January is a time of new beginnings. It is a time to reflect on the last twelve months and look forward to the changes and improvements you intend to make to your life.
I’ll hold my hands up right now: I’ve never been great at making or keeping grand gesture-type resolutions. If they’re too big or too impractical I tend to fall at the first or second hurdle, usually flat on my face!
In that sense, for me at least, there’s no point setting myself up for failure.
Furthermore, on the whole, I’m actually pretty happy. So why should I go and poke an enormous stick labelled ‘different direction’ through the wheels of my life cycle?
It wouldn’t make sense.
Thinking big is great. I’m not here trying to diminish the power of dreams to change the world. But, in my already packed life, where sometimes I feel the need to intravenously feed myself a dose of adrenaline, my dreams seem to be outpacing me at a rate of knots…. Unable to catch them, while I conjure and cherish new dreams for my children, my dreams now seem intangible. Defunct.
And so, this year I’m going to do something different… instead of setting BIG goals for myself I’m going to consider small improvements instead.
Nothing scary and out-of-reach, just little, achievable changes that I can make to my life in order to crank up my levels of happiness a notch at a time.
I recall Sir Dave Brailsford referring to them as ‘marginal gains’.
In his role as Performance Director at both British Cycling and Team Sky, he’s focused his attention on improving each athlete a hundredth of a second at a time. This might be a fractional alteration to the head position of one rider, or a minute adjustment to the angle that the feet of another are clipped into the pedal.
Each one, however, will result in a tiny improvement. And, at the end of each season, each cyclist will be a better competitor than the previous year.
Now, I’m a pretty fit guy but I’m far from a performance athlete. So, how can this method and approach transfer itself to my life?
Does it work in reality when you’re juggling a full time professional career, a marriage and two kids who, in the nicest way possible, are all-consuming?
Fortunately, for me, it does!
So, in no particular order, I have decided on two small resolutions this year. They both concern my personal life rather than professional life (I have enough CPD reflections and reviews as a teacher as it is) and, I’m pretty confident I can achieve them.
One of my great passions is the outdoors
There’s something about being in a classroom with teenagers all day that makes me want to escape outside! I live for my family outdoor time and, when I’m not outside, I’m usually blogging about it.
I’ve hiked since I was a nipper. There’s something relaxing, spiritual even, about mountains, fells and moors. I try to take at least one of my two children with me on every single hike, it provides them with some quality outdoor time away from the digital distractions of modern life.
And who benefits from all of this?
My entire family, that’s who.
Our outdoor time has always been a shared, collective experience. Basically I’ve just made a pledge to spend even more quality time with my family. Result!
My wife needs more ‘me time’
The other marginal gain I’ve set myself this year is to make sure my wife has more ‘me time’. This may seem like a cheat resolution after all it isn’t this one of her resolutions, but I’m proud of our strong family unit and want to ensure that every cog keeps turning well.
My wife works in a very demanding profession (she’s a Social Worker in a Children’s Services department) and she struggles to switch off. Add coming home late regularly and raising our two young children (three if you include me) into that mix, and sometimes I look at her and think… you need a break.
What she does with her ‘me time’ up to her. Go to the gym, go for a coffee, or visit family. I really don’t care if she plugs herself into an electrical socket for an hour to recharge. What I do care about is her emotional state and her physical energy levels. And, at the end of 2018, if I’ve remained focused in looking after her health and wellbeing, when I’m tired, stressed or overworked, I’ll have the marginal gain of an alert, happy and appreciative wife to care for me right back.
So, that’s my personal approach to New Year resolutions: think little for marginal gains! Why don’t you give it a try?
Remember… It’s not about engineering ways to avoid failure and disappointment. It’s about getting the little things right. Long term, lots of these little things will make the biggest difference.