By Robert Lalah
The first days of a year usually have a sort of magical feeling. The air is crisper, people appear friendlier, and everything you want to achieve feels possible.
Then Week Two starts and you realise the air is the same as it was last year, people are just as rude, and nothing you want to achieve seems to be working out.
Before you know it, things are back to normal, with all the changes you planned to make and goals you were aiming for being postponed till next year. It's only 12 months away, after all. What's the big rush?
It's a rare, strong-willed person who sticks to those resolutions made during the giddy days of the Yuletide season. The rest of us, well, wonder what we were thinking. Must have been too much wine. It can be a real struggle to keep the plans going very long, and some even throw in the towel before the decorations are taken down.
You still have to admire the effort. The roads are crowded with newly minted fitness buffs these days. Have you seen them? Long before sunrise, they're out in large packs, wearing spiffy new workout clothes, walking or jogging with the greatest intentions and the utmost dedication. Sweatbands and knee-high socks in place, they're normally in good spirits. And why shouldn't they be? They're making big, long-overdue lifestyle changes. All is well with the world.
By Day Two, however, there's a marked decrease in the numbers. Spirits are still relatively high, but the laughter and chatter dwindle since many have lost their exercise partners to the cruel mistress that is laziness.
Day Three sees another alarming decline in numbers and those left behind appear more agitated by the workout. The abundance of enthusiasm is gone and the whole thing seems more like a chore than a positive, life-improving effort. There's no cheerful 'good morning' when they see you, no more friendly waves. Stay out of their way or risk being given the death stare.
From there, things tend to only get worse.
By mid-March, only the chosen few remain. They're the ones with the real willpower and discipline. They've managed to get themselves into that all-too-elusive 'zone' where nothing and nobody can distract them from the task at hand. An admirable lot, they are. We could all learn a thing or two from them.
There are many legitimate causes for breaking resolutions. It's not an excuse, either. Life can really be tough. When you spend a year struggling to pay ever-increasing bills, dealing with annoying bosses, and trying to safely navigate crises that inevitably pop up, who has the time to focus on resolutions? It's a battle just to stay sane.
We know deep down that keeping our resolutions would probably make many of life's challenges easier to bear. Quitting smoking, going to church more often, eating better, exercising and staying closer to family are all great ways to combat stress and to just be generally happier. The trouble, as always, is turning knowledge into action.
MAKE A PLAN
In the coming days, many will purchase gym memberships, buy home workout equipment, throw out their cigarettes, and show up for church. Family members will receive overdue phone calls, sales of self-help books will soar, and the oft-ignored health food section of the supermarket will experience an increase in traffic.
To make any of this worth the effort though, it's important that the resolutions are made with an accompanying plan to overcome complacency and to deal with moments of heightened stress. If you simply resolve to stop smoking, for instance, but fail to come up with a strategy to deal with the cravings, you'll likely be right back here come December, claiming that 2014 will be your year.
Will we all be successful? Probably not. But let's keep hope alive anyway and lend a helping hand to those still in the fight, whenever possible. I must go now. The book I'm reading on how to be a better me beckons. I'm into it too, though around page four, it's starting to be a bit of a drag.
Robert Lalah is assistant editor - features, and author of the popular Tuesday feature, 'Roving with Lalah'. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.