It was not New Year’s Eve but I was in the resolving mood. I had just enjoyed some homemade biscuits. ‘This is the very thing’, I thought. ‘I will make a tray of biscuits every month for the family.’ That was back in 1987. I regret to say that I have not made one batch of biscuits since that day. What a predictable failure! I had broken just about every rule in the good resolver’s guide. I imagined how I would feel if I did it – not what doing it would involve. But more seriously I made a resolution based not on the person I am but on the person I would like to be. I wanted to be a biscuit-baker. I thought that thinking it so would make it so. It did not. It never does.
The ‘thinking it leads to doing it’ mistake is one that many are on the cusp of making, even as I write.
But this seven point guide might just save you from the humiliation of a broken resolution.
1 Recognise that if you are thinking of making a resolution you are almost certainly on the way to failure. So if you can, banish all thought of resolution from your mind. It’s a trap.
2. Okay, it won’t go away. You have to do something. Or at least say that you are going to do something. Resolve this minute that this is going to be a resolution that the real you has at least a cat’s chance of keeping. Forget what the ideal you would do. That much better you would not need to make any resolution that the real you could think up.
3. So let’s forget about sorting out our vices. Any vice worth the name is resolution-proof. If you are never on time resolving to be punctual is just not going to work. Anyone can be on time if they are wired-up to value being on time. If you are not now you won’t be in two days time just because you have made a resolution. Forget your vices. They will spoil the fun.
4. Try to find a resolution that the real you is going to like. Chances are that something framed positively is going to serve you best. ‘Have more fun’. ‘Book holidays sooner’. ‘Take more rest.’ These are the sorts of resolution to please the real you. – to bring a smile to your real face.
5. Forget about SMART. Hey, this is New Year’s Resolutions we are talking about. Great resolutions are vague, subjective and in your own time.
6. How about the one-word resolution? Just pick a word and decide to make it a bit of theme in the New Year. Obsess about it. Repeat it. Use it as your password. Write it on the front page of that nice new diary. Use it as a mantra when you walk or run or even as you slowly breathe yourself into a meditative trance or deep sleep. This is the way to deal with the virtues we lack. Keep them in your mind and on your mind.
What word? Up to you. Someone once used ‘flow’ and I hear it served them well. How about using a virtue word? What would you like people to say about you if you were gone? Say it to yourself regularly. How about words like, ‘kind’ or ‘giving’ or ‘hopeful’?
But remember this. It’s not about resolving to be kind of whatever. That is as daft as resolving to make biscuits. It’s about resolving to keep the idea of ‘kind’ on your mind as you live though the ups and downs of the coming months.
7. If none of that appeals there is always ‘decluttering’. That’s a real winner. There’s always junk that needs to be chucked out. Taking it to the tip (aka recycling centre) can be cathartic. Not as good as bonfire perhaps, but pretty good. And then there are Charity Shops queueing up to make you feel virtuous and free-cycle and even eBay. The joy of a recently decluttered space is one of life’s simple but sincere pleasures. So why not go for it.
As for me. Not yet decided. But I think it will be to declutter all my old sermons out of my life – well at least those over ten years old. Either that, or I will use the word ‘hope’ as my mantra and see if I can finally clear them away in 2013.