Stay away from should/ must/have to!

Q: Is February too late for New Year’s resolutions?

A: Not when you’re a ‘Lunisolarist’.

I struggled with not being despondent when on 10 January 2015
I was still behaving as badly as I had been on 31 December 2014.
It was a bumpy road that first week or so. Initially I
justified no behavioural change by thinking: “It’s ridiculous
to think that after all those festivities I could just stop, dead
in my tracks, and anyway the sun was still out!”
Then it occurred to me that it was not the end of the
school holidays, “so cut yourself some slack,” I thought. I then
realised that I had forgotten to have children, and didn’t
even know when the school holidays started or finished.
Sneaking now into the beginning of the third week
of January, I started driving past the wholefood shops,
looking up detox and cleanse programmes around the
globe. However, realizing that if I was on holiday at some
luxurious resort in Thailand the last thing I would want
to be drinking was seaweed margeritas.
By the end of January my belief in the psychological
power of New Year’s resolutions was fading fast. I reflected
on the previous 20 New Year’s resolutions and realised
that every one had been a failure.
Then it dawned on me that the New Year’s
Eve I had been making promises of self-improvement

By the end of
January my
belief in the
power of New
Year’s resolutions
was fading fast.

to and pleas for self-redemption
was the Solar Calendar, the one with the
365 days consisting of 12 months and some
extra days, where you have to sing a little
poem to remember what day it is.
The religions that seemed to adhere to
the Solar calendars really didn’t appear to
engage in having too much fun. There was
lots of reflecting upon one’s wrongdoing,
a time for sacrifice.
The Lunar New Year (Traditional Chinese
New Year) wasn’t occurring until the 19
February 2015, so I’d left myself plenty of
time. I also liked the sentiments of celebrations,
families cleansing the house and
making way for good incoming luck.
The Mayan Calendar had some appeal
with two cycles repeating every 260 days.
They also had a ceremonial calendar which
consisted of 360 days plus five unlucky
days. That made them the most inaccurate
of timekeepers but one long continuous
cycles of religious ‘BBQ’s’.
I decided my procrastination over


indulgent behavior was well entrenched, without entering
into a calendar world that gave me 360 days to play
up and five days to be cursed.

It’s February 2015
Q: So how are you going?
A: Not that well.
Q: Has 1 January changed your life?
A: No, only the bathroom scales have changed.

Well you’re not alone. A large Australian study showed 42% of
2,000 people promised themselves to lose weight, to drink less
alcohol, quit smoking get out of debt, improve mental well-being.
This study showed 92% failed with only 8% succeeding.
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 failed, despite the fact that
52% of the study’s participants were confident of success
at the beginning.
Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they
engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable
goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of
saying “lose weight”), while women succeeded 10% more
when they made their goals public and got support from
their friends.

So, there’s a few points of interest. Blokes utilise goal-setting,
remembering that even when you eat an elephant
you do it one mouthful at a time.
Girls, it would seem that chatting (popular pastime) and
getting the nod from your mates is a good starting point.
Now, what do I have to suggest on the subject?

Stay away from should/ must/have to!
These are the key words for religious and political control over human beings. Should used to be called “shalt”, mostly “shalt not”. Very rarely would one observe in religious scriptures permission to go out and have
fun and not feel guilty about it! In my opinion the binge/purge culture
comes from this attempt at control. “I will never eat cake again in my life. I have to stop drinking, I must be perfect.” This type of highly pressurised thinking leads to rebellion, guilt and a sense of failure. So therefore it sets up the cycle of attempt/fail/binge. When your internal dialogue is more realistic and words inferring choice are used, you are far more likely to have success. If you go to have a drink or a cigarette when you weren’t going to, think: “I could have a cigarette now but then I could chose
not to. If I have a cigarette this afternoon, what’s the worst that can happen?” You start again that evening or the following day. The motivation to change is what is important – even if you are at the stage where you “want to want to” but you’re not quite at the “want to” stage. You are
contemplating change which, in Change Theory, is the first stage of coming completely out of denial, eventually bringing you closer to achieving the goal.

How am I going?
Well, with the change to the lunar calendar, I had a nice extension until 19 February and so minimised the pressure. Then being a woman
I made it public what I was going to do. Then I went off to a hypnotist. I’m doing well, with no struggle. All I had to do was to decide that I didn’t want to continue with one of my vices, got some help and “Bingo!” … Whoops, not completely cured. ▪

The motivation to change is what is
important – even if you are at the
stage where you “want to want
to” but you’re not quite at the “want
to” stage.”

Gwendoline Smith is a New Zealand trained clinical psychologist. In her private practice she specialises in working with depression and anxiety with a particular interest in treating worry. She is the founder of the New Zealand destigmatisation campaign “Like Minds” (currently fronted by Sir John Kirwan). She has presented seminars within the law community on “stress and lawyers” as well as individual work with lawyers in her practice. Her thoughts are: “Yes there are very similar factors for lawyers as anyone else dealing with stress in their environment. However, there are considerations that are very specific/idiosyncratic to the law profession that also need to be taken into consideration”. Gwendoline works from specialist rooms in Vermont Street Ponsonby and can be contacted on 09 360 0360.