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332 more shiny, new days


Blink and you may have missed January despite a whopping five Mondays that we miraculously made through, out of pocket and patiently waiting for payday – one of which was of course Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. So called because apparently it is the Monday right in the middle of January, when we wake up one morning realising how broke we are and how broken our New Year’s resolutions are.

The basic human fallacy is that we think resolutions made in the glow of expectations a new year naturally beckons will last the course a new month, let alone a whole year. Swept away with the excitement of that ‘new year, new me’ we make promises the weight of which we are crushed under come end of January. Only two weeks ago, struggling to find a parking spot at my gym or a bike in the evening spin class, come end of the month, I slip into a space close to the entrance and have my smorgasbord of cycles to choose from.

Much like the gym, it takes the average human mere four weeks to fall back into old habits. Resolving to read more books in 2018, yet another evening towards the end of January we slouch on to the couch for another evening in front of the telly; deciding to cut down on chocolate, we yet again turn to it to get us through yet another 4pm slump in the office.

Which is why I have always been of the opinion that it is best to postpone such exuberant decision-making for a month when we are all a little bit more level-headed. After all, gone are the tinsel and the bubbly, you’ve made it through the toughest month of the year, and you’re ready to face the rest of it.

For many, February heralds the miserable downturn following broken promises. For me it is crunch time. Don’t get me wrong. I am no saint when it comes to keeping up and keeping to New Year’s resolutions. I am the person who resolves to drink only water for the whole month of January to raise money for a charitable organisation and yet gives into pesky caffeine-withdrawal headaches on day four. The person who last year resolved to read 100 books and clocked up an embarrassing 32. Also the person who began 2016 with a goal of losing 10kg and ending it having put on another five!

Yet I remain positive about February. If January is the time for resolutions, then February is the month of reappraisals. The time to reassess any unrealistic goal or overshooting wish and make adjustments.

One thing I got taught quite early on in my teaching career years ago was to set SMART goals – both for myself and my students. SMART, a simple mnemonic for specific, measurably, achievable, relevant and time-limited.

What we tend to resolve in the heady rush of a new year is anything but SMART, but what we get to decide in February, festive excess tamed by daily reality, is just that. We set or reset goals we can achieve in relevant, specific, measurable ways within an attainable time period. We may not have 365 days of course but there is still 332 shiny, new days.

For this very reason, for me, February is crunch time full of fresh new promises for level-headed reassessments. It is time to cut our losses, assess our situation, give up on unattainable goals, stop beating ourselves up for broken resolutions that broke us, and steer our course towards success. February is about making long-term changes not short-term promises, about substance over style.

As you step into the new month, don’t be afraid to take a long, hard look at yourself and at the resolutions that are already shattered, broken pieces pricking your conscience. You fell off the four days of exercise a week bandwagon? Why not drop down to three days and stick to that? You are falling short of your monthly reading list? Perhaps set a more realistic goal you can actually reach. Failed to give up a bad habit? Rest in the knowledge that you may have most 33 but there is 332 more to steer your course.

After all it takes 28 days to form or break a habit. Fortunate then, February is the perfect number of days then, hey?

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