Indeed the New Year is upon us, and felicitations to all. Have you begun with a list of resolutions or sensibly just accepted that really it’s a list that is moot within a very short period of time?
I gave up lists and resolutions so long ago I can hardly remember the moment. I also gave up sitting up til midnight some time ago too. My excessive New Years were many years ago, many miles away around Constitution Dock with millions of dollars worth of gorgeous yachts and a generous sprinkling of handsome yachties. Ah, me, youth…
But a New Year is a time to take stock and consider our recent past and where we want to go. It is the idea of a new beginning that attracts us, a chance to start again, to make amends. Each new week has a similar cache, as does the new month. But the New Year is that much bigger, isn’t it? Thus we are tempted to all sorts of extravagant gestures about improving our lives.
My advice for the year is about habits – the things that you do every day. Habits can be small, from the way you get going in the morning to how you study or achieve your goals. Habits have the potential to empower you as well as destroy you. Smoking is a habit gone wild, drinking every day a habit gone feral. But cleaning your teeth every day, walking to work, reading the papers with your morning coffee – well, they are good and useful habits that make your life that bit better.
I have my own habits that need to be re-instated. Since the completion of my PhD (submitted in May, finalisation in September, awarded this January) I have not been able to write or read anything of note or length. I have lost the habit of writing. It is something of a worry to me and I must get it back before it is gone for good. There is an argument that I have been drained of words and drowned in reading for the last seven and half years of study and I need a rest, need time for the field of imagination to lie fallow and regenerate. But I am becoming afeared that if I do not make some effort to change back to my habits of reading and writing everyday that my ability to write will be gone forever. And if I do not write then who am I?
Yes, our habits define us. Some habits do lead us down the OCD path – always parking in the same spot, only drinking your coffee if it is made in a certain way, only using the one special spoon for your morning yoghurt. Some are damaging us – sugar in your tea, sugary drinks at break, a pastry at lunch – you’re on the way to diabetes and no teeth by 35.
Habits begin small and grow and define us. Resolutions on the other hand tend to be large grandiose things that cannot be achieved, even by the most determined individuals.
So, to make a change, begin small. Look at what you want to change. How achievable are your goals?
Habits are changed through small steps.
Let’s start with health. Sugar is a good example and a popular choice given the catastrophic explosion of Type2 Diabetes and the obesity epidemic. Sugar needs to be reduced or eliminated from your diet. But if you try it all at once you will fail and after a few weeks you will be back where you were. This is the classic diet trap – shoot for the moon, not even hit the stars and crash and burn on the earth.
Small steps to better health
1.Identify how much sugar you actually consume – it will most likely be more than you realise
2.Read food labels – become aware of how much sugar there is in ALL foods
3.Choose one point of attack at a time – say one teaspoon of sugar instead of two in your tea, or none instead of one
4.Once that is conquered move onto the next area – sugary drinks, etc
5.Repeat and proceed.
*Once you no longer need to think about putting sugar in your tea and you lose the taste for sweet things your habit is broken.
This principal can be applied to other matters. The increasingly popular event NaNoWriMo event – where people write a novel in November expects people to write every day and complete a novel of 50,000 words in thirty days. It is an interesting project in kick starting regular writing habits in people. Attending classes once a week can also enable the creative habits – other people can help here, inspire and support you (yes, Weight Watchers runs on this idea too).
Apply the small steps principal to creative endeavours
1.Identify the activity you want to pursue/improve
2.Find a regular time to create – be it every day or once a week (no less)
3.Create a dedicated space where you can be quiet/alone
4.Don’t let anyone interfere with your time or space
5.Allow yourself to do little things at a time, allow yourself time to get moving
6.Make sure you are in that space dedicating your thoughts to that pursuit during your designated time.
*Once you are no longer forcing yourself to sit and create but are doing it because it makes you feel good then your new habit is established.
We all want changes in our lives, in ourselves. It can be hard to find the time, the will to do this but small steps to a better you are eminently possible. You can be healthier, more mindful, stronger, more relaxed, more creative, more the person you want to be.
Changing habits does mean effort and it does take time but the rewards are worth it. Try a small step change in one habit and see how you go. I’m doing it right now – blogging again to get my writer’s groove back on.
Out there in the wider world of the web are a range of people have more advice on changing habits. You might like to have a read of their ideas too:
Happy New Year, dear friends and readers. J
(Images from Private Collection – thanks P-AA Bewsher & PAM Bewsher xx)