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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Charlotte Bray | Vive La Resolution!

This opinion piece is almost 9 years old

It’s that time of year: gym memberships are renewed, wine remains uncorked, tumble weeds drift down deserted confectionery aisles. New Year’s resolutions – we love them; we hate them.

Charlotte Bray: Tea and Cake
Charlotte Bray: Tea and Cake

I have five SMART resolutions listed under sub-headings. Shocker. And one of my ongoing goals is to be friendlier. Huge thanks to everyone who entered into the spirit of this by suggesting words for this interactive column.

Sit back and gasp in amazement as I weave these seamlessly into a work of literary brilliance. (One of my other resolutions is to be less modest apparently.)

So it’s January. We’re all a bit skint. We’re feeling the size of a hippopotamus from the Christmas over-consumption and the sunshine seems far away.

Why, at such a bleak time of year, do we get the burning desire to set unrealistic goals? Working in the voluntary sector we have targets that would make many a hard-nosed businessman sweat. Why this inexplicable, flummoxing, discombobulating need to set more? Why discombobulate ourselves further? Do we not have enough discombobulation!

For me the issue is not the resolutions but my failure to achieve them. Come March and the back has broken on my motivation. The gym membership has lapsed, the corks have popped and the sweeties are filling up my desk drawer. Until recently I got into the habit of assuming, therefore, that setting personal goals was worthless. But then, I thought, no – I needed to move on from my floccinaucinihilipilification.

Last year was the first year I achieved all five of my strategic objectives. Sorry, resolutions. Yes I made them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. More importantly, I made them enjoyable. I injected a bit of creativity and fun into them.

Who wants to give up nice stuff that makes them feel better? Unless of course you make yourself feel better by pushing grannies under cars and being mean to kittens. I’m not saying we should make a resolution to eat more chocolate, I just think it makes sense to feel good keeping my resolution. One year I gave up caffeine until I was ordered back onto it by my friends…

One of my resolutions last year was to run the Mighty Deerstalker. Admittedly that wasn’t at all fun, but it fall into resolution type 2: the one that makes you feel great at the end of it and makes life better all round.

It can be hard to remain positive and motivated when you’re four questions into a 20 page Lottery funding application, trying to craft a compelling case for some intangible cultural heritage or storytelling project. In the same way as I find it easier to write a passionate application when I have my beneficiaries in mind, I find any goal more achievable when I focus on the end.

My advice is to pull a chair beside the roaring fire, take a dram of MacAllan (unless your resolution was to give up alcohol) and focus on your vision. Watch it blossom in your imagination, like the lovely fruit and vegetables at Shettleston. Imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve finished four hours of hellish running through dark and mud and icy water. Yes, I really hated the Deerstalker.

One final thing I learned from writers’ club last night. (Yes, I’m in a writers’ club. Believe me, this would be even more badly written if I weren’t.) Persistence pays off. Enid Blyton had 500 rejections before she was published. Much as we’d love all Santa’s elves to come and do the hard work for us, some things are only achieved through terrier-like determination. To be persistent is sometimes more important than to be talented, or a genius. Of course we’re all talented geniuses too.

So there we go – this is my crash course in resolutions. Make them fun; get creative; have the end in sight. And one more thing – phone a friend. Why assume partnership working is always good? Because sometimes it is. It’s your goal, but those who care about you care about the things you value. Get a friend to egg you on; share your dreams of where you’ll be when you’ve achieved that great thing. It’s so much friendlier with two.

Together, we can achieve anything. See, we wrote a column!

Happy New Year everyone!




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