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Happy New Year!

January 1, 2022

Happy New Year!

This event is full of connotations and imagery about a ‘fresh start’. But it’s entirely arbitrary isn’t it? Any day could have been, or could be, New Year’s Day – no?

There’s a lot of cultural baggage though. In the northern hemisphere, where the dominant Gregorian calendar arose, the New Year is close to the shortest day of the year – the longest night – so it does mark the beginning of a journey back towards spring, summer, light, warmth and growth. In this respect, it’s pretty much the same landmark as Christmas. That’s probably why it’s been adopted as a time to discard the old, start new things and make resolutions.

The problem is that we often then use the New Year as a one-off prompt to take on something too big.

In particular, just knowing or deciding that it would be good, or good for us, to do x, y or z, is often not enough to sustain behaviour over the long term. We need to build habits, through gradual positive feeback, and we need to know how to do this. Otherwise ‘I should’ or ‘I will’ are going to run out of steam.

There are exceptions. You might know someone who embarked on a major New Year’s resolution which lead to a life-changing new behaviour or life choice. But the odds are that this ‘stuck’ because other circumstances were lined up favourably as well – support, opportunity, and the intensity of the reasons for change.

My own suggestion for the New Year is to identify something that is important to you, but which also looks really achievable in the short to medium term. Achieving that, however modest it is, will make you feel good and could set you on the path to a succession of similar achievable stepping stones leading to some much bigger goal.

As 2022 gets underway, quietly open your mind to what you would like to be different. Then see if you can also get some clarity on how much of this is within your own control. What else needs to happen, to make the change possible? Identify that first achievable step towards this change. What does an achievable ‘Step 1’ really look like? Make a realistic and very practical plan for Step 1. In particular, don’t fall into the trap of making this a solo burden. Who else can you involve who also believes in this change, and will support you, or even make the same change alongside you? What do you need from them?

I will be doing the same thing. There are a lot of uncertainties around me at the moment – I’m sure I’m far from unique in that – and I’m definitely going to avoid reckless pronouncements. But I will be looking at how much I might achieve by changing, or adding, a couple of habits. Maybe I will share these, once I know what they are.

Here’s to 2022. Good luck!

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