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And this year I will…..

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I wonder what your thoughts are on tee shirts.  Or to be more specific on those slogans that some tee shirt wearers have emblazoned across their chests. 

Sometimes the phrase or words can be clever, provocative and prompt a smile. Alas there are also those other times when a world weary groan is the more likely response.  Perhaps much depends not only on the words but also on where we are emotionally when we read the comment.

These thoughts have been prompted by one fairly common slogan which I recently saw. The tee shirt carried the terse instruction to…Just do it

The phrase probably resonated with me because of the usual exhortations that are tossed around at this time of the year.  For instructions read resolutions and in January that usually means those New Year resolutions.   

You know the sort of thing I am referring to.  This is the year. This year I will do it.  This year I will definitely give up…. and the inward instruction is then followed by the usual list of actions.  Smoking, gambling, drinking, sleeping, eating, watching, and shouting. In fact most things in life apart from breathing although I seem to recall that there were at least a couple of occasion when it was suggested to me by irritated others that acute respiratory failure is something I might want to experiment with! 

If we stretch the list out long enough we can probably find our particular vice (or vices?) in there.   Assuming of course that you do have a vice?  Or an unwanted habit?  Or a habit that you quite like but you know you shouldn’t have.  Or a habit which others don’t like. Or wouldn’t if they knew about it.  Even though they will of course have their own. Habits that is.   Which in turn you may not like. And so on…

And then what happens?  Well sometimes we find a way to follow a resolution through to completion.  We bring it into focus. We make it real. We meet it head on, strengthen our resolve, vanquish the demon, cross the line and never look back.  The malevolent ‘it’ is forever banished and we are free.  Or at least free of that specific vice.  Or habit.

On other occasions it can unmake us, whatever the ‘it’ is. We don’t even get past the first week before we are back at the starting gate.  It may only be early January but before the first week is out we are already back eating what we should not, watching what we should not, smoking what we should not and so it continues.   

Well if you are still with me by now your understandable assumption may be that this note is about New Year resolutions, success or failure. Well perhaps there is some of that here. But I would prefer to focus on another aspect of resolutions.  This one encourages celebration whatever the result.

I can celebrate most things and this includes first steps.  I rather like the phrase that …the thought is the father (or mother) to the deed.  It may not be catchy enough to feature on those tee shirts but it captures something important which is worth celebrating.

Of course if you are of strong stuff and able to follow your thoughts through from a New Year resolution to actual implementation, then just take the plaudits. I think however that others may have more of struggle. But even here the very willingness to start to engage in that internal debate about what is okay and what is not okay, is itself a really big step.   It is a crucial move towards thinking about what could change and that shift deserves recognition and acknowledgement.

In order to change we must first allow ourselves to think, fantasise, or consider that things might be different. To believe that movement is possible. To engage in an imaginative leap which accepts that I can change.  I can break free.  I can do things differently.

That cognitive shift is not an easy thing to do.  Changing habits can be extremely difficult particularly if the habit is deeply ingrained. But the very willingness to look into a crystal ball and allow yourself to envisage a different way of being is a great step and one to be celebrated.

Once you have allowed that small seed of uncertainty to take root then things can start to happen. It may take a while. Some seeds are slow to germinate. But keep it there.  And think about that change. If you really want to. 

And the pressure to succeed? How to deal with that?   Well it is for you to decide how much pressure to bring upon yourself particularly around timing.  January is a great month but there are another eleven to choose from.  It is up to you decide what to do differently and when. Once you can be sure as to why you want the change, then perhaps you can move on to consdier how to bring it about and then finally when to start the change. 

Change can come but to increase the chances of success it should be at a time of your choosing.  That is not suggesting procrastination but merely a common sense suggestion that the start of the change should be at a time which makes sense to you rather than one dictated by social customs, partners or the New Year resolution industry! 

And if you think that the optimum time to act is really in  mid-January or Valentine’s day in February or around the Ides of March then go with that. But if you still have some apprehension feel that you may need an additional helping hand to get things going well there are therapists and counsellors who will be able to provide that support.

We are always happy to assist in whatever way will be most useful to you.  And if you are not quite sure what form that could take, then come and talk whenever you want to. 

Let’s end with thoughts around celebration. It is your year. And perhaps it will be a good year to begin that particular change.  You will know which one that is.  The change that has been around in your mind for a while and which you continue to thing about.  Maybe now is the time when you say that ...this year I will ...?

Have a great New Year !


Geoff Boutle

added on 1st January 2017

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