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New Year, New You?

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
31 December 2016   |   3:33 am
What it takes to keep one’s resolve to make those life changes we keep on promising ourselves year after year, at every turn of age, at every year’s start, at every milestone of life is more than a frail resolution.


Spending the festive season with my mum, we get to do to a whole few months’ reminiscing squeezed into a week or two. Watching an ad referring to 2017 the other day, she wondered out loud just how fast the last 16 years had passed. “Remember the millennium?” she asked, and thus began our reminiscing of Y2K (for the clueless millennial, this was the curiously coined moniker of the virus we believe would impair all computer systems when the clocks struck midnight on 31 December 2000, taking the settings back to 1900, thereby causing power shutdown, planes fall out of the sky, wreaking global havoc.

Alas, 2000 came and went, with no major bug-related disasters, and did the following 15 years – in the blink of an eye. Here we are, preparing to bid adieu to another year, with all its highlights, albeit a few, and many disasters, and we are ready as ever to embrace the new year.

1 January holds much sway as one of the milestones, amongst other special days marked on our calendars, such as birthdays and anniversaries – the perfect time to take stock, re-evaluate, re-examine our live, and make those most welcome resolutions required to complete yet another turn of the Earth around the Sun in a place much better than the one we’ve left behind and make the new year the best one yet.

According to many a research conducted over the years, the third week of January proves to be the most depressing time of the year. What with the extra pounds piled on to our waistline after the festivities and the extra pounds siphoned of our wallets in a bid to deck the halls and gift the loved ones, with yet another week to go before payday, it is nothing short of a miracle and a testimony to the fortitude of the human spirit we manage to keep it together for the first three weeks in the first place. Yet, instead of curling up into a ball of nerves and bemoaning the lousy turn the new year seems to already have taken, we push on.

Hence by the third week of the month, many of us find we’ve run out of steam and the tinsel of those new year’s resolutions made just weeks ago with such joy and determination lose their sparkle and wane, too frail to last a whole month, let alone the whole year. Out comes the pack of cigarettes or the secret stash chocolate, ‘me time’ so eagerly pencilled in gets cancelled out, along with many a resolution which offered do much yet lasted so little.

What it takes to keep one’s resolve to make those life changes we keep on promising ourselves year after year, at every turn of age, at every year’s start, at every milestone of life is more than a frail resolution.

It was a decade ago in February I realised I was wasting the best years of my life stuck in a job I didn’t particularly enjoy, postponing what truly set my soul on fire to a time I would “be financially more solvent, “have more stability”, and my personal favourite, “have more time to spare”.

Writing was the way I had always made sense of the world, and somehow I had relegated it to a side gig, and one I did not make the time for. I had been the girl who wrote her first novel at the age of nine but ripped it up as she thought she could have done better; the girl who religiously wrote for any high school journal going, the girl who used to take three hour long journeys on scorching summer days on a rickety bus just to get to the other end of the city for her unpaid work experience at the offices of a media house. That girl had somehow become trapped inside a young woman shackled down by what life had thrown at her.

It took a two-hour heart-to-heart with my other half for me to face up to my excuses. “Lack of time,” I said, “You can choose to make the time,” he answered. “Lack of energy,” I claimed, “You need to find the energy,” he replied. For every single excuse, there was a solution. For every single negative, there was a positive. It was time to break the habits I had become so bogged down with, throw off the shackles and resolve – not on my birthday, not on New Year’s, but every single moment of every day, to make those dreams come true.

Each time we make a resolution to form or break a habit, what we are trying to do is alter a lifetime of accumulated behaviour so ingrained in us that they become an integral part of our character. Each time we make a resolution, we assume we will do away with something integral to our essence, wipe the slate clean and start afresh almost overnight.

Did you know that it takes 28 days to form or break a habit? No wonder most of our habits don’t go past the first 21 days let alone make it as far as 28.

This year when the clock strikes midnight, resolve not to make a resolution. Remember that the changes that will last a lifetime are conscious daily decisions, not the magical outcome of a single day. We need to resolve to work on our mindset to allow such changes from the moment we wake up to face a new day till we go to sleep. We need to affirm daily we have the strength to make such life-altering choices, the courage to make changes and the self-discipline to see these through. Every resolution is indeed a revolution against our habits. Let’s ditch new year’s resolutions for ‘new you’ revolutions.