Many of the bloggers I follow have been posting about their aims for 2016, as New Year resolutions are all the rage at the moment. It must be something to do with the time of year – I’m quick on the uptake like that! I have absolutely nothing against anyone for whom this works, but thought I’d add my two penn’orth to the mix as they definitely aren’t for me! So, you heard it here first: I am NOT making any resolutions, or setting any goals, or planning any targets, or creating a wish list, or drawing up a bucket list. I hope that’s clear! I am not even going to accept the invitation from Goodreads to sign up for their 2016 Reading Challenge. What? Would I seriously be a better person by this time next year if I set myself a target to ‘read more books,’ as they suggest? Perhaps I should think about reading the collected works of Tolstoy – the time spent doing that would probably prevent me from eating at all this year, which would help enormously with another resolution I won’t be setting myself. I know I need to lose weight, so why should the fact that it is now January mean I have to take that any more seriously than I did before?
Not wanting to be ageist about this, but I suspect that I am from a generation for whom setting personal goals was much less important. Yes of course we grew up with hopes and ambitions, but we didn’t need a bunch of self-appointed ‘gurus’ telling us how we could be better people and, incidentally, becoming richer in the process than we could ever hope to be: “buy my book, it will change your life!” they scream. No it won’t, but it will improve their bank balance. It never ceases to amaze me that they can shift their wares by the truckload, when as far as I can see all they do is regurgitate the same old stuff with a new title and a changed set of headings and pictures. Maybe I should set myself a goal to read at least one self-help book this year? Or maybe not. If you are a fan of these books, do please tell me why you read them and what you get out of them, as I must really be missing something! And if you are an author, don’t bother, as I know what you get out of them: our money. Before anyone points it out I know that self-help books are generally recognised to have started as long ago as Samuel Smiles’ book of that name, published in 1859, and that I should perhaps have read Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People (1936) before writing this. So they aren’t a new phenomenon, but I think their influence is greater now than it has ever been before. Discuss! And while you’re thinking about that, just bear in mind that this culture has contributed to such current phenomena as the annual intake of gibbering idiots on the Apprentice, spouting ever more ludicrously nonsensical rubbish in the hope of impressing Lord Barrowboy and Lady Porn. (UK version, other versions exist in other places. Hard luck!)
But I digress. The point of this piece was not to have a go at the self-help industry. It’s too easy a target anyway. What I set out to do was to tell you why resolutions, targets and goals are not for me. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, I am in a life situation which I know is a huge advantage to me in this respect: I am retired, I live on my own and have no particular day to day commitments or obligations which impact on my time and how I choose to use it. This may seem like a luxury to many of you as you juggle all the balls of everyday life, but to me it is a luxury that I have earned. I was a hardworking paid employee for 38 years, contributed to a pension from the very outset, and am now enjoying the benefits of that. If I wake up one morning and think of doing something, there is nothing to stop me. So why should I restrict my own freedom by setting a framework of goals and targets to which I’d have to refer: “is it alright if I spend the day going to an art gallery, please Mr Timetable?” Don’t get me wrong – I don’t spend my days lazing around doing nothing. Well, not every day, anyway. I’ve always wanted to play a musical instrument and am now taking the first faltering steps towards that. I’m starting to write more and expect that you’ll see this as the year goes on. I love computers and technology and have enrolled in a course to learn how to create apps. And I still have the whole of Series 12 of NCIS to catch up on and Series 13 starts on Friday! But my point is that I choose whether or when to do any of these, or anything else, and I don’t feel the need to set myself targets to achieve. Que sera, sera.
The second reason is the one which is really important to me: my health. One of the reasons that I am now free of anti-depressants after four years is that in retirement I have managed to almost totally remove stress from my life. Whereas before I would worry about work deadlines, about how projects would work out and whether we would achieve our goals, now I no longer have to. It seems to me to be utterly pointless to subject myself to that in my personal life, so why would I? There is a huge body of professional literature about the link between stress and both mental and physical illnesses, so to be able to live virtually free of it is something I cherish and value highly. And before you judge me as being smug and self-satisfied, just think how long and hard I’ve worked to be in this situation, and how much damage has been caused to my health and personal life along the way. Then you might begin to get the idea as to why I never want to set myself another goal or target for the rest of my life.
I’ll happily continue reading about the goals you set yourselves and your progress towards them. But my pages are a goal-free zone!
Happy, Healthy, Industrious and Prosperous New Year to you all!