Swap big promises for little changes and make 2019 your best year yet
By Rosie Goddard
Every time I've attempted a resolution, I've done it with an incredible amount of fanfair. The scenario goes something like this: arriving at the office, I am positively bursting with smugness and ready to share the news of my upcoming venture with anyone who swings a smile my way.
Eye contact initiated, and it's go time.
Me: Omg guys GUESS what?
Me: So I've just started the 'Couch To 5k' app. I'm gonna be able to run 5ks nonstop in four weeks, can you ACTUALLY believe it? I'm so pumped.
Some awkward shifting in chairs and aversion of eyes start to take place around me, but I hardly have time to notice as I am too busy basking in the glow of my new life.
Fast forward two weeks and I've been derailed. Severely derailed. The endorphins have worn off, and I have used the hint of a cough to avoid heading out into the cold, instead opting for the odd spot of yoga, fully pyjama'd in my living room. My friends accept this as my regular cycle and wait for the next announcement while I hang my head in shame. I have failed! And the world knows it. How will I redeem myself in my own eyes and theirs? Onto the next one...
Resolutions are something I thought a lot about in 2018. In part because I wrote this article mid-December (and did so sitting opposite a family of Ferrero Rocher) and also because I went through a lot of change in my life that came with its fair share of highs, many lows, and a generous side helping of self analysis.
But mostly, I thought about resolutions because I was in awe of the friends who took steps to change their lives for the better. There was no set date, no big announcement and no performance: just quiet actions with big consequences when no one was looking. A decision to get rid of toxic behaviour, to live more mindfully or to take control of one's own happiness – perhaps the most intimidating decision of all.
The pressure of having to eek out a perfect existence becomes too much and the wheels come off (unless you're really good at resolutions in which case please leave your secrets in the comment section. No time wasters.)
As someone who has become increasingly resolution averse – refer to paragraph 1 – in recent years, I have turned into an advocate for marginal gains: the idea that small efforts lead to significant changes as you focus on building habits over time. Call it the lazy person's guide to resolution-making or as I like to think of it: taking the scenic route. Either way, I'm finally taking stock of how far I've come in the last year, and am realising that it's ok to not have everything figured out right now. I sometimes feel trapped in a constant loop of frustration at my own behaviour and am discovering that the most minute of adjustments, from waking up earlier to making no plans Monday-Thursday, can help my physical and mental wellbeing on a micro scale.
Now I'd like to leave you with some food for thought, courtesy of a modern day poet, Ariana Grande and her absolute banger, 'Thank U, Next'. Putting a positive spin on 'failed' relationships, she looks at all the ways in which she has grown, channeling this into self love instead of being too hard on herself. The result? To quote: "She grew from the drama and turned out amazing". It's powerful stuff and I only had to listen to the song 27 000 times before relating it to my own life.
If one of the ultimate goals when it comes to the self is to look in the mirror and love who you see, then you need to remember that that person won't care if you exercised for two months in 2019 or that you gave up smoking for 2.5 weeks, they'll care about whether you were happy – whether you were making the most of your life. When you feel guilty, remember that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to finding happiness, and there's certainly no specific start date. Decide what steps you need to take to reach that in the long term, however small they are for now, and the rest will follow.
To celebrate some of the smaller things I DID do rather than agonising over the things I didn't, I put together a very small list of habits/achievements/changes I made in 2018 that I'll be taking with me into this year so that hopefully, you'll be inspired to think about your own list too.
Thanks to my hour-long commute in the morning and again in the evening, I have stuck to a steady stream of one book per week. I've also made an effort to integrate podcasts and cut out problematic media sources (looking at you, Daily Mail).
I'm still worried that it might be a placebo effect, but I'm over a month in and I feel much more aware of my surroundings. My anxiety has improved, I've stopped leaving everything to the last minute (for now) and feel less scatterbrained.
Buying one special thing a month
Each month, I get excited about buying one item of clothing that I'll hopefully keep for a very long time. This month it was Dr Martens Chelsea boots. The trick is to do this at the beginning of the month so you don't waste the money on rounds at the bar.
Walking 10 000 steps a day
London can feel very heavy sometimes, especially as you don't get the chance to escape a lot. Walking through the city is something I look forward to every day, so I skip the bus at either end of the commute to walk and it adds up to around 10 000 steps per day.
In 2018, I learned to embroider and tie dye (I'm the worst but also: watch out, world) and in 2019, I'm all about pottery. Artisan wares shop in 2020?
Comfort zone for who?
I threw myself out of my comfort zone in 2018. The comfort zone was a dot to me and I thrived, meeting so many people in the process. That's not to say that I wasn't in a constant state of panic, because I was. But overall, every event or encounter I was dreading turned out far better than I expected.
Loving my friends
This isn't a new one, but I spent a lot of time being there for the people that matter most to me. Next year I want to do a bit more of this for myself, too.
Eating a LOT of vegetables
No bag of spinach was safe in 2018 because I ate them all.
Creating a whole new home
I am in the process of turning my new house into a den of coziness with plants, art, throws, cushions and books. If this is the space in which you spend some of your most significant hours, it should always bring out the best in you.
From little observations to articles like this, some poetry and short stories, I've found my passion for writing again. Even if no one ever reads the words, I still feel happier as a result.
Ok fine I didn't do this. Relaxing is not something I tend to do often. I wake up early, I can't nap, and I can be highly impatient. But I want 2019 to be the year of chill, whether that means escaping the city a bit more and not putting so much emphasis on things that don't matter.
I feel that if I manage to stick to these throughout at 2019 I'll be the best version of me. But what's you at your best? Let us know in the comments below.