TheNew Year is a time for resolutions. Mentally, at least, most of us couldcompile formidable lists of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. The same old favourites recuryear in year out with monotonous regularity. We resolve to get up earlier eachmorning, eat less, find more time to play with the children, do a thousand andone jobs about the house, be nice to people we don’t like, drive carefully, andtake the dog for a walk every day. Past experience has taught us that certainaccomplishments are beyond attainment. If we remain inveterate smokers, it isonly because we have so often experienced the frustration that results fromfailure. Most of us fail in our efforts at self-improvement because our schemesare too ambitious and we never have time to carry them out. We also make thefundamental error of announcing our resolutions to everybody so that we lookeven more foolish when we slip back into our bad old ways. Aware of thesepitfalls, this year I attempted to keep my resolutions to myself. I limitedmyself to two modest ambitions: to do physical exercises every morning and toread more of an evening. An all-night party on New Year’s Eve provided me witha good excuse for not carrying on either of these new resolutions on the firstday of the year, but on the second, I applied myself assiduously to the task.
Thedaily exercises lasted only eleven minutes and I proposed to do them early inthe morning before anyone had got up. The self-discipline required to dragmyself out of bed eleven minutes earlier than usual was considerable.Nevertheless, I managed to creep down into the living room for two days beforeanyone found me out. After jumping about on the carpet and twisting the humanframe into uncomfortable positions, I sat down at the breakfast table in anexhausted condition. It was this that betrayed me. The next morning the wholefamily trooped in to watch the performance. That was really unsettling, but Ifended off the taunts and jibes of the family good-humouredly and sooneverybody got used to the idea. However, my enthusiasm waned. The time I spentat exercise gradually diminished. Little by little the eleven minutes fell tozero. By January 10th, I was back to where I had started from. I argued that ifI spent less time exhausting myself at exercises in the morning, I would keepmy mind fresh for reading when I got home from work. Resisting the hypnotizingeffect of television, I sat in my room for a few evenings with my eyes glued toa book. One night, however, feeling cold and lonely, I went downstairs and satin front of the television pretending to read. That proved to be my undoing,for I soon got back to my old bad habit of dozing off in front of the screen. Istill haven’t given up my resolution to do more reading. In fact, I have justbought a book entitled How to Read a Thousand Words a Minute. Perhaps it willsolve my problem, but I just haven’t had time to read it!