2019: new year, new plan – no resolutions

2019: new year, new plan – no resolutions

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?”

Of course.

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.


i’ll be spring cleaning before making any new year resolutions

I DON’T disdain New Year Resolutions, but over the years I have relegated them to lower than ’Spring Cleaning’ or whatever term we will use in our Ugandan climate for this.
Subconsciously, I believed ‘Spring Cleaning’ to be the heavy cleaning that people did in their homes during that season of the year, having come out of Winter and the entropic accumulations at the end of the year.
The way it worked, as the season turned from the bleak, grey, cold Winter to the bright, warm, flowery time of Spring, people opened up their windows and doors and took the opportunity to clean out their homes and let fresh air in once again.
The idea that it was linked to European seasons that we don’t have down here rankled me a little bit until I checked my trusted internet for more on the origins of this Spring Cleaning that I was going to rename and then promote over New Year Resolutions, and found that it didn’t actually originate in Europe. The practice originated possibly somewhere in Bible times when the Jews took it up as part of the observance of the Passover, or even earlier in Persia of the 2nd Century CE.
We don’t have our seasons ordered in the European manner, in spite of what the nursery rhymes and our primary school teachers kept reciting; nevertheless, the term ‘Spring Cleaning’ appropriately accommodates what we should generally be doing at around this time.
Well, New Year Resolutions are supposed to work more or less the same way, but for the mind and soul. So during an eclectic late night discussion over the matter during the holidays, a couple of us arrived at the idea that we could premise any Resolutions we needed to make on physical cleaning and make them more realistic.
Rather than just cleaning, we agreed, we could take the opportunity to do renovations and rehabilitations around our homes during this holiday season so we start the year off in cleaner, fitter, more organised environments. This was the time to tighten all the loose screws, replace faulty bulbs, oil doors, check and clean out plumbing, fumigate, paint, fix furniture and fittings…
All the things that most New Year Resolutions claim to do for the body and soul, but more visible.
The day after that discussion, I started summoning my usual supplier of these services and set them to work as I pulled on my own gloves and went round on an enhanced Do-It-Yourself session.
One of my relations realised that the party they traditionally host during the holiday gave them the perfect opportunity to put this cleaning exercise onto their calendar, and will this year be adding cleaning and repairs onto their party budget.
Re-organising, cleaning up and doing general repairs in our homes, it turns out, is even more appropriate during the Christmas and New Year’s break because many of us can take time off to stay at home and supervise the work being done so it is free of the comedic drama that many tradesmen bring along as part of their service (which is the subject of many other stories I am posting online).
This week, though, I am happy to be proclaiming NO verbal New Year Resolutions but enjoying a much more meaningful and long-lasting physical clean up exercise around me that will make it easier to make those life changes that I can refer to as Resolutions.
I suspect that the discovery of gym bags and exercise apparel while cleaning out certain corners of the house, for instance, might trigger off some guilt that will cause me to exercise a little bit more. And if a few of those diet books that some (rude) people insist on giving me as gifts fall off bookshelves as we arrange libraries in alphabetical order by author, then maybe they will find themselves in the kitchen and open before meals are cooked.
My cleaning exercises, therefore, will take precedence over making New Year Resolutions now and in the future, so that the resolutions themselves are more logical, orderly and implementable.

fifteen new year’s resolution guides for 2015

I AM not always keen on New Year’s Resolutions because I find they don’t always work for people like me.
People like me who felt deprived of something or the other in their childhood, broke free at a certain point and there was nothing, not even good, common sense, that was going to stop us from catching up.
We did everything we couldn’t do as children and yet thought was “fun” or “cool”, and we went overboard.
Once we found ourselves swimming in the lake of life we floundered, and got deeper and deeper into rivers and sometimes the ocean of all the vices we had suddenly discovered.
People like me are also easily distracted, even before you throw in work, family, the wider family, Twitter, Instagram Facebook, the side-job, social work, pals, TV entertainment and downloads…and so on and so forth.
So for us to commit to big time life-changes kick-starting from one date and then sticking to them for a whole year is really hard.
It doesn’t even work if people like me tend to forget the pledges we make to ourselves, then set calendar reminders and get spouses to nag us constantly as reminder tactics. Life only conspires to remind us of these resolutions some time in December when it dawns on us that we have to make resolutions again for the coming year.
So this year I am going at it differently; I am choosing 15 different things to do throughout 2015 that will be easy to implement, easy to measure, and also make changes to my life and the lives of many other people besides.
The tactic is quite simple: choose small things that are easy to do, clearly measurable, and that make a big difference not just to self, but to many other people as well.
That last bit of the big difference to other people means that it is harder to make a personal, single-minded decision to just drop whatever life-changing action you chose. You can decide to resume drinking, for instance, because dammit the hangover is yours anyway, right?
But if you commit to giving an orphanage a certain number of packets of milk every month you can’t just stop doing so because you will be depriving all those little children of a pleasure and benefit that they wouldn’t have had in the first place if you hadn’t started doing it.
And the resolution points are quite simple to arrive at – for instance:
1. Consult one global expert on a key issue every day – not always by talking to them, but by reading their blogs and articles, Ted Talkswatching their TED Talks, reading their books. This is every easy to do and only takes up about five to ten minutes of one’s time every day. Other People Element? Commit to sharing one lesson per day to people who will take you to task for it.
2. Read at least one article every day on exercise and fitness – See how idea number one works so easily? I thought this one up by way of consulting a global expert in a TED Talk. Meanwhile, it’s easier to read about exercise and fitness than to start out actually going to the gym or hitting the road with running shoes, and reading will make me more likely to exercise…eventually.
Other People Element? Share the article with people you know also need the drive or who might be useful as in 11. below
3. Watch a comedy or read something humorous for thirty minutes every day – which will, without a doubt, make one more pleasant company to be around.
Other People Element? The people that you interact with will definitely be the winners here.
4. Thank an individual every day for something they have done – which may sound mushy, but if you do this you will probably close the year with 365 more people with a positive disposition towards you than before. Make sure the persons you than are not necessarily friends or relatives and this works even more wonders (and, of course, it can’t be the same person every day). If I do this I will maintain maintain a list of all the people I thank and the things I am thankful to them for.
Other People Element? That individual (or those individuals) that you thank will be the winners, for sure!
5. Water my plants at least once every single day without My Petuniasfail, provided I am at home – which has the additional pull of making you go home every day…not that I don’t but you know what I mean.
Other People Element? Your housemates (read family if you live with your family).
6. Plant 50 trees a month in both Wakiso and Hoima – or wherever you come from and wherever you live, so that you hit this mark one way or another. The number could be one, five, ten, fifty or a thousand – just choose one that you will make happen.
Other People Element? Of course, the people that you hire or employ to manage those trees.
7. Buy at least ten (10) goats between now and December 2015 – another simple resolution and one that only requires you to put aside the equivalent of one goat’s purchase cost every month starting January. And to put aside land for the goats to graze. And the salary of a goatherd. And…well, this could easily become more and more complicated, but after achieving the goal, if you mix up the genders appropriately, then you can sit back and watch the herd growing month on month.
Other People Element? The goat-herd…
8. Donate 20 packets of milk (or something) to an orphanage or children’s home every month – very easy to do, especially if the orphanage or children’s home is along your daily route home or to work. A packet of milk is, about Ushs3,000 at most so it’s like stopping for a little fuel every single day. Alternatively, you could pay a milk supply place near the orphanage/home and make arrangements for people from that place to collect the milk when they want it. You could replace milk with cereal or a tray of eggs or anything that you’d want your own children to have on a regular without thinking about it, and change the lives of some vulnerable, disadvantaged little ones who have never thought their prayers would be answered in this way.
Other People Element? Too obvious to go into now.
9. Bless a child every day – not like in 8. above; I mean just say a prayer over a child every single day. It could be your child, or my child, or a child you’ve seen on the news. By saying a prayer or whispering to that little one the words, “God bless you”, you are being an angel for real. And all you have to do is to say those three words. The positive wishes and energy alone should suffice to make a difference somewhere in the atmosphere. Don’t go to their beds if they’re not your real children, just say the prayer and go to sleep.
Other People Element? All those little children you bless.
10. Each day, take or serve one less of any food item – this is easier than dieting but must make a difference provided you don’t compensate by taking more of another food item. If you’re a coffee guy, throw in one less spoon of sugar in at least one mug of coffee. If it’s biscuits and you normally scoop up a handful, do the scoop then put back one biscuit. Order for one sausage instead of two. Refuse to eat that other sumbusa during the meeting. Just one food item per day. Or per meal. You will be surprised how much of a habit this becomes across the board, and how much weight control you actually achieve. Just don’t compensate…
Other People Element? This one is tough, but if you’re married then it’s obvious that your significant other should be the main beneficiary.
11. Identify my desired circle of influence and take position – adopted from this simple and very sensible article shared with me by one of my brothers just this week. If I want to be a good piano player, I’ve got to start hanging out with good piano players; if I want to be a good gardener, I’ve got to start hanging out with good gardeners; likewise for anything else I hope to achieve. Some of what they have got must rub off on me.
The bit of that article (see link above) that really grips you is the one that goes:

If you hang around five confident people, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five intelligent people, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five millionaires, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five idiots, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five broke people, you will be the sixth.

It’s inevitable.

Other People Element? All the people that associate with you in whatever way are the beneficiaries here, also because you become the type of person that THEY also eventually latch on to.
12. Exercise the mind – and this can be done in a variety of ways; do a crossword puzzle, or Sudoku, or a quick quiz, or try to recall the minute details of a long ago event such as that Bukuku the gatekeeper story…something that makes the mind strain a little bit. You will be grateful when you’re 75 and still able to recall details that the 15 year olds running this country then will find amazing – like the events of 1986.
Other People Element? Believe me, the more you sharpen your mind the better company you become for more and more people, which you don’t notice until it just hits you. And when you one day show too much of an interest in stuff like Zaro (is that how she spells it?) they will remind you.
13. Focus on creating one long-term, special gift for someone later this year – and this doesn’t need to go to the most special person in your life, but to someone who will realise what effort First Aid Kityou put into that gift and will be all the more touched by it. Plant a small tree, for instance, or a pot of tomatoes or spices or herbs; or stock up a First Aid box over the next six months with a wide range of medicines, salves, plasters and bandages. – even spending Ushs3,000 a month could stock up a very well populated first aid box that could save lives.
Other People Element? You’re joking, right?
14. ‘Invest’ something small into the village every month – this matters very greatly especially if you live in the city, and is linked closely to 6, 7 and probably 8 above. The amounts that city dwellers in Uganda spend on ordinary stuff every day could create miracles in most upcountry settings. That lunch time buffet of Ushs15,000 could drop Orange or Mango seedlings into ten homesteads in your village and make you appear to be an aspiring Member of Parliament (MP), yet you’d be changing the nutritional situations of some people as well as providing them a kind of income arrangement. Of course, you’ve got to appropriate your intervention to your particular village and what goes on there, so use your brain (see number 12 above). In order not to attract the wrath of your MP, this being a campaign year, you could use them and make this part of your campaign contribution to them, and maybe even rally other city-dwelling villagemates to do the same so that many of you make a massive difference overall, together.
Other People Element? All the people who take that investment seriously will certainly stand to benefit, as will the MP who headlines your initiative.
15. Building on 14. above, what about mobilising your family – right away so that each of you in the family, for instance, puts aside just Ushs10,000 per month beginning January, aiming at a big Christmas gift for your local health centre or school or something. Think about all the people you spent Christmas time with in the village and consider how much you’d collect if each of you put aside just Ushs10,000 a month from now to December, and then choose something worth that amount of money as your Family Christmas Gift.
If you can mobilise the entire family then they won’t feel shy fuelling up to go to the village with boxes of cornflakes and packs of sausages in coolers, with your own first aid boxes (like in 13. above) that are possibly more stocked than the local dispensary…
Other People Element? Again, you’re joking asking this, right?
Note: I am NOT doing all the above…or not saying that I am going to do it all. These are guides to stuff YOU could do quite simply and still make a difference to your life as well as the lives of other people.
It’s almost a resolution itself to drop the habit of making those boring, normal, selfish, non-functional New Year’s Resolutions that nobody ever really keeps, or that few people care about anyway, for ones that are simple, measurable, and have an impact on other people rather than ourselves.

a new year’s resolution guide – or you could just be good all the time

IN two days’ time the less informed will be “making New Year’s Resolutions”, which for most people is just the start of an annual process of breaking promises that one did not even need to make in the first place.

I would never discourage anyone from starting off, since even the week or so that most people spend adhering to their stated promise is helpfully better than nothing.

But by now, we should be fast forwarding past light resolutions. Quitting smoking and heavy drinking, going to the gym, eating healthy and other such are ranked low in necessity – and thankfully, IQ tests and work appraisals don’t look into such things.

They mostly fail, anyway, because there is rarely a guide that goes along with them; I’ve made many a resolution in the past following the usual procedure that involves being in a heightened state of emotions and reciting the so-called resolution to a loved one.

I eventually learnt that they are easier to keep if they are planned and follow some sort of guide, rather than made verbally and backed by memory. Most resolutions evaporate with the New Year’s hangover, as do the witnesses who should monitor implementation. 

We need heavy yet simple resolutions, well-planned and documented; resolutions based on serious premise involving a behaviour change that will make an impact on our own lives and those of the people we come into contact with – called ‘stakeholders’, in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. 

Wish-list resolutions about corruption would be good, but are irrational because the corrupt have a material objective that can’t just be wished away – they want to eat good food, drive fast or big or new cars, live in big houses… They can’t go without these things in exchange for integrity or the respect of other respectable people in society.

We would also be remiss in hoping that civil servants would make resolutions to not squander public resources or prioritise spending better so that ordinary Ugandans of humble means can have their lives uplifted or improved; it’s much easier for them to use these resources for self-aggrandisement.

Let’s go for resolutions that anyone can meet simply and evidently.

The best are contained in a simple but powerful text – ‘Desiderata’, by United States poet Max Ehrmann. Read it and follow:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

That’s all – Strive to be happy, in this New Year.