Theme vs. resolution – what’s yours for 2017?

Yesterday my good friends over at Kale and Co. posted a comment on social media that echoed my thoughts to a tee.

“January was a trial run. Let’s DO this February”

For me, with three kids, January is all about school holidays and the beach. No writing, a small amount of work and this year, watching the Gilmore Girls from scratch. I know, but hey.

January, for so many of us, is a time that we reflect on the year that just flew past and make plans, resolutions and goals for the next one. The thing is, I don’t do resolutions. This is simply because I don’t want to make promises to myself that maybe I won’t keep and then feel disappointed in my lack of potential achievement.

Does this sound remotely familiar to you at all?

It is all too easy to jump on the New Year Resolution bandwagon. Everyone around you leaps on as soon as the clock ticks New Year. If that is you and the bandwagon is still moving, well done. But if not, there is another way.

Although resolutions don’t appeal to me, I do like to have a theme for my year to guide me in choosing a direction or pathway each day, week and month. This year I have chosen theme x 3, but you might like to stick to one of your own or many – just remember not to overload your dance card, which does make the doing a little harder.

Theme 1: Accept the things you cannot change

I have come to realise that I invest a crazy amount of energy worrying about or trying to change situations, people, personalities and relationships that I simply cannot, no matter how hard I try. Have you noticed how much this can greatly affect your physical and mental health and wellbeing if you let it? For the past month, I have applied this thought to so many things and the instant relief of letting them go has been enormous.
Of course, these are never one off thoughts, situations or people never to be seen again and there have been days when ‘Accept the things you cannot change’ has been on constant repeat in my brain but it really works. This is not at all about giving up or giving in but it is about acknowledging what you actually have control of. Or not.

The insightful Mahatma Gandhi looks at this another way, which puts the power back in your court.

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

Theme 2: Make it Happen

How often have you promised yourself that you are going to do something or catch up with someone or had a dream that has never seen the light of day?

In our current world of busyness and overload, it is easy to see why this happens but the question is, how can we actually make these things happen

Once upon a time, I used to donate blood and it has been my intention ever since to do it again. Soon. So, when I finally rang in January to make an appointment, it was a shock to be told that 15 years had passed since my last donation. Wow. I know how vitally important giving blood is to our community and yet I hadn’t made it happen. Whilst enjoying my little slice of fruit cake and packet of chips in the tea-room post vampire session, I realised that the simple solution for me to donate regularly, is to make my appointments in advance. Lightbulb moment that took me 15 years to arrive at.

For you this might be choosing healthy food or putting together an exercise plan or getting more sleep – what are the barriers to you actually implementing a behaviour and how can you make it happen?

Theme 3: Give Back

I like to think that I am a community minded person. I give my love and support to my friends and family, I am passionate about my work helping others (that includes you!) and as a family we financially support charities whenever we are able. Yet, it is is so easy to unthinkingly be centred on ‘me’ and I know there are other ways I can incorporate ‘giving’ into my everyday life.

Being charitable and helping others does not have to be a financial donation. Lets face it, in tough financial times, many people find it hard enough to support their own families. Nonetheless, being kind to others can be as simple as passing on a parking ticket that is still active, cooking a meal for someone who can’t do it themselves, brightening up someone’s day by giving them a heartfelt compliment or spending 5 minutes talking to your elderly neighbour who lives alone, instead of giving them a quick wave before rushing inside as soon as you turn into the driveway.

Giving actually makes us feel good because we get what researchers call a ‘helpers high’ and studies show that kinder people actually live longer, healthier lives.

These are my themes for 2017 – what are you working on?

You don’t know what you don’t know

I am trying my best to learn Italian at the moment. Its not easy and I can literally feel my brain cells straining at the effort, despite the fact that it is allegedly one of the easiest languages to learn in the world.  Unless you count first year high school French (and I don’t) I have never delved into the world of foreign language.  I have always known that I couldn’t speak any language other than English but I was blissfully unaware of the depth of that ignorance until I started lessons. This is a classic example of “You don’t know that you don’t know” or  Level 1 – Unconscious Incompetence on the Conscious Competence Ladder.  This ladder (attributed to many possible originators) is a popular approach to managing your feelings and behaviour during any type of learning process, sometimes dispiriting like mine right now. When you are attempting to acquire any new skill it is fairly important to be aware of what you don’t know.  Discovering this can be incredibly depressing because you are not very good at what you are trying to do.  Of course this is understandable when you first start to learn something. If you look at acquiring new skills in managing your health like losing weight, improving energy levels, beginning an exercise program, reducing stress levels or managing a disease,  you may discover that you have been lolling about in the “You don’t know that you don’t know” pool for a while. Unfortunately it often takes a negative health epiphany or ‘event’ like a heart attack, fatigue, collapse, continued low immunity or even no clothes that fit, to rocket us into this stage with a bang. Once you determine what you do and don’t know, you move into Level 2 on the ladder – “You know that you don’t know” or Conscious Incompetence. Although usually it would exciting to move up a ladder of any description, I am not feeling the love with my journey of foreign language, because quite frankly it can be a shock to discover how much better or competent other people are. When you realise that your skills are limited, like I did in approximately 1 nanosecond, confidence levels can drop to an all time low and this is where you may have to don the Superman suit and sail forth. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol levels or body fat and you don’t know where excess fat and saturated fats are lurking, it makes it pretty tough to reduce them in your diet.  This is one of the toughest stages to wrangle and many warriors are lost in the battle.  Hang in there, your body will thank you. I strive each day for Level 3 –  “You know that you know’ or Conscious Competence.  For me that would mean having a real life conversation in Italian with the verbs and nouns conjugated correctly and although at the moment I could get myself a caffe or find out the day of the week (in the event I had amnesia), my conversation skills suitable for rapid fire pace are not developed enough.  For you this stage might mean nailing four exercise sessions in a week without rolling over when the alarm goes off. The nirvana, Level 4 – “You don’t know that you know”or Unconscious Competence  is the lovely place where this new skill of yours is just plain easy. Your new skill has become a habit and stealthed onto you so much that you don’t need to think about it anymore plus you perform it without conscious effort.  If you are an ex-smoker and your main trigger was alcohol, this last stage would mean that you could go to a bar and  have a drink without the slightest thought about how you were going to stop yourself from having a cigarette. I will continue to strive for this Mt Everest of skill development and behaviour change, what about you?  Do you know or don’t know?