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Jan. 20, 2023

I'm a serial New Year resolver. Here's what I've learnt.

I'm a serial New Year resolver. Here's what I've learnt.

As a young woman, I got into the habit of making sure I sat down on New Year's Day to write down everything I wanted to achieve over the year to come. It was usually quite a long, unreasonable list, and always included 'Learn French'.

Regardless of its success, it's been a beacon of hope in my darkest hours, and served to channel my discontent into something more tangible. Even if I didn't follow through, just the process of writing my hopes on paper gave me insight into my soul.

I think I stopped the long lists when I realised that a lot of the tough stuff had been achieved, and the less important, like learning French, might not really be what I want in my heart of hearts. I can just see my gravestone. Here lies Rachel Richards, she never did learn French. 

So - for the first time ever - I've resolved to write down what I've learned about changing myself:

I can't change everything at once, so instead of resolution(s) it's best to work on only one change at a time eg I'm not going to focus on losing weight whilst I'm also trying to change schedules to make sure everyone gets more sleep. I pick the most urgent/valuable and work on that. By being kinder to myself I ensure I'm far more likely to get the job done.

When choosing a thing to change, the resolution is just the beginning. 'Learn French' is all well and good but how? When? How often? All of these tiny details need attention, and need to be sustainable.

We are hard-wired to form habits, and they happen in the twinkle of an eye. A great example is that we tend to like using the same chair every time we go into a room. It ends up being 'our chair', even if it's not necessarily the best spot in the room. Try to move, and someone else will feel aggrieved that you've stolen 'their chair'. Once we have a habit, trying to change it is really, really tough.

I get bored/tired/distracted, and simply can't hold resolutions in my head for any length of time because it's too full/cluttered... whatever. I either need to make a habit of thinking about a single resolution every day, or even better, give it a peg to hang on so that I don't even have to think about it.

Some examples:

  • I was having skin problems so a dermatologist told me to use a specific cleanser, but his tip made all the difference. Connect it with brushing your teeth. Slather it on your face before you brush your teeth then wash it off afterwards. I have never forgotten it since that day.
  • When I wanted to stop consuming so much sugar I realised that the two coffees I have a day amount to 3,650 ml of sugar a year, or over 15 kilos of the stuff! I dropped it from my coffee, and gave myself time to get used to it, congratulating myself each time. I didn't try to do any of the other hard stuff over that month, and it worked.
  • When I realised I was using food to break stress or boredom, I gave myself permission to use something else that feels indulgent. I made a list of other things that made me happy and picked from those instead.
  • My daughters kept forgetting to take things to school. I gave both kids checklists and began reminding them to use them. Now it's automatic, and so much less stressful.
  • My latest is to set a better example for my teens by reducing the time I spend on my phone. I have set an alarm for 8:55, then another for 9pm. At that time it goes on charge in the kitchen and I do something else that I enjoy. It's so easy I don't even have think about it. In fact, I've now decided to use that alarm as a cut-off for when I drink or eat anything, which acts as a tool for intermittent fasting.

Doing all of this has made me a much kinder parent. I know how quickly we form habits, and how long it takes to put in place a new one, so it means I can be gentler on my kids too; just do one thing at a time, find a way of making it a habit, and use positive reinforcement.

Merci d'avoir lu ceci,

Bonne chance