Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Throw caution to the wind and set bold, ambitious goals for yourself

Having quit smoking last year, Selina Denman was at a bit of a loss when it came to her New Year's resolutions for 2018

Quitting smoking strengthens the heart.
Quitting smoking strengthens the heart.

It is now seven (long, hard) months since I stopped smoking. What started as an act of naivety in my teens had turned into a 20-a-day habit by my early 20s and a full-blown part of my persona by my mid-30s. So constant a companion was my packet of Marlboro Lights, that pretty much every photograph taken of me over the last few years has a trademark trail of smoke extending out from my left hand.

The first day of Ramadan was my personal D-day. Because I would have had to drastically reduce consumption anyway, it seemed like as good a time as any. I haven’t had a single cigarette since. It has been hard and uncomfortable and infuriating and overwhelming and, at times, a little akin to grief. But it is done.

This alone was enough to ensure that 2017 can be dubbed a success (even if just on a technicality), but it did leave me at a bit of a loss as we moved into 2018. Like Bridget Jones, albeit sans diary, “must quit smoking” has been at the top of my de facto list of New Year’s resolutions for the best part of two decades. So now what?

I think resolutions are important, whether they are made on January 1, May 28 or any other day of the year. “It is worth reminding ourselves that goal setting costs little or nothing and can aid successful results in our lives,” says a 2014 paper from Harvard University. “Hundreds of correlational and experimental studies show evidence that setting goals increases success rates in various settings.”

Even if most of us will have abandoned our carefully laid plans by early next week, the New Year’s resolution is an opportunity to regroup and refocus at the beginning of each year. The mere act of thinking about resolutions allows us to take stock. It’s an opportunity to work out what’s important to you (this changes constantly, sometimes without you even realising it) and is a chance to gain a little perspective and humility.


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In a world where self-awareness is in short supply, there are very few people who wouldn’t benefit from a few moments of soul searching. That’s not hippy dippy mumbo jumbo; it’s a fact. Ultimately, to imagine that your self and situation cannot be improved is either arrogant or defeatist.

Experts will advise you to make your resolutions realistic and sustainable. Manage your expectations, don’t set yourself up for failure, make your goals achievable, and so on and so forth. Baby steps, they insist. I would propose exactly the opposite. Yes, make your goals achievable, but also make them ambitious. Your resolutions should act as a big, life-changing manifesto of who you want to be and what you want your life to look like.

Sure, you’ll fail, for the most part. But who cares? The mere act of making a resolution plants a seed. And if you aim high enough and long enough, who knows – after 15 years of failure, you might just be able to rid yourself of a smelly, anti-social, cancer-inducing habit. And with some things, late is definitely better than never.

Now what? Must lose the 10 kilograms that I have put on as a result of quitting smoking.

Updated: January 4, 2018 04:42 PM