I’ve already broken one of my new year’s resolutions. After last year’s make-em’ and break-’em farce I said to myself, that’s it, no more resolutions. Yet here I am starting 2016 with a list as long as George Osborne’s budget climbdowns.
It’s way too easy to just write down stuff like drink less alcohol and get more exercise, and a whole lot easier to shrug and say, OK, maybe that’s one for this time next year. Which is what happened to me at the start of 2015 when I tapped into my laptop a slew of check-box pledges that included “climb Scafell Pike by the long Eskdale route”, “do Hull pub crawl with Dave” and “read Wuthering Heights”. Along with “muck out my filing cabinet”, none of these came remotely close to being ticked off.
So this year, they and a bunch of other resolutions are totally for real. No, seriously.
OK, there are plenty of wise words to smugify those of you who are sceptical. I can’t remember which smart arse said “a new year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other” but I think Mark Twain nailed the difficulty of keeping to them when he wrote that his resolutions usually ended up being the paving stones of hell. At least I’m in good company by ignoring my pledges.
A couple of years back, though, I actually managed to stick to one. I got through the whole of January without touching a single drop of drink and might’ve even made it through February too if the indubitable pressure of Valentine’s Day hadn’t stood in the way. So my 2016 version is this: I’ll give up alcohol five days a week from Sunday through to Thursday.
The other headline resolution – this one must be near the top of most people’s lists – is to curb my innate ability to be gratuitously slothful when I could actually use my legs. I’m not a slob and do a fair amount of recreational walking and swimming, but my habit of jumping in the car to drive a mile to the shops is sheer laziness. So I’ve resolved to confine the car to journeys of a few miles or more unless it’s raining stair-rods.
So far, so normal. According to a poll most of our resolutions are about eating, drinking and exercise. But many people are a bit more imaginative when planning their new year goals. For instance, an acquaintance of mine says she wants to make one new friend every month. That’s a good objective, but I hope she’s not going to do it the simple – Facebook – way.
A better one is to take our own lives out of the equation altogether and resolve to do a good turn for someone once a month. I’m mulling over a few ideas after realising my life – like most people’s – has become too centred on the cares of those around me. I’ll make a start by devoting one day a month to helping a charity. There may be a good chance of pulling it off. It’s easy to ignore new year’s resolutions if they only affect me, but if they impact on others less fortunate I’m hoping my motivation factor will be cranked up to level 11.
Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him on Twitter