We are nearing that time again when puds have been eaten, money over-spent, tax returns submitted by the skin-of-our-teeth, and the words ‘never again’ can be heard on our lips as we look back on our festive behaviour.
There are those who take stock of what has transpired over the past twelve months and make resolutions to do better during the following year, planning to make improvements where troublesome areas such as health, relationships, career or finance are concerned, aiming to improve on their happiness, productivity or longevity.
Although I’m a big planner, particularly when the year is turning, I dislike the phrase ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – it sounds menacingly like a revolution, and it can sometimes feel like that; a war against oneself, resistance against change, rebellion within and consequent revolt, as we attempt to alter ingrained habits by working in opposition to familiar, yet unhelpful attitudes and behaviours. Resolution though, is about our intention, and our ability to stick with our promises, so although a noble way to start a new year, if it’s true that our point of focus is also our destination, then resolution sets our attention upon ourselves, which may mean we risk gaining little more than self-knowledge by the following Christmas. I prefer the phrase ‘New Year’s Solutions’, as it speaks of success already achieved in the future, which we just have to bring into the ‘here-and-now’, and make our own.
Some are exceptionally good at self-discipline while many others have memories of resolve caving in before February………so how do we do this achieving and succeeding? Whilst a big vision is definitely worthwhile, motivating us to reach for more of who we know we can be, I believe that the trick to achieving the big goal is small thinking! Yes, dream big for the future, but plan small steps each day to get there – ‘little-by-little’. It’s not ‘rocket-science’, but it is harder to achieve than we think! It’s about consistency and making changes for life (not just for Christmas), rather than a ‘quick-fix’, or dare I say on the day we leave the EU, ‘An oven-ready deal!?’ It’s about stepping onto new ground and firmly establishing ourselves, so that we never need to repeat step one again, (or step two, three or four for that matter.) Self-control can get us to our desired goal fairly quickly, but altering habits of a lifetime, by changing how we instinctively think or behave, takes a little more time in order to put down roots and grow strong. Give yourself time, and make your (re)solutions possible to achieve even on the worst day, when life has ‘kicked-in’ unexpectedly, and you are completely thrown off your game. The level I aim to challenge myself is lower than the level I think I can actually achieve, because one or two successful weeks doesn’t mean I can maintain my target when life gets challenging; aiming too high and falling at the first hurdle is so discouraging.
For the past few years, a December birthday has been my excuse to take a day-trip to London to visit the art galleries, see the lights and perhaps bring back an art book as a souvenir. About six weeks ago I took out a book that I bought on my trip a year or so back, called ‘My Year in Small Drawings,’ by Matilda Tristram. The aim of the book is to encourage us to notice, draw and appreciate more often. The book is filled with pages of empty 4cm squares, and sectioned into seasons and themes to motivate and inspire the reader. I haven’t drawn for such a long time, even though I know that it does me good - plus the fact that the right-brain can enhance problem solving by releasing creative solutions that we didn’t even know we had - so it’s a win/win activity for life really! I bit the creative bullet and started with a mini drawing or watercolour each day, aiming at investing around 20 minutes a time, and here I am, 52 tiny artworks later, feeling very pleased with myself! My miniatures don’t always work out, and occasionally I miss a day, but because a 4cm square is reasonably un-daunting, and the time required negligible, I just have to muster enough courage to take another small step each day to grow creatively again! I’d say it’s worked, ‘little-by-little’, and on the back of exercising my rusty creative muscles, I’ve have just bought three canvases which I plan to experiment with in the new year!
Finally, I appreciate that some goals are ‘all-or-nothing’, rather than ‘little-by-little’ ventures, but whatever we have our sights on, and however we plan to get there, kindness and self-compassion needs to be our companion as we journey each day towards success, winning some days and losing others. What’s important is that after a fall, we pick ourselves up and continue taking small steps forward again, refusing to go to war with ourselves through negative speak and unobtainable challenges, but by fixing our eyes on our end point, and then just nibbling away at today’s road blocks, ‘little-by-little’.