It's here again, that time of year. The time of year when we review our failings and, to quote Regency sex-pot Mr Darcy, find our faults according to that calculation are heavy indeed. And by that, if you're a woman, you probably mean your arse and thighs.
"If only I were two stone lighter. Then I would be able to live my real life. Not this Kafkaesque dreamscape in which my heart is brought to soaring heights by a sordid three-for-two on Alberto Balsam in Home Bargains. My real life. In which my cuticles are always smooth and my bikini line is never never struck with wanderlust to visit my knees. My real life, in which elasticated waists have no place and anything from Mountain Warehouse is worn ironically."
Then we clutch our midriff and give it a shake as if killing a rat before drowning our sorrows with a Magnum White in front of Bargain Hunt.
Listen up. New Year's resolutions are doomed to fail. This year will not be any different even if you pinky-swear with your best mate and write it in your diary in red next to circled capitals saying, "BRING IT!" smiley-face. All doomed, my friends. Doomed for this simple reason: humans have evolved to be rubbish at giving things up.
When faced with a dearth of mammoth, it would be a questionable survival strategy to turn down a Steak Bake from Greggs. And if I were dying of thirst on some pitiless, sun-scorched savannah, I'm not going to demur if a passing homonid presses a bottle of Prosecco to my lips. Survival. Although, true enough, not necessarily of the fittest.
Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't aim to step on habits that aren't serving our best interests. I'm saying that maybe we need to reconsider a) the term "New Year resolution" and b) try to reframe it for a better outcome.
a) First off: New Year. Capital 'N', capital "Y". Sounds bossy already. Next, let's consider the word "resolution". Urgh. It's so, so ... so unrelenting, so uncompromising, so no-time-off-for-good-behaviour. Which is what you want for a legal system or intergovernmental peacekeeping alliance, but not really something you want hovering over your cheese box.
We should campaign to veto the term "New Year resolutions", offering as an alternative the pleasingly vague "new year aim thingies" which could range from the more or less doable getting dressed by midday to climbing Kilimanjaro on roller skates.
b) The trouble with new year aim thingies is that nine times out of ten they involve giving things up (see above re rubbish). Whenever we say to ourselves "I'm going to give up [insert favourite vice] and then I will be a fabulous butterfly", what we're actually telling ourselves is that we're a bit pants as we are, that we are not good enough, we are substandard.
Well, balls to that. Let's get comfy with our imperfections, let's welcome them in and get to know them properly. Because ironically in order to change we have to accept ourselves exactly as we are. We need to know exactly who we are. And when we know that, we can draw upon sankalpa ~ a single-minded determination that arises from one's core that is more powerful than the gossipy chatter of the mind that tells you that your bum looks big in stripes. It is a promise to yourself, a vow, to achieve an objective. This determination is the impetus of action, the action arising from this promise.
So we need to sit quietly and ponder on the nature of our true selves. Who do we identify as at our core? When the mental waters of our mind still, what do we consider our essential self? Are we kind and compassionate, for example; are we non-violent, are we nurturing to ourselves and others? What do you feel rings true at the very centre of your being?
We need to take our time with this because it is the most important step if we want to achieve our goals. When we get to know the essential self we will naturally drift away from our destructive habits. We'll begin to understand the reasons for that extra pudding, the inactivity, the need for a nicotine hit or a glass of red; It's because we're not being true to the 'real' us that's been there all along just trying to make itself heard underneath the mental prattle.
And when we realise that we're okay, we're fine just as we are, the choices we make are ones that support, nourish and maintain our true self with no sense of loss, deprivation or self-bullying guilt. We develop the single-minded focus required for success.
Kilimanjaro is waiting.