January 22, 2024

Best Intentions

Every January it starts again: special offers of a gym membership, the decision to make it a “dry” month, to eat less but better, to walk further, to take up a new hobby or interest, meet up with lost friends, plan a holiday, drink two litres of water a day, sort out your photo albums, meditate, fix annoying things around the  house, read the pile of books which have been gathering dust over the past few months, take up the piano and generally be a better person full of the best intentions.

Instead of buying crisps or little chocolatey bites, Laura in the office is bringing in roasted nuts, Sally brings in blueberries, will John G forswear red wine? Perhaps Paul (Mactaggart) might be encouraged to walk more. My husband is running and getting in over 6000 steps before breakfast which means he is nagging me to achieve similar feats. I am slower off the mark in the mornings but several times a week I am swimming (briefly) in rather icy water and doing some yoga. I am putting off my bicycling on the grounds of icy roads.

However, by this time, the excuses are starting to creep in. There are increasing numbers of “special days” on which we need just a small drink to celebrate something or other. It is of course still quite dark outside to get up early to go to the gym and a warming rosti or a delicious hot pot is far more appealing than a green salad.

Most of our lives are paved with good intentions and some people have the rigour to keep to them. Perhaps the biggest trap we fall into is making too big list of all the things we think we should do. It is tricky to change overnight on January 1st given that what we were doing before was probably quite enjoyable which was why we were all doing it. Personally, I tend to think I am bound to fail before I begin and thus usually decide not to commit to anything very much in the first place.

As January starts, one thing I do like are new notebooks and diaries so that I can write down all of my lists of what I need to do or would like to do in the hope that at least I might be able to tick something off each day. Some of the younger members of the Highclere team however look at a notebook and pen as a wonderous thing of antiquity. They think they can text a “to do” list to themselves on a phone whereas I like a big whiteboard on a wall, lots of brightly coloured pens and increasing scrawls as “good” ideas pop out.

The learning curve for staff less acquainted with my concept of notebooks is the request to reverse tracks and rejoin a meeting with paper and pen in hand which here can mean quite a long walk – nothing is nearby and it is also quite cold. For me, transcripts kept on a phone mean that I have no idea what has been done or not done or even what I asked them to do in the first place. Ideas, plans and lists on paper can be put out there or all to see and discussed and annotated. A phone keeps a list to itself behind a screen and is far more limited.

Change requires effort and that is not always exciting or easy. Whilst there is no point worrying about what should have been done, or eaten or not eaten, as that is in the past, the ability to change one’s future course depends on energy, intention and commitment. Plus, it helps to choose just one thing to focus on at a time.

Paying attention can ensure a good intention comes to pass.