Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The trials and errors of new year's resolutions (Latest MSN Piece)

New year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. But as the wise old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again – as it is the only way a new year’s victory will ever be achieved, says Vicky Lane.

New year's resolutions always start with such good intentions. Just look at the first one I ever made. I was 10, and resolved that it was time to relieve my mother from 'gerbil duty' and take a more active role in the lives of my increasingly ignored pets.

The year started well, and Frisky and Misty settled nicely into their new living arrangement. But soon the chore of throwing food into their cage each day proved challenging for my young self, and the new daily ritual changed into a sporadic event.

Then, the worst happened. Frisky ate Misty.

Unfortunately, I will never truly know if it was my negligence or a random psychotic spark in Frisky's personality that was responsible for Misty's untimely (and rather messy) end, but if any good came out of the tragedy, it was that I learnt a hard lesson about keeping new year's resolutions.

- And of course, of regularly feeding your gerbils.

I'm hardly the first to fall short of my new year's pledge however. Every 31 December millions of us around the world assert that this will be the year we lose weight/save money/give up smoking and so on. But then the new year's cake gets passed round, the January sales start, a packet of fags emerge from someone's pocket and before we know it we're back to square one with extra pounds (the weight kind, regrettably), a hefty smoker's cough and a lovely, yet completely unnecessary new winter wardrobe.

But at least we'll know better for next time right?

For despite the various failings and new year's setbacks, we should never be deterred. After all, self-development is what new year's resolutions are all about, and when we fail - we learn.

What's more, by compiling 'the list' each year we are taking important time to reflect and assess the areas in our lives we feel we should improve, the habits we need to control, and the goals and ambitions we want to strive for.

Our subsequent success or failing indicates whether we've pitched just right or aimed too high (we are only human after all), and ultimately, it establishes what we really value in life. Let's face it - if we are determined, we will succeed. But if deep down, we're not so bothered, things will slide (sorry Misty).

Often, we give up far too quickly. In fact, recent studies suggested that 20% of resolution makers will have cracked within the first week of January, and the majority of the remaining 80% will abort their vows throughout the remaining year - mostly by the end of February. It seems for many, a single slip up is the time to throw in the towel and accept the end of our new year aspirations.

But we should remember that the new year isn't over until the following one begins. So even if you do succumb to a sweet treat, go on a binger or miss the daily jog, that shouldn't be game over - but time to reset, and reassess. It's all about trial and error.

As you learn year after year that setting 28 new year's resolutions was a bit much, limiting your daily outgoings to a fiver ridiculously restrictive, and vowing to spend five hours in the gym every day life defying, you will considerably improve your chances of achieving the life changing results you originally hoped for.

Since my initial failure, you'll be pleased to hear, my success rate with new year's resolutions (and pets) has considerably improved. Throughout the years I have now tackled my rather unwarranted habit of tucking into a breakfast dessert each morning, managed to cut back on the eBay addiction that was plaguing my monthly outgoings, and have not only stuck with a jogging regime - but have even started (finally) to enjoy it. Oh - and I have managed to keep numerous other animals happy, well cared for and alive.

And so now, after years of new year experiments and some profound life reflection, I have put together the latest batch of resolution guinea pigs.

1) To stop sending birthday cards after someone's birthday.

2) To get rid of the happy fat without cutting back on the happiness (I propose a reintroduction of salad into my boyfriend's - and therefore my - life to do this. I never said anything about his happiness).

3) To no longer tell myself that I need the pressure of a deadline to do work when actually I know I just need to turn the X Factor off.

4) To not begin getting ready to go out at 8pm if we are meant to be meeting at 8pm.

5) To stop buying clothes online on an imaginary whim of how brilliant they are going to look to only later be disappointed, yet fail to return them.

Wish me luck - and let this year's trial begin. A full review and analysis of the results will be available December 2011.