A timely piece arrived from The New Yorker about resolutions. Why We Make Resolutions and Why They Fail was originally written in 2013 by Maria Konnikova “Dorian Gray’s patron, Lord Henry, when he hears Dorian’s excuses, declares, “Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil.”
The New Yorker went on to get their facts straight and get science involved. “Not quite, but close. When the psychologist John Norcross researched New Year’s resolutions, in the nineteen-eighties, he found that more than fifty per cent of Americans made some sort of resolution. After six months, only forty per cent had stuck with it. When Norcross followed up two years later, the number had dropped to nineteen per cent. Even among the successes, more than half had experienced lapses—fourteen, on average. Still, we keep telling ourselves that we can lose weight, save money, and go to the gym.”
Further studies have shown that ‘nudges” are important. “In a series of studies, forthcoming from the journal Management Science, Milkman, Riis, and Dai found that fresh starts do push us to change our behavior. The beginning of a week, a month, or a year forms what the psychologist Richard Thaler calls a “notational boundary.” With that, researchers suspect, comes a sense of optimism, the promise of “a new me,” as Milkman put it.”
This fact I found surprising and rather contradictory to my understanding. “Optimism, then, isn’t always constructive. If we’re too positive, we condemn ourselves to fail. Many backsliders relapse because they have overestimated their own abilities, have underestimated the time and effort involved in staying the course, or have an exaggerated view of the effect that the change would have on their lives. “We underestimate these fluctuations in self-control and motivation,” Riis said. “In the moment of exuberance, it’s easy to forget how much we won’t feel like exercising.” The psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman call this the false-hope syndrome: unrealistic expectations about our ability to change, followed closely by the dashing of our initially high aspirations.”
It is best to set realistic goals. “ And once we’ve set goals, we’re most likely to reach them by creating a firm plan. The theory of implementation intentions, a term coined by the psychologist Peter Gollwitzer, maintains that we have a better chance of sticking to a goal if we think about contingencies in advance and devise a direct, automatic response to each of them. (If I feel too tired to go to the gym, I’ll have some coffee or eat an apple before heading out.) “It’s harder to break a specific commitment than a nonspecific one,” Milkman said.”
One suggestion was not at all helpful to my own life. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that one’s commitment to a determined spouse can also be helpful. “I haven’t had a cigarette in probably six years,” President Obama said in September. “That’s because I’m scared of my wife.”Faithful readers will know that there is no determined spouse in my life, and not really one on the horizon BUT a germination. Now that was amazing – thought of the word, knew the spelling, looked it up and it is perfect. It is the process of something coming into existence and developing. Synonyms are: take root, grow, incubate, emerge, evolve, mature, expand, advance, progress. The “seed” was a conversation between Care Giver and Ayla – it took both of our brains to come up with an idea. Other people will have to be involved, but it could be a distinct possibility. Time will tell.
But back to resolutions. So where does this leave me on the cusp of 2021? Not exactly sure. For various undisclosed reasons there is a need to increase my income and there are means, method and opportunity to do so. The sale of my self published book on the Tate Britain one idea, the resubmission of bills for reimbursement of medical expenses another, turning my blog into something revenue producing another but both all of of those ambitions require a lethal combination of frustration, tedium and sheer boredom. But soon there will be no excuses to be made as my move near absolute fruition – pictures hung, walk in closet totally organized, patio decorated – just name it, it is done.
Now there is one thing that must be done – increase my exercise levels and now there is no excuse. Walking the best means and mechanism, but living in Hayes Valley in San Francisco meant climbing steep hills, tripping over dog excrement and dogging semi human zombies walking their enormous dogs. I have absolutely no excuse here – flat land, perfectly groomed landscaped walk ways and friendly folk, many of whom speak and smile and know my name. So yesterday, New Year’s Day, I began, deciding that I would walk around ‘my’ courtyard. count the number of laps and then aim for more each walk. I thought one or two laps but it was really rather easy, neither my back, nor my knee was hurting. I did FIVE (yes 5). But today, at this moment it is raining – will check to see what happens as the day advances with the plan of taking an umbrella – not posing myself to five (5) but doing a separate ‘rain’ count. A photograph with me in walking gear shall be affixed to this blog. There will be other opportunities for exercise when this stupid lockdown end as there is a gym and pool right outside my door. I do not know how to swim but could always take lessons at some point – better late than never. Hahahah My original plan was discuss the diametrically opposed New Year’s Eve of 2019 and the New Year’s Eve of 2020. The 2019 New Year’s Eve began with an enormous inflatable unicorn placed on the threshold of my London Hotel room . There are definitely photographs of the darling, so a search will be held. Then swarms, and I do mean swarms, of (mostly) adolescents would descend upon my room – coming, visiting, going through all of my possession, then abruptly leaving with a new contingency arriving within a few minutes. Not sure but there had to be about twenty or twenty-five of them. Later learned that they were all members of the Royal Family of Qatar. They rather resembled feral animals – charming, intelligent, enthusiastic feral animals (that is for sure) and certainly rich feral animals. Contact with several members continued into 2020, promises made but not kept. Of course, the coronavirus interrupted my travel to Qatar – did not have to interfere with their travel plans to visit me but it never took place. Despite all of the ‘excitement’ in 2019 – my quiet, peaceful solitary time in my new apartment was preferable. A couple of trips to nearby Andy’s Market, meeting a young (23) year old employee with amazing eyes and an engaging personality – then later kibitzing with the more seasoned employees. Watched KQED’s special on Michael Tilson Thomas, the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (went to many concerts before my move to London in 2014). Went to bed (alone of course) at ten (10) – fell immediately into a deep deliciously restful sleep, waking up at about six am on New Year’s Day.
I do suppose that one of my resolutions is to live a simple life, free of Royalty and Riches. I do learn from my past mistakes and resolve not to do the same silly things again – succeed, most of the time. But unexpected people. places and things appear. But, the new of an immensely different dimension. I did not make a resolution to become a Muslim on New Year’s Eve 2019 (although I was surrounded by them.) My assumption of the Islamic faith actually drove a wedge into my contact with them (and thank goodness for that.)
The photographs attached to this blog is one of me in my walking gear, and then photographs of my time with the Qatar family – make up applied by a Princess. Then, hopefully, Alexis nose banging a handsome man – convinced now that he was a member of the Royal Family of Qatar. It is most amusing. Later learned that Muslim women NEVER nose bump men – well, in my defense, I assert that I was not a Muslim then and did not know better. But it sure was fun!!!!
It shall be a most interesting day tomorrow , a family will visit for the first time. So looking, forward to it. They are bringing gifts apparently, from a foreign land. I am so fortunate, so, so blessed. All Praise to Allah.