding. Sounds like the time for some end-of-year self-reflection to me.

This need to exert control over our future is why we have New Year’s Resolutions. It’s our annual comfort pillow designed to keep us hopeful, positive and enthusiastic for the year ahead.

It’s not an invention of the modern mind either. Both the Babylonians some 4000 years ago and the Romans later began their years with promises to their gods. I am sure if the record existed we would find that caveman also made some form of gesture indicating the number of mammoths he intended to kill in the coming year as well.

People who study such human behaviours report that only 8 per cent of us will achieve our New Year’s Resolutions in any given year with resolutions broadly falling into the categories of self-improvement, weight loss (number 1 by-the-way), financial management and relationships.

The dismal reality is that any action initiated at the beginning of the year is likely to peter out by Easter (when all those chocolate eggs parade enticingly before me). So, with such a pathetic success rate perhaps it’s time to ditch the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions and take a different tack.

I propose that a better approach might be to create your own personal definition of success for the year ahead. Something which you can use throughout the year to inspire the changes you want to make and which at the end of the year helps you look at how “successful” you have been rather than absolute statements such as “I will run the half-marathon”.

A definition is, by definition, a clear and distinct statement.

Try defining what success means to you! Break it down into the values which matter most to you and then the key tasks which demonstrate success within each value (sounds more like a plan of action than a definition to me but if this works for you then go for it).

Trying to reduce your personal definition of success, either in the year or years ahead, to one sentence may be possible with thought and reflection.

It might mean that your definition is more of a direction rather than a series of too hard tasks and tick-off items.

It might also mean that during the first year your definition of success is a little vague, more of a foundation or movement towards something rather than an immediate sugar-hit.

Conversely as mentioned, you might be someone who needs a values-based list to gauge progress. Try starting with the following: family; friends; career; community; financial; physical, mental and emotional health; spiritual; learning; fun.

You could list some projects under the values which you think need emphasis in this coming year (not too many).

It might also be that success for you revolves around cultivating certain types of behaviours in the year ahead. The development of attributes like courage, diligence or caring.

Small or incremental steps which lead to new routines might be best. Behavioural psychologists tell us that new habits are based on the cultivation of rewarding repetitive routines, both physical and mental. Not easy.

However you approach it, don’t make this just another exercise in self-flagellation when certain elements of your definition are not achieved or go awry.

Be gentle with yourself and perhaps you will have a better outcome in achieving lasting behaviour change/goals than the tired and tawdry Resolutions.

I wonder if the Babylonians and Romans did better than 8% with their annual promises?

Paul Bird is Publisher and Director of IN Noosa Magazine. He left a successful career spanning 36 years in the media and corporate communications industries in 2012 to pursue, among other things, roles as an Independent Director and Corporate Advisor in the profit-for-purpose charity and business sectors .A self-confessed Noosa tragic he has been a regular visitor and sometimes “resident” during the past 25 years.

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