Forget hardline new year resolutions; focus on gentle aspirations

Start with easiest thing, do it again. Repeat 66 times. Take a bow, you’ve kept a resolution

The trouble with resolutions is  they tend to fall into two categories: things you are going to do anyway, and things that were never going to  happen

The trouble with resolutions is they tend to fall into two categories: things you are going to do anyway, and things that were never going to happen

 

Around this time every year, I find myself flat out coming up with reasons not to adopt any resolutions. Wine is full of antioxidants, gyms are petri-dishes of biohazards and I already gave birth three times, so I know what my body is capable of. That kind of thing.

The trouble with resolutions is that they tend to fall into two categories: things you are going to do anyway, and things there was never the slimmest nanochance would happen. So this year, I’ve decided to forsake anything so hardline as a resolution, and instead offer you some collective suggestions for gently-improving aspirations that don’t require much in the way of sweat, commitment or premeditation.

1. Read less on screen, and more in a form you can smell, weigh and hold. I left my once-beloved Kindle behind on a plane a year ago, and have since discovered that I am not suffering from early-onset dementia. For the first time in years, I can actually remember the titles of the books I’ve read. Real books demand input from all senses; Kindles deaden the sensory experience.

2. Pay more attention to the passing moments. Even the ones that, at the time, might seem exhausting, mindless or frustrating. When your two-year-old wakes you at 5am and wants to get in your bed and watch Peppa Pig on your phone, remember that in the blink of an eye they’ll be 22, and you’d give anything for just one more predawn moment with their small back curved against you, and Daddy Pig’s voice in your ear.

Delete Facebook app

3. Delete the Facebook app from your phone.

4. Take a sunrise walk. Annoy all your friends by posting smug sunrise photos to your Instagram account, accompanied by inspirational slogans.

5. Stop looking at the magician’s tiny hands and watch what’s happening behind the curtain. Whenever Trump does something outrageous or baffling – ranting about a Broadway musical, or meeting Kanye West in Trump Tower – ask yourself what might he be trying to distract from.

6. Sleep more. I’ve started using bedtime mode on my iPhone, which instructs me to go to bed and wakes me to the sound of birdsong. There is something about being nagged to go to bed that resonates with the child in all of us.

7. Stop thinking so much about what women look like, and listen to what they’re saying. Whether it’s Theresa May in her leather trousers, or Madonna in her fishnets, it is the words coming out of her mouth and not the dimensions of her body or the quality or quantity of the fabric that body is encased in that matters.

8. Except for one thing. Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. I returned to Ireland after a few years away and was stunned by what has happened to our nation’s eyebrows. I’m aware of the risk of sounding like a bitter old harpy, but you’ll come to regret the drawn-on-by-a-five-year-old-with-Sharpie look.

9. Try not to be late, unless you are the parent of a child under one, in which case, you’re entitled to a medal just for showing up without bringing the contents of the fridge and the entire ironing basket with you.

10. Buy less stuff, and have more experiences.

11. Be less cynical, and more sceptical.

12. Find a podcast series you love: I recommend “Strangers”, by Lea Thau, and the Irish Times “Women’s Podcast” and “Róisín Meets”.

13. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.

14. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Humans are not wired for more than 150 friendships.

Roundabouts

15. Let this be the year you learn how to navigate a roundabout.

16. I learned a few things about productivity during my time at Silicon Valley. My favourite: don’t spend so much time in your inbox dealing with the meaningless work that will stop you from getting fired. Block off time in your calendar for the work that gets you promoted.

17. There’s one exception. That email. You know the one: you wanted to give it a bit more time, so you didn’t answer it right away. Days passed, and then weeks, and you still hadn’t got around to it, and now you’re worried it would be ruder to actually reply at this point, and you’ve wasted so much time worrying about it, that you could have written the email many times over, and somehow you still haven’t got around to it. Do it now.

18. Eat from a smaller plate, and drink out of a smaller glass. Your waistline will thank you.

19. Realise that events in the future are rarely as good, or as bad, as you’re anticipating. It is a scientific certainty that the good stuff won’t make you as happy as you think, but the bad stuff is much more survivable than you believe.

20. Appreciate that willpower is a finite resource. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised and tires easily. Don’t try to change too many things at once.

21. Start with the easiest thing and then do it again. Repeat 66 times. Congratulations, you’ve made a resolution and stuck to it.

joconnell@irishtimes.com

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