RESOLUTIONS tend to already be falling apart by today, day three on the road so well paved with good intentions. It takes 28 days to retrain our neural pathways, evidently, to create the thoughts and actions that come to define us.
Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, collective habits create our culture as a society. We feel our own small self and the things we do are but a drop in the ocean, but as Mother Teresa put it, “the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.
The reason our New Year’s efforts tend to fail is that we revert to the type of ourselves our life experience has created. We don’t get through the 28-day barrier.
We can be world class at explaining it all away. Life’s difficulties are visited upon us by others whether it’s our partners, our parents, our friends, neighbours, employers, the council, government, whoever. “Them”.
So we wait and delay for the day to arrive when justice knocks on our door and delivers the parcel of happiness we have been waiting for someone to send.
In politics this is a particular habit of ours. Our political culture is too much about stopping things being done to us by “them” rather than doing good for ourselves. We must do better in 2016. And this is not my independence bias. Supporters on my side of that great debate are also guilty of delaying positive action until the parcel of full powers is delivered through our door. That too, won’t do.
So what can we do about it all? What drops do we have for the ocean? In all the swathes I have read on this whole self-improvement debate some interesting characteristics seem to recur in those who conquer it all.
The most successful people tend to get up early in the morning, sometimes very early. By choice, not because a child crashes in on them. Their minds are alert and ahead of the day rather than having the day constantly chase them. They take time to think calmly and reflect and exercise for a bit, every day.
They also often set goals for themselves, purposefully, and tend to them. The action of setting the target and understanding the motivation creates its own force for good, it seems.
So imagine how different Scotland would be as a country if we all got up at 5 o’clock each day, exercised, relaxed, ate well and got to our daily labours refreshed and positive in the knowledge that we were working towards longer term goals. “Pipe dream, Andrew, a pipe dream. You can’t do that on a hangover.”
Reflecting on this, two further thoughts occur to me: the first is that positive attracts and negative repels. Positive framing creates the space for all possibilities to be considered. Its nature is more open, calming and has a much wider angled lens on life.
Negative is far more focused, it knows what it doesn’t like and that’s all it thinks right now, thank you very much. It is the flight instinct sparked by fear. It narrows the mind.
So as far as is humanly possible we must find a way to train our minds to think positive thoughts and take positive actions. Creating not stopping. This is not a natural Caledonian state of being I know. Some of us are naturals at this. Others, like myself, have to work at it against all the evidence to the contrary.
We can see it in stark relief in our children; two of my kids bounce into each day with a song in their heart. The third lives far too much in worry. This in turn worries me because the great inheritance we all owe our kids is the resilience to face whatever life throws their way when we are not around to protect them from it. Positivism fuels resilience.
The second thought is that doing is better than delaying. There are always a thousand reasons not to try something. But only in the doing do we create anything.
So in whatever we all face in 2016 maybe these two thoughts together can help us through the 28-day barrier. Positively framed actions every day can crowd out the negatives we face.
One of the great images from the politics of 2015 is the SNP benches full at Westminster of MPs supporting their own team. For all the early criticisms the positive decision to do and to act has won through and is the thought we are left with.
The horrifying image of the year was three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying drowned on a beach in Turkey. We combined in revulsion but that spirit has passed with the months and terrorist outrages. What have we done positively about it? I posted it on Facebook and that’s about it. My shame.
And I guess that is the point. We all have a host of 28-day challenges to make the most of ourselves, those we love and the world we pass through. Let’s not hang around waiting anymore. Each of us has our own droplets for the ocean in each of the days ahead. Maybe we can surprise ourselves into believing that each and every one of them matters.