It would be remiss of me not to consider the sometimes rather dull topic of New Year’s resolutions from a retirement point of view. Is a retired person more or less likely to make resolutions? Is the process of making them or the nature of them, different from other life stages?  I have to say straight away that I don’t like the term New Year’s Resolutions. To me it’s almost a pejorative term – it represents the flimsy, the flibberty-jibberty, a ‘game’ we play at this time of year like charades or Secret Santa. Just a bit of fun. Which is a shame, in one way, because I like the idea of using the beginning of a new year to take control (well as much as possible) of the coming 365 days. For example, this quote : “Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” Brad Paisley or “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” Edith Lovejoy PierceSo the small confession I am about to make will not be a surprise. It is that, for more years than I can remember, I have set goals (although not called resolutions) at the beginning of each year. I write them at the front of my personal diary (of which more in another blog) and I review them at the end of each year. I’ll write more about this part of my control freakery in the blog shortly to follow on goal setting. Of course not every goal is achieved (taking more or indeed any exercise has been a constant failure, despite being written as a goal in my diary, over the years – until now!) or even found to be the right goal as the year unfolds but for me it helps my sense of purpose. Gives my life meaning you might say, sad but true.

But here’s the thing. For the last 2 or 3 years I haven’t set any goals. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe, as my career wound down, it didn’t seem so important to do so. I did write down things I wanted to achieve but the things on the list were more casual. I thought, as I approached and entered into my third age, goal setting would somehow be less relevant. But after three months of retirement I’ve come to the conclusion that setting goals is more important rather than less. I need the structure, the motivation, the purpose in my life. To have these pieces of the puzzle I need goals / targets / aims, call them what you will.

In this context, then, New Year’s Resolutions, the process not the name, no matter how flimsy the concept, becomes important to me. So it may be worth examining those factors that make a difference as to whether a resolution is kept or falls by the wayside where so many resolutions seem to languish – in the ditch.

First, a little information from Wikipedia : A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Not good then and an explanation as to why there is so much advice on the internet about how to increase the chances of keeping a resolution. For example, extracted from an article in The Huffington Post by psychologist Avidan Milevsky (the italics are direct quotes);

1. Tell others about the resolution. A sensible if obvious strategy supported by Frank Ra (author of the new year’s resolution book “A course in happiness” ): “Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in success rate with new year’s resolutions”. Wikipedia – Women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends. Support is good and shame is a great motivator.

2. Choose a measurable and realistic and specific resolution. I’ll write more about this when I blog about SMART targets. And back to Wikipedia : Men achieved their goal more often when they engaged in goal setting. Don’t know what happened to the ‘ladies’ here.

3. Build in a reward system. It works with our dogs so why not with you? Again, something to blog about at a later date.

4. Create resolution visual aids. Think about a picture or some other artifact that you can hang up somewhere conspicuous as a reminder of your resolution goals. I like this last one particularly. It was a tactic I used, when I could, in my professional work with kids as a form of tracking progress and we’re all kids aren’t we? Actually, all of the above are based on solid Behavioural and motivational psychology. At the risk of repetition, I’ll write more about such strategies in future blogs.

5. And from a different source John M. Grohol, Psy.D. Set a Schedule :
No goal is attainable without deciding when you’re going to make the small changes needed to reach that goal. If you set no schedule for yourself, or — as most people do — set an unrealistic schedule, you are setting yourself up to fail.

So there we have it, a blog about retirement and resolutions in which I have written not a single word so far, about the specific topic I promised I would – are resolutions different in the third age? Let me answer as best I  can now, before it’s too late. Yes, I think they are different. Vaguely keeping to the above advice, the differences might be as follows:

a)      We need them more rather than less because retirement life can seem a bit purposeless and formless. And, I think, they won’t have any tendency to be career linked resolutions which are dull beyond all comprehension at best and also restricting – see next point .

b)      We have a greater range of options than we had when occupied with working. The world is our oyster. We can be creative.

c)      We have more time to devote to their success. More time to focus and our schedule (as above) can be quite generous.

d)      Rewarding ourselves is better because we deserve it more. In fact, as far as the rewarding ourselves bit is concerned, the sky’s the limit at least within the restrictions imposed by our pensions and any guilt about leaving less money to the kids. Isn’t self-indulgence at least one part of a successful retirement?

e)      If you find some old gits groups you can share them as per earlier recommendations.

So these are, my thoughts on New Year resolutions in the retirement years. In a nutshell, bigger, better and altogether more fun. I just hope I can live up to these descriptors when I come to write my list.

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