by Arabella McIntyre-Brown
Hands up everyone who gave up on New Year Resolutions (NYR) having failed for too many years to keep any for more than a few days in January…
Not just me, then. Judging from unprintable comments I had back on Facebook, we’re not the only ones whose resolve dissolves within the first week or so. (NB another one for the list. Facebook consumption: down.)
Greg Helm lives much of his life in the Transylvanian wilderness, guiding high-maintenance travellers through the uncharted bits of the Carpathians. He isn’t fazed by anything that Murphy’s Law can deliver, and is a master of the contingency plan. But he is scathing about NYR. “Mine survive for about 15 mins of New Year’s Day. The last one I made, about 12 years ago, was to stop smoking.” He laughs, with a shrug, as though the problem had now almost vanished. “I only smoke about 20 a day.” He has a laugh like a file on a rusty lock. “Resolutions are ridiculous. People set themselves up for disappointment by aiming too high and putting themselves under pressure.”
Anne Taylor, a South African living in Braşov, is more sensible than most. She sets goals, but allows herself latitude and doesn’t throw out the whole resolution list because she’s failed to achieve everything. “I set myself the same task every year: to look after myself better. Exercise more, read more, eat better, be more responsive to people, reach out further… Next year I turn 65, so I’ve got a crazy one this year – to be the sexiest granny ever.”
Good goal, but how, specifically?
“Walk more, have a sunnier disposition, do my nails, be a touch more fashion-conscious.”
You see? Anne is not setting the bar too high. Although as she’s working to set up Romania’s first-ever culinary academy offering degree courses in world-class culinary management, I don’t know when she finds time even to do her nails.
“The only important thing on my list, really, is to have more fun,” she says. “Life unfolds itself, so I stay open to all opportunities. If I do whatever makes me happy, that’s enough.”
2018, for Iranian-born Pedram Goudarzi, is all about his work ambitions. Pedram arrived in Romania on 1st January 1991, when he was 24, so he has been here for more than half his life, through good times and bad. This next year he is determined to make a breakthrough in his plans to set up a farm in Alba Iulia for permaculture, and a Shiraz vineyard. Fundraising and training are his priorities; if he gets a chance to travel – his great passion in life – then the trip will have some connection to his ambitions.
What percentage of NYR include kicking addictions (booze, fags, Facebook, sugar, sex, gambling, chocolate, tweets) and getting fit? I should think 98%, at least in the industrialised, sedentary world. The words “exercise” and “diet” are two of the most coma-inducing words in any language for people who can’t be arsed to do either. (Yes, that’s me too.)
Charlie Crocker, CEO of the British-Romanian Chamber of Commerce, holds his hand up to this. His job is fatal to NYR, of course, as it involves so much networking and socialising (eating, drinking). “My waistline is two or three inches bigger than it was since taking this job,” he says. “I have sacrificed my girth for British industry.” In fact, he says, he’s strong-willed about sticking to his resolutions. “I’m pretty good at losing weight and getting fitter until I get ill or injured, then I lose the habit and fall back into bad ways.”
So Charlie’s NYR list is topped by a resolution to stick to his resolutions. “No alcohol in January; buy a bicycle; keep my bike somewhere safe.” He used to park his bike outside his house: it was stolen last year. “I was cycling 40 km a week, and that was the key to my keeping fit.”
Another task familiar to quite a few expats and immigrants is at the top of Mark Redman’s NYR list. “The one resolution I consistently make, but always fail dismally at achieving, is to stop embarrassing myself in this wonderful, awe inspiring – and at times profoundly frustrating – country and learn more Romanian. I have enough Romanian to get myself into trouble, but far from enough to get myself out of it!” Mark, a free-range rural development enthusiast and expert, suffers from the Romanian tendency to speak excellent English – his Romanian wife Raluca and son Matei are both bilingual, so the Redman home in Brasov is an English-speaking enclave; his international colleagues and clients also tend to be fluent anglophones. It’s tough being a native English speaker…
One solution to the NYR self-sabotage is offered by Norman Frankel, Sibiu-based chairman of iCyber-Security. He has dumped the personal list of resolutions in favour of a family forecast and goal-setting. “Every New Year’s Eve we have a family meeting about the following year. With the children, we review the past year and set out what we’d like to achieve individually and together during the year to come. This includes looking at the children’s savings (which they always enjoy) and then they set some financial goals for the next 12 months. I then write all this up and store it till the next New Year to see how we did with our list.”
On Norman’s list for 2018 is: “Finally writing the book that I’ve had inside me for nearly 20 years – I’ve promised myself to get it written in time for my 50th birthday.” We must ask him, this time next year, where we can buy his book.
Don’t let your resolve dissolve
- Make your goals modest. • Don’t pile on the pressure. • Start small: you can always raise the bar once you’ve got into the habit. • To achieve your goals, do things you enjoy. • Set single goals for specific days through the year. • Make resolutions that are also treats. • Make at least one resolution a singular challenge to do in the first week of January, before you give up on the New Year. • If you have a list of 20 NYRs and stick to one, have a party! • If you break a NYR, don’t give up completely: just re-start quickly and keep at it. • Make them fun! • Get a NYR buddy and keep each other going; start a RAK (Resolution Arse-Kickers) club.
Expand your resolutions for 2018:
Physical: swim, garden, dance (alone or in company), yoga, riding (horses)
Spiritual: 5 mins meditation, 20 mins watching clouds; ponder a paradox
Creative: sing, write sonnets, draw with your left hand, invent
Mental: learn anything, do a puzzle a day, talk to a 4-year old
Grateful: Don’t just give money, give time. Volunteer, visit, teach
Cathartic: clear out your life – cupboard, drawers, relationships
Social: join an eccentric group, have picnics, find different people
Innovative: experiment, try, try again, fail, fail better, discover
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