New Year’s Day conjures the tradition of resolutions and starting over. Changing our lives and becoming better people. Grandiose ideas of how we can break habits, institute a shiny list of things we will accomplish, and generally make the world a better place for all. Well, I’m going to do something different this year. Something that challenges my most troublesome trait while giving myself a gift of time in the coming year.
As my regular followers know, I post on Tuesdays and Fridays, which meant posting on two holidays. On Christmas Day, I posted (A Gift of Time), and I will also be posting on New Year’s Day. The plan was to post my New Year’s Resolutions on January 1, but I have decided to do that today instead and offer another surprise for New Year’s Day. Besides, if my post about resolutions happens today, it will be one of the few times this year that I’ve actually finished something EARLY!
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve accomplished a lot this year, much of it on schedule. In fact, I’ve accomplished more than I thought was possible. Largely, it’s because of my juggling skills. I’m a master of several tricks that allow me to appear that I have things together, even when I’m wondering how I’m really going to pull it all off. Usually, I do, but not without a lot of unnecessary stress. And for all I’ve accomplished in the past year, there were others that didn’t get done. Some of them were things that were more important to me than the ones that did get completed, but I didn’t always look before I jumped. The reality is that I have way too much going on and that most of my days are at the mercy of my schedules and deadlines–of my own choosing in many cases. I have such a strong sense of responsibility that I get done what has to be done, but I drive myself crazy in the process. So I have to consider why I end up in the same situation over and over again. And resolve to change it.
But when it comes to frustrations associated with the making and breaking of New Year’s resolutions, apparently I’m not alone. According to Psychology Today (see link below) British psychologist Richard Wiseman found that 88% of all resolutions end in failure. We all know the rules: make them doable, make them measurable, take small steps, and keep an element of positive motivation in them.
I hadn’t really thought too much about that last one, but it seems pretty true for many of my own resolutions as well as for the resolutions I’ve heard and read about. Why is it that most of my resolutions have been filled with SHOULD’s instead of WANT’s? This isn’t actually the time or the place (YET) to explore what I have trouble figuring out what it is I want, but that is one of my problems, maybe one that explains why the should’s win out for me most of the time. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this year will be different. First I have to avoid the typical resolution traps.
So that brings me to my alternatives for resolutions for the new year. I can:
1. Do the usual, and end up as part of that 88% statistic. (Obviously, this is the easiest habit to fall into. Just say no.)
2. Make things more measurable, and build in a better system of accountability. (Damn! it looks like that one involves multiple resolutions to implement make a list of resolutions about how I will manage time better.)
3. Skip the resolutions all together this year. (Tempting, but not effective in really changing things.)
I may not yet be sure about what I want to do with the gift of time I want to give myself, but I do know I need to do less this year. But that is not a solid enough resolution to make a difference. I’ve known for many years that I don’t know how to say no. I even got hired for a job many years ago based on giving my inability to say no as a “weakness.” And I have resolved from time to time to change my activity-collecting ways, but without much success. If I do nothing but make another vague and impossible resolution for January 1, 2013, the results will almost certainly be the same. So, my fourth option will be:
4. Do something dramatically different. (This seems to be the path to a different outcome, and I certainly want a different outcome.)
What about giving myself 24 hours to consider a request on my time? I could just tell the requester that I need to sleep on it, and I’ll get back to them. Maybe if I took the time to STOP AND THINK, I might not simply jump on every opportunity that sounds remotely interesting. The problem is that without knowing what I ultimately want to do, I have no way of evaluating whether an opportunity furthers my overall life vision or just fills up more time containers. Unfortunately, without some kind of evaluation system, I would have to hope that my enthusiasm for a new project would wane to some degree in my allotted time frame and that I could be strong if the person or people involved tried to play on my sympathies (and my difficulty with saying no). That seems to be another recipe for ending up in the 88%. This is another situation where I would need to implement another system (evaluating and deciding) in order to follow through. No, I need a stronger defense against my tendency to over-commit. And then it hit me. I knew what I needed.
a 30-day container in which I say “no” to every new demand on my time.
- Social events are exempt.
- I get one “get out of jail free” card in the event the opportunity of a lifetime really does come along.
- The moratorium is renewable at the end of 30 days.
A moratorium gives me the tools to say no without having to deal with my typical loopholes. I don’t have to go through a decision-making process. It becomes a non-issue. I don’t have to second-guess myself. For the next 30 days, I can work on digging out from under the commitments I have and know that nothing new will be added. Hence, the renewable aspect of the plan. Eventually, I will see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I can use a few moments here and there to gain a better sense of what I would rather be doing with my time. Then I can put on the training wheels and begin to consider requests again, once I have a basis for making such decisions.
In the meantime, I have hope that I may make it into the 12% this year. Wish me luck!
How about you? Are you making any resolutions this year?