Rosie Blisset, a charity consultant from south London, shares her views on New Year's resolutions.
“I think it’s great that you’re so determined,” I was once told at the end of a first date. “But to be honest, you’re a bit intimidating.” A second date was not arranged. What prompted this piece of surprisingly honest feedback? The seemingly innocuous topic of New Year's resolutions. Or, to be more accurate, my reaction to the fact that he didn’t have any.
“Why bother making any?” he asked. “I’ll only abandon them by mid-January.” A common sentiment and one that invites the listener to agree in a worldly-wise way, but unfortunately one that infuriates me.
You see, I don’t understand this half-hearted attitude towards resolutions. Why are we so willing to write ourselves and our ambitions off after a few weeks? What’s behind this collective dismissal of all the gorgeous feeling of potential that a fresh year offers?
If the experts are to be believed, it’s because we over-reach ourselves. Which can be true; anyone looking at a list which reads ‘meet the perfect man, lose three stone, get a promotion and save the world’ could well be forgiven for choosing instead to hibernate with half-price leftover mince pies. Recent tales of extraordinary resolutions, such as Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, can also be as daunting as they are inspiring.
However, the often-quoted advice to break resolutions down into manageable chunks is often not helpful. Life is big! Sometimes it requires big decisions. There’s no such thing as ‘sort of’ when it comes to getting married or having a baby. Sometimes even the strictest attempts to tackle just the tip of the iceberg can end in life upheaval.
"Sometimes even the strictest attempts to tackle just the tip of the iceberg can end in life upheaval"
For example, a few years ago I knew I needed to get my finances in order. Thinking it would be too painful to actually get to grips with my dependency on my credit card, I decided to take it slow and simply keep a money diary. However seeing it all down in black and white was a bit too much. Noticing that nights out were my biggest expense, I decided to cut down on my drinking (and all the other kebab- and taxi-related expense it involved). However, spending some sober nights with old university friends made me re-evaluate those relationships. Stealing pub signs wasn’t half so entertaining after an evening of orange and lemonades. In the end I started finding excuses to stay away, ending up with a happier bank balance but abandoning my ties.
I think the real secret is twofold. Firstly, being willing to admit that resolutions are challenging and choosing to face the fear rather than finding safety in cynicism. Secondly, choosing resolutions you actually want to achieve.
Quitting smoking sat at the top of my list, guiltily ignored for years because, actually, I liked smoking. Then, in 2009, I had a cancer scare. Despite everything turning out fine, I found myself with a resolution motivated by genuine desire rather than by a feeling of ‘ought-to’. Fast forward 12 months and I’m finally cigarette free, complete with beautiful whitened teeth, paid for with the cash I saved.
Finally, we need to celebrate resolutions. Yes, I’m sad I don’t see so many of my old crowd, but the new friends and hobbies I have now are even better. Also, resolutions can be fun! I decided to learn how to take better pictures and got asked to be the photographer for my friend's wedding. Plus nothing beats the sense of achievement you get from making it through to December. When Christmas arrives I get an instant glow thinking about my achievements. I may not have changed the world, but I’m healthier and have a great new skill - and have now found a man who likes determined women!
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