It’s late January, the weather is grim, the country is in lockdown. Have you already stumbled at the first hurdle? Have your New Year’s resolutions already disintegrated? Perhaps you vowed to maintain a dry January, but you’ve already had recourse to the red wine. Or maybe your plan to compensate for closed gyms with a vigorous daily jog have ended in inertia and sofa-bound self-reproach?
Maybe you’re not the problem and it’s the ritual that needs reviewing. We understand the ‘new year, new start’ symbolism of the annual resolution, but is January – surely one of the most depressing months of the year – the best time to embark on a journey of arduous self-improvement?
Maybe one thing that lockdown has taught us is that human beings are highly adaptable, able to accommodate all kinds of strange new customs, from social distancing to mask wearing, when we can understand that it is imperative to do so. We should therefore be able to set ourselves goals and targets when it is best to do so, and when the circumstances of our lives will support, rather than undermine, our efforts.
It is important to be attuned to the activities that are making us miserable. If your default lockdown activity is binge-watching box sets and it makes you feel guilty and worthless, then it might be time to make a resolution to spend at least a couple of evenings a week enjoying something else, for example a Zoom meeting with friends or a good book.
As with all resolutions and targets, it is best to set yourself goals that are attainable, so that you will have the pleasure of achieving them. If your targets are modest you can always upgrade them and set yourself goals that are slightly more difficult to achieve. The important thing is to be flexible and self-aware.
New Year’s resolutions are a social pitfall. People will ask if you’ve made any, or you may find yourself telling people about your projected programme of self-improvement, which can easily turn into virtue-signalling; your resolutions may well make other people feel bad about their own lack of discipline and resolve. When you fail to achieve your stated objectives you will find yourself having to explain to friends and family and that’s just embarrassing.