It might ring a bit of a chord if I give you my current tally of New Year’s resolutions: 3 broken, 2 may not make it past the first week. You may be doing a lot better than me at the steely resolve part, but in case you’re flagging already, here are some common resolutions, and some reading material to help (or at least to let you procrastinate a bit longer before putting on that exercise DVD):
I will do loads of exercise and become seriously kick-ass
This is a bit of a strange one, but I find you need to turn to apocalypse or fantasy for inspiration to get fit or go running. After all, if I can’t run up a flight of stairs without collapsing in a heap, it’s likely that this will, er, probably not kill me, at least not straight away. I don’t want to dismiss the many benefits exercise can bring to your health, but this is a major problem for I’ll-do-it-tomorrow-itis, because so long as you do some exercise at some point of the week, it doesn’t have to be right now. However, reading about people who are a pointy fingernail’s breadth from a zombie’s grasp, or who fight for their lives on a daily basis, gets the heart rate up and the muscles tensing before you even leave the house. Try Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, or the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.
My house will be permanently gleaming…
I read Longbourn by Jo Baker over the holidays and it’s funny how a more extreme version of something helps with inspiration. I don’t have to spend my life cleaning rich people’s silver or washing out their menstrual napkins (crosses fingers), but by god, by the time I’d finished reading about it I nearly cleaned the bathroom floor just to see what actual down on your knees scrubbing was like.
… and decluttered
Books where people have very few possessions are pretty good for this, such as the Little House books. These are startlingly bleak in places, and as the family have to pack up all their belongings every now and then to fit them into the wagon, they have to cherish what they have. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is also great for appreciating a few possessions instead of having a wardrobe to choose from.
I will eat healthily
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki would turn anyone off the meat industry; Big Brother by Lionel Shriver takes a good look at the psychology of weight loss and obesity, as well as making you realise that eating diet milkshakes for months is probably bad for your health. Tipping the scales in the other direction, I had an Enid Blyton binge over Christmas thanks to a younger sister’s collection, and the Famous Five are constantly eating delicious homespun meals, with a big emphasis on salad picked straight from the garden, hand-reared ham and farm-fresh eggs – it’s like a literary farmers’ market.
I will get my act together and generally sort my life out
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons delivers a bracing dose of no-nonsense common sense that could get even a committed procrastinator to grasp the nettle. Whether your stumbling block is a tyrannical family member, a career crisis or something nasty in the woodshed, Flora Poste can handle it, and give you a home makeover, train your dog and rescue your business at the same time.
What resolutions did you make, and are you managing to keep any of them? Are there any books that you find unexpectedly helpful when short on willpower?