Picture yourself coming to the end of 2016. You are absolutely done with this year and are ready to throw it behind you as you enter into the unlimited possibilities of 2017. Maybe one thing you’d like to do is get healthier, and you put this down as a resolution. Don’t get it twisted, you’ve always wanted to be healthier, but this time you’re serious about it. You’ve stocked your fridge with kale and almond milk and you’ve invested in a gym membership. You’re. So. Ready. This time.
But before you realise, it’s January the 5th, and you’re yet to start your diet. Either that, or you’ve interrupted it after getting caught up in the seductive lure of pizza. At this point, you may be carrying a sense of guilt or defeat.
You really wanted to start the year right, and veering off so early on makes the memory of that meal not so nice. Not being so quick as to give up, you opt to start again next week, but by the time it comes, you’ve decided to abandon your diet. And as for the gym? Ha - you’re wondering why I’m even bringing it up.
Somehow, January has become synonymous with new beginnings, second chances, and opportunity; particularly after a year of procrastination. It is the month to which so many pin their hopes on. Where if ambitions aren’t taken seriously, they’re pushed over to the next week, month, or year where you’ll be more prepared. Next time, I’ll wake up early enough to go jogging; next time, I’ll have breakfast; next time, I’ll remember to pray; spend time with my friends; put work into my education; start my career; call my family,
Next time, I’ll say no to pizza.
Now, I don’t need to tell you that procrastination is one hell of a drug. It can keep you tied over for as long as you want it to. “Next time” may never come. And it’s a daunting thing to imagine that putting something off could result in you taking it to your grave.
Maybe it’s due to guilt, or a sense of failure. Maybe that’s why we retreat into our comfort zones. After all, nobody indulges in defeat, and defeat is a lot more likely to happen when change is embraced. Leaving that comfort zone means that you will step into unfamiliar territory, where it will take time to get accustomed to the mannerisms. Every step is suddenly an active, conscious decision, and takes a tremendous amount of discipline to keep going. Sometimes - most of the time actually, it will be easier to run back to your sense of security and continue doing what you know best until you’re comfortable with the outside world.
But when has anybody been comfortable, or at peace with the unknown? If our history books could, they’d laugh at us bitterly.
Whilst comfort zones can be… comfortable, it isn’t what life is about. So often we’ll watch films, or read books that boast of adventure, a kind of adventure that happens because of change, and leads to change. A kind of adventure that takes the protagonist out of their comfort zones and makes them stand in the midst of the unknown. And we love it. We applaud screenwriters and authors for it, yet so many of us seem afraid to start our own adventures.
Of course, there is the unspoken fact that truth isn’t akin to fiction; that you aren’t guaranteed the storyline that so many protagonists are given. But in any well written book or film, these protagonists feel exactly the same as you - they had no idea what was in store for them; what obstacles they would face. Lucy Pevensie wanted to win a game of hide and seek (Narnia); Nombeko Mayeki wanted to visit the library (The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden); and Luke Skywalker had a crush (Star Wars)! What made them achieve more than they’d ever imagined was their persistence. Remaining steadfast in what you set out to do can reap great rewards, because at the end of the day, something’s gotta give.
If acidic raindrops can disfigure a tombstone, then your persistence can break resistance.
Not wanting to seem like I’m trying to sound deep, let me go back to my initial analogy - the “New Year’s Resolution Diet”. The point I’ve been trying to make is that no matter what you set out to do, you are going to face some kind of obstacle. There is going to be something at the back of your mind, causing you to question whether it’s “worth it”. This is normal and it happens to everyone. The important thing is not letting those thoughts get the better of you. You might slip up along the way, but every (realistic) protagonist does.
Slipping up does not equal permanent failure.
There were certain things I’d wanted to do in 2016 that, when I didn’t start in January, never happened. It’s like I tripped up, got embarrassed, and decided to lay flat on my face until December. Almost as if I didn’t realise that each day brings its own second chance. I didn’t need to wait for the “sacred” New Year’s Eve because every day matters. So as we come to the end of the first month of the year, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t used it in the way you’d wanted to. Whilst there is a lot of esteem given to a new year, we can start again every day.