Reaching realistic resolutions

We’ve just about reached the point in the year where those New Year’s resolutions seem like a dim, distant memory, something that belongs to the far past when we were so much more optimistic – and perhaps a bit naive. The beginning of a new year often feels like a good time to make new resolutions, for a variety of reasons. It’s a memorable date so you’ll know how long you keep it up for, there’s something attractive about the idea of a fresh start for a fresh year, and, of course, everyone else is doing it.

However, the truth is that these sorts of factors can actually make it harder for you to keep your resolution once it has been made. As the year begins you’re just heading back to the office or studio after the holiday break, schools are starting up again and life is generally getting back into routine. That means that you have to get used to the familiar all over again, deal with the backlog of work and start working out what your plans are for the months ahead. You’re not really in the best position to add something new to your life, because you aren’t that close to what ordinary life entails.

On top of that, while it’s true that everyone else is making good resolutions, it’s also true that almost everyone is going to break them – and everyone knows that. That’s not a great context for you to be setting out to make a real, lasting change.

In many ways, it can make more sense to put off deciding what you want to change until later in the year. A time like this, when you’ve probably been settled into a routine of normalcy for a while, is really much more sensible. You have a better mental picture of what time you have, where changes can be made, and what alterations might really improve things. Moreover, if you’ve been running on the same routine for a while that you might like a bit of a change – something small, just a bit different, that you can concentrate on doing right now that you’re comfortable with everything else.

For these reasons, whether or not you made a New Year’s resolution, you might want to consider making one now. Use the holiday weekend, if you have it, to give some thought to what you might like to alter in your life. It’s worth taking time to think seriously about what, if anything, you’d like to change. There might be nothing – in which case you can reflect happily on how great your current arrangements are! But there’s usually something you’d like to improve, even if it basically comes down to strengthening something you already do well.

It might be time management, either in the sense of working out a schedule you can follow, or finding ways to make it easier for you to keep to the one you have. You might feel you have too much on your plate at the moment, and resolve to put some aside for the time being – or, alternatively, you could be hankering after more responsibilities and sources of motivation. You might feel you need to put more time into marketing your work, and making new contacts in the art world.

Of course, you don’t need to stick to practical considerations like these. You might have been wondering for some time about a new direction in your work, or a new medium, and decide that you’re going to put a certain amount of time aside every week to explore it. You might want to take short trips, or walks during the week, to make sure you spend time away from work and to give you fresh inspiration.

The resolution you make should be the one that is right for you. But what you should put effort into, right from the start, is how you’re going to make it easy for yourself to keep it. There’s no point coming up with something impractical that has no chance of working out – you’ll just exhaust and annoy yourself. Don’t choose anything big and dramatic, make a small change you can incorporate into your regular routine – and make sure that you do make it part of that routine. After the first month, if you’re strict about it, it should become natural, but at the start you need to force yourself to prioritize the change, because it’s the thing that you’re most likely to drop until it starts to seem normal. Don’t think ‘oh, I’ll just leave it this week, next week would really be better’ because the likelihood is that next week will be just as busy or wet or whatever the problem was. If you’re serious about the resolution, then take it seriously. You’ll feel the benefits in time.

Have you got any stories about successful or unsuccessful resolutions? Share them in the comments.

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