About to buy a home gym but worried it'll be on eBay in September? Thinking about spending £400 on learning Spanish even though you never even opened last year's guide on how to quit smoking? If you're starting the New Year with some resolutions that you intend to keep for more than a month, here's a bit of inspiration. An interviewer recently asked me for three words that best describe myself. I sensed a trap. "Dazzling, talented... modest?" What did they expect me to say? I'd like to think I'm pretty friendly and (usually) sociable, but above all else I know I'm lucky. Good things always seem to happen. But if you're serious about your resolutions, it's not enough to rely on good luck. Gary Player used to say, "The more I practise the luckier I get," and it's true. There's no short cut - hard work, focus and determination will see you reach your goals. When things don't work out and people blame fate, or say “It just wasn't meant to be,” they are just trying to let themselves off the hook by avoiding responsibility. In most cases they didn't reach their goals or failed in their New Year's resolutions because they didn't plan properly and didn't work hard enough.
I know, the thought of all that work is enough to put anyone off self-improvement and stay firmly in their comfort zone. It's natural to be wary of change and to take the path of least resistance. Have you ever gone to a party and only chatted to the people you arrived with? Gone back to the same holiday spot over and over because you know what you're going to get? Avoided the local street food because it might taste funny? All very safe, comfy and secure, but where's the growth and excitement?
Taking an all-in package holiday where you don't have to think about anything may be a good way to recharge your batteries but it won't enliven your senses like backpacking through India.
Making New Year's resolutions is a chance to better yourself and get the life you want, but watch out, to make any worthwhile changes you'll have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. As they say in Yorkshire, “Where there's muck there's money”.
If you want to learn a language this year, you're going to have to put the hours in. There's no getting away from it. Reading and practising 'present subjunctives' is a lot less fun than enjoying a few beers with your friends, but it's the only way you'll improve.
If one of your goals this year is to join a gym and loose some weight, be prepared - your friends, bless them, will be little help.
"Good luck," they'll tell you, "I give you three months till you give up."
"Don't pay your gym membership up front," they'll helpfully advise, "you'll hardly go after a few weeks."
And woe be tide if you do actually start to loose weight and manage to squeeze in to those fabulous jeans. "You look too thin! Enough is enough," they'll cry, when actually they just feel threatened that you look and feel better than they do.
With friends like these you'll need heaps of determination and an almost selfish, pig-headed streak. Or maybe just thinner friends...
One of my three words in that interview could have been belligerent. I like a challenge and don't worry too much what people think about me. I think that comes from being different as a child (a gay Jehovah's Witness no less) and getting used to being marginalised and treated differently. In a school of over 1000 kids I was the only one excluded from morning assemblies because as a Witness I wasn't allowed to sing the morning hymn. I remember being seven years old and desperate to make a paper Santa Claus with my friends, but no, my religion didn't allow that and I had to make something else instead. This isn't a sob story; in hindsight I am grateful for those experiences. In our search for acceptance most of us naturally want to blend in with our peers and be part of the group. I couldn't do that. I was forced to be different, to stand out. It's given me a fiercely independent nature and now I actually can't stand being the same as other people. If I see everyone walking in one direction I want to go the other way. So when my friends tell me I'm wasting my time with this or that, it just makes me want to do it all the more to prove them wrong. Yes, I can be a arse sometimes. Ask anyone.
If I am ever considering something that scares me, I know I should do it. As the book says, “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Taking risks and overcoming our fears is where fulfilment and growth lie. That said, I draw the line at the Macarena - there are limits.
Most people haven't got a clue what they want or where they are going. If you're lucky enough to know what you want out of 2012 here's a daily checklist for you:
- Be bold, if you know what you want, go for it.
- How do you eat an elephant? In small bites. Break big resolutions in to small achievable goals. It's easier to manage and bit by bit you'll get there.
- Don't loose your focus. Record your progress and make sure you stay on track.
- Things always change. If you're knocked off track just reevaluate and get back to work.
- Great things require great effort. You'll have to make sacrifices, but they'll be worth it.
- Avoid naysayers. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
I wish you an wonderful 2012 full of excitement, challenge and growth. Now if I could only be bothered to get dressed and go to the gym...