A very Sunday Sunday – at the end of a long month

I live opposite a pub car park. A country pub where people make an effort to go there for lunch. It’s rather the English idyll that so many visitors to our shores look for: summertime has seating outside to enjoy a pint in the sunshine; and in winter the open fire keeps the place inviting and warm. It’s well run and the beer is well kept.

I looked out to the carpark this afternoon and saw that it was much busier than it has been during January. While it may be that it’s taken only a few weeks for the initial enthusiasm for the patrons’ New Year diet to wear off, I suspect the timing may be a little more prosaic: it’s the Sunday after the first payday of the year. People have some money in their pockets again.

The first thought that sprang to mind is one of those shared cultural expressions that require little explanation: January is a long month. Now, we all know that thirty days hath September and that January is one of the slight majority with thirty-one. But it’s more than that. At the time of year when it’s at its darkest and coldest, it’s also the month where everyone is obliged to rein themselves in. I often feel this is somewhat premature: we didn’t manage to ward off the darkness and gloom of midwinter quite so well as we had hoped and now we live with the consequences of long dark days and little resources to fight them off.

As I have got older, so I find myself more planful heading into each new year. I suppose being the wrong side of the halfway mark in life tends to focus attention on the accumulation of achievement. But that early New Year vigour is more easily swayed than I would like to admit. So, while I’m fortunate that I don’t have to wait until the end of the month to dine out, the effect of the long, dark month of January has somewhat muted my enthusiasm for charging headlong into my list of goals.

In these times of limited daylight I could embolden myself with Dylan Thomas’s exhortation against the dying of the light, but instead have fallen into a quieter rhythm this January. It has been mainly work and domesticity. My usual desire to spend time outside in the natural light has been tempered by a reluctance to fight the wet and cold of this time of year. And so today, though it started with a bright sun through the windows, I have contented myself with those most Sunday of Sunday activities: reading, listening to the radio and dozing. I wasn’t going to fight anything – that can wait for next month.

Sometimes I guess Sundays should just be Sundays.

A new evolution of the New Year’s resolution: 2022 goals

As a young man I couldn’t see the point of making New Year’s resolutions. It seemed so arbitrary a time to start making plans when everything to do was already upon us or would be soon. Take life as it comes and have fun on the way. There is merit in that.

As I’ve got older (and now beyond the half-way point in the allotted three score and ten), the idea of making plans appeals more. It isn’t a new idea for me – some time in a former life I’ve written about this before and how the lightness of summer seems to bring on the urge to reflect and plan. To pause and go again.

I live my life in a corporate world and am committed to my career. That sort of work demands I make annual (and more frequent) plans and I manage to do these every year. Without realising it, my approach to New Year’s resolutions in my non-work life has taken on some of the approach and structure of the corporate approach. Generally I would say it is important to understand the demarcation between work and home (even if you then actively choose to cross that line from time to time), but you can learn from each side of your life too.

So, this year I’ve spent time thinking about my goals for the year. the benefit of taking a break at Christmas is that it’s a time of year when physical inaction is pretty acceptable and one can allow the mind to drift, to permit an idea to roll round like a billiard ball in the back of the mind where it takes shape and emerges into something useful.

What became clear this time is that there are both distinct areas of activity containing many goals and also a need to ensure those activities are clearly prioritised. And to help retain focus, each item that made the list has an outcome and a deadline. Some are full year goals, and some are shorter term.

The areas of activity are divided into: personal, home, cars, family, professional. Beneath each of these all the activities are sorted into Must Do, Should Do, Good to Do. The Must Do category only has one goal in for each area of activity, giving me five non-negotiable I have set myself for the year.

This is the most structure I have given to my life. It does feel a little odd to be so, well, organised with myself but somehow while living in a world where uncertainty has become the prevailing mood creating some anchor points feels like the right thing to do. We have all, over the last two years, lived with much shorter horizons in mind driven by an obvious necessity. But there comes a time when moving from the short term to a more considered future feels the right thing to do.

So that’s what I shall do.

Next step is in building achievable plans for these goals. We all know how fragile New Year’s resolutions can be, but by working on them and giving them shape and three dimensional form I sense that I have more chance of succeeding where previously I would have shrugged and put my failures down to that being the way life is.

I’m no King Canute – I can’t roll back the tide of time – but I can also make those small achievements on the way. Small wins add up to big wins. And big wins are what life goals are about.