January is a fitting time to test New Year’s resolutions. In Edinburgh, the month is perhaps one of the least inspiring with overcast skies and scarce few hours of daylight. Once the holiday season ends and life gets back to the day-to-day, enthusiasm for resolutions seems to end too. A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Hertfordshire estimated that out of 3,000 people who made New Year’s resolutions, only 12% achieved their goal. Similar studies showed an even lower success rate. So why do we make resolutions we know we won’t keep?
Transformation. We all long for change in some form or another. Never completely satisfied with our lives, we want to eat less, exercise more, stop a bad habit, start giving to charity, spend more time with our families and spend less money. With a fresh calendar on the wall, we are even more mindful of a chance to begin again.
Appropriately, the word January has a strong connection with beginnings, dating back to mythology and the Roman god Janus, from which the word January is derived. Acting as the god of doors and gateways, Janus was often depicted as having two heads, one looking forward, the other backward. He was most often associated with beginnings and ends, as it was believed he could see both into the past and future.
Though I don’t know what the future holds, I feel like Janus this time of year, looking back over past events and forward, wondering what’s to come. In doing this it’s easy to get caught up in the major events of life. Society teaches us to do so. When will we find a better job, buy a house, be happy with our bodies, make more money, follow our dreams…the list goes on and on. We are measured by accomplishments, yet so many of us fall short of the mark. We are left feeling inadequate, discontent, and not quite good enough. We focus on the big things that are missing and forget sometimes it takes “baby steps” as Bob said in What About Bob, rather than leaps, to reach goals and live a more fulfilling life.
Think small. Instead of resolving to get fit in 2009, why not resolve to walk the dog around the block two evenings a week or play an outdoor sport with your children every Saturday. Find ways to make your resolution manageable. Once you have reached that goal, enhance it (walk the dog four days a week).
Don’t resolve to read more books in the coming year, resolve to read one book. Take a book to work and read on your lunch break or go to bed half an hour early every night to spend time reading. Find ways to finish one book. When you’ve reached that goal, find ways to read another.
The same can be said for writing. I often fear that my dream—having a career in the writing industry, will never happen. Sometimes I have to remind myself that instead of taking a step back to see the big picture of what I want, I need to take a step forward to see the things that make up the big picture. Chances are I won’t land a book contract or an editing job overnight. I have to commit to small goals, like taking a few hours a week to write or submitting a story to a competition.
Whether you believe in New Year’s resolutions or not, search for inspiration. Look for small ways to enhance your life, rather than struggle to maintain unmanageable goals. Instead of approaching a new year consider the 365 new days that make up a year and when you find yourself consumed with the big picture or battered with thoughts of failure, consider what Anne said in Anne of Green Gables. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet.”