I HAVE made New Year’s Resolutions before, like an ordinary person, and broken them before, like an ordinary person.
I didn’t stop making Resolutions out of some weakness or inner strength. I just felt that too many years of these attempts needed a new approach, and so far it’s working better than the past.
My fail points, as an ordinary person, were numerous: the Resolutions themselves were difficult because they were simplistic; the process was doomed because it was scheduled yet impulsive; keeping these Resolutions was near-impossible because they were just statements with the most unrealistic timelines.
New Year’s Resolutions always reminded me of the Uganda Cranes player back in the 1990s who told my brother how their coach at the time would show up during the half-time break and tell them, while clapping one hand into the other: “Yongera mu amaanyi!” (‘Put in more energy!’)
This went on game after game and they kept losing game after game till one day they mutinied and asked him: “Naye tuwongere mu amaanyi tutya?!” (‘Exactly WTF are we supposed to do and how?!’)
See, bila mupango the ordinary person always stands little chance of getting anything done. Hence the definition of ‘implementation’ as “the process of putting a decision or plan into effect; execution.”
The ‘plan’ with New Year’s Resolutions always seemed to be: “Say words. Do things.”
Most chaps who said, “I will Drink less alcohol in the New Year” or words to that effect found themselves back down the same road.
Week One was always easy because when you are coming out of the holiday season you automatically imbibe less alcohol. There are fewer parties, there is less money, work has resumed and inconveniences alcoholic pursuits, and so on and so forth.
But if you haven’t computed how much alcohol you drank last year, you can’t tell whether the amount you are drinking in the New Year is “less”.
“I will Stop drinking alcohol” has its own issues.
I knew a guy called Daudi who pushed the envelope for about two months then found himself being sent in one general direction. Because of his new non-alcoholic schedule he started spending more time at home.
(I personally know this to be dangerous to one’s mental health if one is unprepared for it, but that’s another story that involves a meeting called by my domestic staff demanding my absence.)
See, Daudi, for instance, would find himself doing unnecessary things and getting stuck at one conclusion. One day he tackled a bouquet of flowers that had been placed in a large see-through vase of water filled only halfway.
He couldn’t walk me through the thinking process that suggested this was a problem. But eventually found he had to wipe a table and mop the floor, only to face an irate wife who couldn’t believe the flower arrangement she was taking to some bridal shower had been destroyed.
As she told him off he had one thought running through his mind: “Or I go to the bar?”
Some days later, something made him try out D-I-Y and he chose to paint part of a verandah wall. As he was buying up materials he was mentally patting himself on the back with thoughts like: “Kale, that could have been three beers.” and “Imagine! There I would have bought two Coconuts (Waragi ones)!”
Hours into the project, however, he began to appreciate the different professions that exist out there. His paint wouldn’t stick to the wall and the colour looked different from the one in the Pinterest photo. He broke down and called a painter who slapped him in the brain by asking, “Did you sand the walls?”
What was that, even?
As expected, he hung up with the thought: “Or I go to the bar?”
But he had to clean up before attempting to leave, and as he did so he found mournful thoughts in his head such as: “Kale, that could have been three beers!” and “Imagine! There I could have bought two Coconuts!”
Yeah, like any ordinary person, he was in the bar before long, appreciating the bartender’s professionalism.
If only he’d planned it, I explained, he would have stood a chance. He should have replaced his alcohol with another pursuit or set of pursuits – including flower arrangements and wall-painting, but gone at them systematically.
“See, you didn’t just go to a bar and start drinking large amounts of alcohol,” I explained to him, “It took a while for you to learn how to drink, what not to drink, how to deal with mixing alcohol and what not to mix, and dealing with the hangovers, right?”
So, logic would have it, his plan required him to first learn the alcohol replacement activities before engaging in them – all of which would have taken enough time for him to be weaned off the alcohol consumption and being in a bar situation.
Bila mupango, nothing will happen. You need a plan in order to implement.
So all those statements that people keep making fwaaa will go nowhere and will do so very slowly because a year is LOOOONG!
And the idea behind a plan is to borrow a leaf from companies or corporate entities. None of them goes into business with the objective of “Making a profit”. <— say something like that during a job interview and you’ve failed.
Those organisations – the successful ones – go into their business year with a clear profit objective and specific targets, with plans of how to achieve them, which they employ people to carry out with frequent checks along the way to ensure they are on track.
The specificity of the targets companies set for themselves will not accept, for instance, an objective (Resolution) like: “I will Go to the Gym.” because there is no clear end result of that.
If your resolution is to go to the gym you could drive there every single day and without setting one foot out of your car, drive on to a bar nearby to find a frustrated paint-splattered Daudi.
The person who sets out to “Go to the Gym AND WORKOUT at least Two Times A Week” is more likely to attract the attention of serious people.
Companies will set targets which will be cascaded to their staff in a way that everybody gets their own individual targets that they must perform certain tasks (aka ‘work’) to achieve.
You could do the same – if your objective (again – Resolution) is to read one book from start to end every month throughout the year, in order to develop your mind and establish a book reading habit, then your spouse should be tasked with ensuring you have a fresh book every month, and the children must leave you alone for one hour every evening to do your reading as they do their homework.
These companies then ensure that they have serious managers who, in most cases, are incentivised differently from staff. The roles of the managers are many but include keeping an eye on targets, making sure the staff stay on track in the right direction so that company objectives are met, and motivating the staff.
As an individual you might not hire a manager but you could get what a close friend of mine calls an ‘Accountability Partner’ – a person who keeps you accountable, on track and somehow motivated. By the way money is not, apparently, motivation; but if you are motivated by money then give your Accountability Partner money to give you if you stay on track.
That”s like placing a bet on yourself to hit your target. I know a guy called Okello (not really but it doesn’t matter) who quit smoking because he wagered Ushs500,000 at The Junction Bar in Ntinda one night that he would do so. The guys at The Junction Bar are so widespread and have a vibrant WhatsApp group so there are few places Okello can go to and sneak a cigarette.
To make matters worse, they told his wife about the wager and added her to the supervision list. I say ‘matters worse’ because should he risk Ushs500,000 leaving their household she will kill him that day; and she has been fighting hard to make him quit smoking so…
…Okello has about 100 Accountability Partners for his no smoking objective.
The list of possibilities in implementing your New Year’s Resolutions is long and, for me, exciting because of the planning element. This year I’ve been asked to share my personal plan but my Accountability Partners (the family – who also had to do the same) are the only ones getting the actual plan in full.
The rest of you can take this as a glimpse into what someone’s 2019 could look like if they chose to plan their ‘Resolutions’. The last slide indicates some of the routines a person following this plan would have to follow.
A plan without routines makes you an aimless adult – and that’s an insult.