Monday, January 9, 2012

"Chirpy Bird, Grumpy Bird" and the problem with New Year's Resolutions

This is a little sketch I did while in Strasbourg from a decorative lamp at the hotel. I just loved the little iron birds on it. It was only when I looked at it again once I got back home, that I saw how one little birdie looked really happy and chirpy while the other looks downright grumpy. It made me smile and I thought it would be an apt image to start the New Year with, as you'll see if you read on.

I'm feeling all optimistic about 2012 (like the little chirpy bird on the left). I am full of all good intentions about the things I will achieve this year. There's definitely something liberating about the beginning of a New Year. Even though it's simply a date, you feel as if you can start anew, do all the things you didn't do the year before. But there, lingering in the background, is the fear that, despite the best of intentions, any New Year's resolutions will inevitably fail. So it got me thinking, is there any point in making New Year's resolutions? Do they help us achieve anything? Or just make us feel like failures (like the grumpy bird on the right) when we don't keep to them?

Well, I think this is part of the problem: the notion of keeping or sticking to a New Year's Resolution. It means that the thing you promised to do, is something so absolute, like "exercising 3 times a week" or "drawing every day", that the minute you don't stick to it, you have failed. And if you have failed, well, why bother continuing to try again?

The other problem with New Year's Resolutions is that they are often so vague as to be completely immeasurable. You know the sort: "I'll spend less/lose weight/get healthy".  How can you tell if you've achieved these goals, when they are so vague?

So here's my take on it all:

1. Forget New Year's Resolutions.  Instead, take some time to think about what you achieved in the last year and what you'd like to be saying you achieved at the end of this year. Think of those future achievements as goals for the year (rather than a resolution you have to keep/stick to).

2. Divide those goals into "must have"s and "nice to have"s. In other words, you are putting priority on those things that are most important to you, but still allowing yourself to pursue other goals.  Here are mine:

3. For each goal, work out a plan of action as to how you will achieve it, including individual steps required, the timeframe you'll need to do them in, contacts you'll need to make etc.

4. Use the support network of friends and family that you have around you - communicate your goals (both the long-term goals and the intermediary milestones towards those goals). That way, you'll feel accountable if you can see yourself going off track.

5. And finally, be kind to yourself! Stuff happens, and life doesn't always pan out as we plan. Things get in the way of best laid plans or the overall plan changes. So don't worry if you don't quite achieve what you set out to or if you take off in a different direction. Look back on the  positive things you have done, the new experiences you've had, people you've met and things you've learnt.  You'll probably realise you've done way more than you set out to at the beginning of the year.  And as Dory from Finding Nemo says, "just keep swimming, just keep swimming...". Eventually you'll get there!


  1. Good post. I was just talking with someone about this the other day. The fact that people make vague goals and have a hard time figuring out when they are done or how to accomplish the goal. I also thought it funny that people have no clue how long it will take to finish a goal.... you need to set goals and schedule realistic timelines to finish those goals. Look forward to seeing more of your drawings.

  2. Your drawing is beautiful! And about the resolutions, I agree :o)

  3. Hi Lia, I've been trying to leave a comment from my iPad and it is just not working; I hope I haven't sent you trillions of errors in comments. I love chubby little birds. They make me smile and yours are no exception. I am also drawn to them. Blessings Terri