It’s the beginning of January, which means it’s about time we pick our poisons.
Whether spoken aloud or simply acknowledged in a passing thought, most of us have indeed promised ourselves to lay off something or other in the new year. Facebook. Alcohol. Bath salts.
For anyone in that depravity-filled boat, let this be a cautionary tale.
Last New Year’s, I had a friend, P.
With outstanding hope and all-consuming optimism, P declared that every day of the new year, he would take 15,000 steps. He bought some colourful shoes. And a Fitbit.
By mid-January, P had reached his step goal most days. He tapped his Fitbit during conversations, and liked his new shoes very much.
His days were punctuated by ridiculous walks to-and-from activities, and no one really saw much of him other than that. When we did, he was bright. Wide-eyed, and full of thoughts. Far sparkier than he had been before joining the Cult of Fitbit.
By February, he’d reach his step-goal once or twice a week. If his progress were a graph, the line would have dropped off rapidly. In essence, he had failed. And he knew it. He would open up over three or four light beers about the feeling of tapping his Fitbit at the end of a tiresome day and seeing he’d only done 11,000 steps.
“It hurts in my soul,” he’d say.
On days P couldn’t manage 15,000, he’d be a stormcloud. Slow. Sullen. And on days he did, he wasn’t much better.
“I can’t bare the thought of having to do this again tomorrow.”
We don’t see much of P anymore. Consumed by failure, he put on 403 kg and only leaves his bed to defecate.
Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud team set their intentions for the new year with a single word. Post continues after audio.
Stories like P’s attest to the fact that early January brings about a sort of child-like delirium. Naivety, perhaps, is a better word.
We break our daily routines, usually punctuated by work or parenthood – or both – for the best part of two weeks, and that’s all the time our minds need to go walkabout and propose an array of senseless promises it’s near impossible to keep.
Taking 15,000 steps each day in a year isn’t really achievable. No matter how much joy it gives you, on January 2nd, dangling the hopeful thought in front of you that ‘maybe it is’.
Nor is saving half your monthly income, or eating only Lima Beans you harvest and wash with your own hands.
What our New Year’s Resolutions lack in foresight, they more than make up for in ambition. Which is harmless, until we entwine with them our sense of self-worth.
When we skip an F45 class we promised to attend daily, we feel failure. When we can’t be arsed making another Thermomix soup we promised to diet on, we feel failure. And when we’re just too snowed to reply-upon-opening to an e-mail we received, we feel failure.
We need keep in mind, then, that regardless of the specific cult to which we've pledged allegiance - be it F45, Thermomix, Self-Improvement, Meditation, Crossfit, Bikram, Green Juice, Jonestown, Mindfulness, Netball, Organics or Fitbit - there is a middleground. We need not throw ourselves in all or nothing.
One of the very many things we seem to have fallen out of touch with, is the art of setting a low bar; the concept of adopting a resolution so brilliantly achievable, it barely requires deviation from our daily activities to attain.
That way when we pick our poisons, join our cults, make our pledges and fail to keep them... we're not plagued by guilt or non-fulfilment.
This year for example, my resolutions were to drink some water every day, and stop telling people how to think.
I plan to start both tomorrow.