Saturday, 1 January 2011

To Resolve or not to Resolve

On the question of resolutions, the New Year variety or any other, I very often look back and find myself asking with Montaigne, "Is it not stupidity to let myself be fooled so many times by one guide?" Every year I catch myself making the same resolve I made the previous year with the same optimistic intent that this year I am going to do so much better. What makes me think I am going to succeed? I didn't listen to myself last time so why on earth do I think I'm going to fare any better this time round?

Such occasions haven't always fallen on the first of January. When I was teaching it would often be the last day of the school year, when I would look back over the many ways in which I felt I had fallen short and failed the children or students I had been teaching and determine that the following year would be the year when I would get it right. The fact that I came back and made that same resolution over and over again is evidence enough that I never did get it right and being realistic I was probably being more than optimistic thinking that I ever would. Teaching is one of those jobs where however much you put into it there is always more, and more than more, that you could do.

So, perhaps I should not be considering making any New Year's resolutions at all but just let the year unfold as it will? I don't think I could bear that. Imagine not hoping that you could make your life at least a little better in just one aspect. Surely, that has to be the perfect recipe for depression? If I was challenged then the one thing I know I would claim is that I want to use my time more productively in the coming year than I have done over the last twelve months, but as a resolution that is no use at all, far too woolly and with no hope of measuring any sort of success. What I need to do is find a way of turning that generalisation into meaningful specifics.

However, if I try and tie myself to too many objectives then I know that I'm doomed to failure; perfection is unlikely to be achieved in an afternoon. So what I've decided to try is creeping up on myself bit by bit, one resolution this month and if when I get to the end of January there seems to have been an improvement, then adding in another and just seeing how we go. As a starting point I'm going to try each day to read the same book for an hour without allowing myself to be distracted and without having the radio on. I ask you, how can I possibly hope to concentrate on what I'm reading when there is another voice battering away in my head? If I can get to the end of the month and find that I've managed to make that a habit then I'll think about where to go next. Maybe, just maybe, this might be the year when the guide turns out to have been worth listening to.



  1. I love the idea of devoting an hour a day to uninterrupted reading time. I think I will try this also! Good luck and happy new year.

  2. Thank you, Anbolyn. Over the past year I realised that I've let myself be far too easily distracted by other things. Reading on my I-pad probably hasn't helped. Too much else too easily available! Let's compare notes at the end of the month and see how well we've done.

  3. I like your resolution very much (and also the larger plan). I have trouble sitting for an hour with no distractions, especially when my iPhone is close at hand. Perhaps I should put it in another room and practice just sitting with my book.

  4. Ofbooksandbikes it may be tempting providence but already after just two days I can feel the benefit. I'm much more engaged with the book on which I've been concentrating than has been the case for ages. I believe it is meant to take six weeks for behaviour to turn into habit, so it's early days, but fingers crossed!