January is a time of year when many people reflect on their lifestyles and choices, find them wanting and make a change. A new year gives us the opportunity to make a fresh start, though I can’t help but think the bleak midwinter is a suboptimal choice of timing for fledgling diets, exercise regimes and teetotalism. This is partly because I am always in the throws of near-hibernation due to the long hours of darkness and lack of sunshine, and partly because my birthday falls less than two weeks into the year and I do enjoy celebrating with a glass of prosecco or two. I must also confess to a typically British approach to progress, well summed up by Kate Fox:
‘What do we want?’
‘When do we want it?’
‘In due course.’
Bemoaning change has been a habit of my lifetime, but more recently I have started to challenge myself. Very often the changes we would like to make in our lives are stalled not by fear or lack of ability or resources but by inertia, apathy and the comfort of routine. We meet a friend at the same time in the usual coffee shop, walk predictable aisles each week to choose a near identical trolley of food, skim the menu in a much loved restaurant and simply pick our favourite items each time, indeed it makes us feel warm inside if we are able to simply ask for ‘the usual’.
But trying something new does not mean abandoning comfortable favourites forever, if you don’t like the coffee shop across the street you don’t have to go again next time, if the Chablis isn’t as good, go back to the Sancerre. But these little experiments are worthwhile; it’s how we meet new people, discover new music or food and find new passions. Besides, the terrible wine can always be used for cooking and a disastrous meal somewhere new is far more memorable than a forty third visit to an old favourite.
This is not me evangelising about quitting your job and following your dreams. Quite the opposite in fact. By mid-February most resolutions are abandoned until next year precisely because they are too ambitious; we impose on ourselves a whole new routine starting on an arbitrary date. We seek to enforce rigidity without habit or inclination and actually stop ourselves from trying new things. So instead of promising to force yourself twice a week into the drizzle to pound the dark streets alone, ask a friend to run with you or try out some local exercise groups. Instead of becoming a gluten-free vegan for a month, try getting a veg box delivered and use it to have an enjoyable meat free day every week by experimenting with ingredients you wouldn’t normally use. Instead of becoming a recluse to save money, invite friends over instead of going out. Email an old friend, try a different brand of ketchup, walk on the other side of the street. Life is not about deprivation – find something this January that makes you happy or improves your life.
Disclaimer: As Netflix is removing ‘The Good Wife’ at the end of the month and I am hooked and only on season 2, I will mostly be watching that back to back until midnight for the next fortnight and not trying anything new at all.