David Cliff
David Cliff

Member Article

A New Year’s resolution is for life, not just for New Year

Well it’s the festive season again and as shopping, the feeding frenzy and the inevitable time sat in front of the “telly box” acquire exponential dimensions, people are already concocting their New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions simply don’t work. One needs to choose to change your behaviour when it is right and relevant to one’s time and circumstances and one is in a resourceful, productive state. We can’t leave it up to the calendar to make that decision for us especially, given that we would be pledging to some sort of change against a cohort of people who are known to indulge in this time of changed behaviour and inevitably lapse within a matter of days thereafter.

Take it from me, having spent my life looking at the behavioural change of others, this is not a good time to do this sort of thing.

There are really mixed messages in the market at present and one wonders whether the recovery is anywhere near as potent as it is being talked up to being. In reality the figures are positive but not good. Discounting in the high street shops has been at an all-time high pre-Christmas and high street footfall is down, although the internet accounts for a fair amount of that.

What is clear is people are accumulating debt using credit. Recent national reports on debt indicate that as many as 1 in 5 families are now facing serious debt problems. This will inevitably be compounded as a result of the natural human tendency to view Christmas alongside holidays as something sacrosanct upon which expenditure and largess are justified.

The problem is that Christmas is a coherent event around which one can focus intention and activity. The New Year, and the advent of the credit card bills coming in is a more abstract concept that is both further down the timeline and harder to grasp conceptually. Whilst we know when the 25th December is, we have a more vague idea of when our finances might be on the ropes in the New Year, our lines of credit are maxed out with our creditors impatient.

Therefore, Christmas will always win out on the popularity stakes and the overindulgent stakes but the consequences quite possibly not requiring to be faced until the summer of the next year.

We live in a material world and have an economy that celebrates growth and expansion. In many ways this has been about the acquisition of luxury goods or duplicates of things that used to be essential in our lives. A single television has given way to a television in many rooms. A stereo has given way to multiple streamed music via various internet devices around the house. What is clear, however, is this pattern of growth is no longer sustainable in the long term and is highly variable and subject to transnational influences in the short term. So many variables affect our fortunes; the action of bankers, the role of international currency, most notably the Euro, the cost of energy, even the success or failure of crops.

These things are the challenges of modern living. The festive season is no longer the simple uncomplicated gathering of those close to you as it once was so much as a feeding frenzy of materialism suffused with complex economic and political variables that impact upon us far more intimately than in the days of yore.

Of course the real spirit of this time is spent in the connection with other people. It is about the things that still ultimately cost nothing and resist financial, political and other fortunes. It is the opportunity to reconcile ourselves with other people and spend genuine time with them. For families to connect, not simply be a loose association of people collecting around the television set. For a chance to stop from the daily grind and look up, into the eyes of our children, our elders, our neighbours and our community. A chance to share a story, smile, encourage, value those around us. A chance through direct action or charitable negotiation to ensure no one spends Christmas alone, except by choice. A chance to offer our children something other than the latest X Box; our time, our thoughts, our encouragement.

It strikes me that all of these things require resolution long before the 1st January. The best things in life really are free.

May I wish you a compassionate Christmas and a thoughtful new year, where your debts are ones of gratitude rather than high APR.

David Cliff is Managing Director of Gedanken and Vice Chairman of the Institute of Directors’ County Durham and Sunderland Committee.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by David Cliff .

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