The trick to New Year Resolutions.

People are often discouraged from making New Years Resolutions – having the thought that they’re doomed to fail.

And if their resolution is to lose weight, quit smoking, or go for a run everyday, then they’re probably right.

If, by the end of January you haven’t started that diet, or you’ve missed a few running days, or you’re still smoking, it’s easy to see how someone would give up at the point, and ‘try again next year’.

The trick to New Year Resolutions – is to not make them these large lifestyle decisions that involve ongoing maintenance.

Instead – make your New Year Resolutions things you can do once, tick them off, and then they’re done.

For example, last year I had resolutions like:

  • Watch The Revenant 
  • Watch Batman vs Superman (See my review here).
  • Watch Independence Day: Resurgence (I missed this one at the theatre, but watched it later at home. See my review here).
  • Cook a recipe from a recipe book 1.
  • Cook a recipe from a recipe book 2.
  • Make trifle.
  • Jump in a lake/sea naked. (See the video here).
  • Read a book written by a woman (The only book I read all year, see my review here).
  • Go to the Te Papa Gallipoli exhibit (I missed this one).

People laugh when I mention that I have seeing movies as a New Year Resolution. But the point is – these are movies that I want to see, and I get a sense of satisfaction from achieving things I set out to do. We shouldn’t sell ourselves short in deciding what we do and don’t want to do with our lives.

Cooking a recipe from a recipe book sounds easy enough – but I don’t usually use recipe books, so this forced me to get out of my comfort zone. I made meatballs once, they were nice and I’d make them again, and chilli con carne – but that didn’t really turn out.

This year – my resolutions are a little more ambitious.

I still have some easy ones, like:

  • Watch Wonder Woman
  • Watch Dunkirk

But overall they’re more ambitious. I have some sensible ones

  • Buy insurance
  • Go to the dentist (Make your yearly checkup a New Year Resolution)
  • Create an emergency kit.

And some big ones

  • Make a board game (Definition of Done: Prototype is created, rules written, not necessarily fully balanced, but is playable).
  • Save $2000 for a holiday.

But, you say,  what about those big things – losing weight, going to bed on time, quitting smoking – where are they being prioritised?

My answer to this, you don’t need New Year Resolutions to do these things. These are things that you should be doing anyway,  not just because it’s a New Year.

You can find ways to incorporate achievable New Year Resolutions into your wider lifestyle goals. For example, you could put ‘participate in a half marathon’ on your resolutions. You wouldn’t have to run the half marathon, in order to achieve the resolution; you could walk it if you wanted, but this might provide incentive to start running regularly in preparation.

Similarly if you were wanting to quit smoking, you could put ‘Ring the quitline’ on your New Year Resolutions. That’s easily achievable goal you could complete in the first week – and would be a step toward quitting. You could add several more achievable goals to the same effect –  for example ‘buy nicotine gum’.

So there you have – the trick to New Years Resolutions – they’re actually pretty easy.

 

 

Book Review: I am Malala

About a year ago I dated a feminist who had a thing where, with the exception of music, she’d prefer to consume media that was produced by women.

This inspired me, as part of my 2016 New Year Resolutions, to read a book written by a woman.

When I tell people this, they laugh – as if I’m implying that it’s so hard to read a book written by a woman. Actually – this book is the only book I’ve read this year.

It took several attempts to find a book that I could get into. Before I started I Am Malala, I also tried:

  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
    This is a fantasy novel. I got about one quarter through this book. It was well written, but I gave up when it started giving the ins and outs of how magic works. I felt it was too much work for make believe, but maybe I should have stuck with it.
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
    I don’t think I made it through the first chapter of this Man Booker prize winning novel. Every person I mentioned this to who had attempted the book had the same experience.
  • Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton
    I got a couple of chapters through this non-fiction account. It’s quite a dry and logistical account of things – ‘and then I appointed so and so’. It’s not an autobiography, it starts from when she was appointed Secretary of State, and it assumes that you already know a lot about the context of her life and career.

Eventually I picked up I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb, which I was able to finish.

Malala Yousafzai is woman from the Swat region of Pakistan, who in 2012, when she was 15, was shot by members of the Taliban for her involvement in activism advocating education for girls. She survived the shooting and made international headlines.

iammalala

I was impressed with the content of this book. It’s comprehensive. She talks about the history of military coups in Pakistan, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the change of politics since 9/11, and rise of the Taliban in Pakistan.

I learned a lot reading this book. For example:

  • That the Taliban had a very active presence in Pakistan (not just Afghanistan).
  • The history of military coups in Pakistan.
  • The changing nature of politics in the region. For example the conservative, anti-woman politics were something that only arose due to the growing influence of the Taliban.

What’s apparent from the book, and she gives a great deal of attention to – is the role her father played in her becoming the person she is now, and her being targeted by the Taliban. Her father, Ziauddan Yousafzai is an (incredibly brave) outspoken activist for girls’ education and ran a school in the region.

I was impressed with the content of the book, but the writing itself, was a bit overwritten and boring.

A good book for me, makes itself easy to be read. I found with this book, it was quite an effort to read it. Maybe I have a bad reading atttitude, but then I said the same thing when I was reading The Ethical Slut, and found it wasn’t a the case when I read a book that I particularly enjoyed (Everything I ever needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating).

The single thing I would say would make the book better, would be to make it a lot shorter. Shorten all the sentences, and eliminate the cruft. I think the book could about 50-75% of it’s current length.

I suspect that there’s a bit of optics being played here. I imagine the publishers or other advisers felt that a shorter book wouldn’t be taken as seriously, and wouldn’t play into the ‘child genius’ portrayal of Malala. I don’t think Malala isn’t a child genius – she’s clearly very smart – but I don’t think she needs to write an long book to prove it.

Throughout the book Malala consistently asserts her Muslim faith and the book ends with a profession to her faith.

Islam is of course is a central theme in the book. The Taliban are using Islam to justify their world view (where girls shouldn’t be educated, and women should often not be heard from), while Malala holds the view that this world view is not the correct interpretation of Islam.

She doesn’t address atheism, which is disappointing, but perhaps something for a future book. As I’ve said before, I think we should be more critical of religious belief, and so while I like Malala’s politics, I would like to see her address the question of ‘What about athiesm? Is Islamic belief irrational and counter to the science you advocate?’.

Overall – a book packed with good content. I look forward to further books by Malala Yousafzai.