Over the holiday period, I read a stat that only 8 per cent of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. It didn’t strike me as being surprising. A lot of the resolutions I’ve heard of seem to be in the “very difficult to do” category. Everyone has different approaches to achieving success, but giving up smoking or significant weight loss require considerable determination and a long-term strategy to keep you on track.
For me, it’s more important to set that specific target in the context of a few basic beliefs about you and your life, because that long-term vision will help to achieve individual milestones. I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution. But, in looking ahead to the year, I’ve looked back on my Stone Of Life. They are a few short statements about my beliefs and priorities that I wrote down after reading the excellent “Chimp Paradox” by Steve Peters, the psychiatrist who has helped the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and British cyclists to achieve their success.
I find that occasionally reflecting on my Stone of Life reminds me of what is important to me, and what I want to achieve. There are three parts to your Stone of Life, according to Dr Peters. I’ll briefly describe them below and give an example from my Stone of Life, and how they influence me as I head back to work in 2016.
Truths of life
These are our basic beliefs about the world we live in. Once we understand and accept these, it can help us to be more at peace with our existence. So, for example, if we believe and accept that life can be unfair, it helps us to deal better with unfairness that happens to us.
One of my truths of life is that only you can make things happen for yourself. You are the only person who genuinely puts you first, so if you want something to happen, you have to make it happen. Your family and friends may help you but also have themselves and their other responsibilities to think of; likewise your boss and workmates.
Understanding this truth helps me to take responsibility for my own actions, successes and failures, and know not to blame anyone else for things that don’t go my way.
These are what they say on the tin, things that are important to you, which should guide your decisions and behaviour. I’ve thought a lot about these, and one of mine is that I should always try to be a good person but acknowledge that I won’t always succeed.
The latter part of that value was an important realisation, which helps me every day. I tend to spend too much time dwelling on perceived mistakes I’ve made, particularly in my interactions with others; this value allows me not to beat myself up unnecessarily and forgive myself if I upset or offend someone by saying or doing the wrong thing occasionally. We can’t always be perfect.
Your life force
Dr Peters describes this as the single piece of advice the wise, old you would give to a young child who asks for one tip on how to live their life. Mine is “to proritise the things that are most important and do them to the best of my ability.” Both parts of the sentence are important for me. I can spend too much time trying to do too many different things, and not doing any of them as well as I’d like to. With a high-pressure job and a busy home and family life, this life force helps me to work out the things I need to stop doing so I can devote my energies to doing my best at the things that are really important to me.
So what has the Stone of Life got to do with achieving New Year’s resolutions? Well, just that understanding why you want to do something is often a catalyst to achieving it. Nowhere on my Stone of Life will you find the words “losing weight” or “exercising”.
But my “truth of life” that a healthy body is a prerequisite for a healthy mind gives me the motivation I need to eat less and keep fit. Maybe creating your Stone of Life can help achieve what you want to in 2016?