Covid vaccine
Covid antidote is expected to be rolled-out all over the world Image Credit: Ador T. Bustamante/Gulf News

As the bygone year draws to a close, many of us succumb to the temptation of making pious resolutions for the upcoming new one. But early in the new year it gradually dawns upon us that, like the previous years, many of our new year’s resolutions will come to naught.

Is there an underlying reason for this repeated, some might say, compulsive failure? Is it our yearly destiny to sigh and exclaim, “Who am I kidding!” Must we always end up saying in exasperation, “I give up!”

I don’t want to be too pessimistic so early in the year. The truth is that behind our failed resolutions is usually one common factor: our inability to say no. We are simply too nice to those making demands on us, even if it means giving up on what we have decided to do.

Former film star and now celebrity satirist cum agony-aunt, Twinkle Khanna offers some simple tips on how to say no gracefully — or when push comes to shove — not so gracefully. What are some of the ways to say no? Let me summarise her invaluable advice.

Policy decision not to do something

First, pretend that you have taken a policy decision not to do something. For instance, “Oh, I have given up drinking so I cannot join you in your party tonight. I don’t want to be a party pooper.” Usually, you’ll be left alone.

For another way out, pause and stall for an unconscionably long time: “Ah … I will think about it and get back to you.” Your petitioner may give up.

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Or, make a counter demand, usually one that you know will be impossible to fulfil: “Why don’t you join me for a jog at 6am on the beach tomorrow morning?” You know fully well that it will be impossible for your friend to comply if he is throwing a party tonight.

Finally, the not so pleasant way of saying that you can’t. It’s more in the nature of a torpedo retort, which is bound to leave your interlocutor speechless. The example that Khanna gives: “I can’t because I have a boil on my bum.” Rendered speechless, your interlocutor will release you from further demands.

Among the more worthy resolutions that I have come across, I find inspiring the less personal and more in the public interest ones. Perhaps, not drinking qualifies as both. But the one that is almost planet-saving is Portland-based graphic designer Elizabeth Chai’s last year’s resolution to stop shopping.

Saving a pile of money

The evidence compiled at the end of her experiment is encouraging. Her buy nothing resolution during the Covid19 year made her minimise new purchases to food, toiletries, and occasional haircuts. In addition, she got rid of 2020 items, quite an appropriate number for the year gone by. Her resolution helped her rid of a lot of junk and save a pile of money.

Other celebrities such as Madonna have also resolved not to contribute to planetary spoilage through overconsumption. The result? Bad for the economy, perhaps, but good for the soul. Forget about being a shopaholic, which is certainly a distressing condition as many of us have experienced first-hand. Let’s also say no to shopping therapy.

Let’s resist temptation of frequenting soul-sucking malls this year, with their over-the-top plethora of attractions, temptations, and, ultimately, disappointments. More importantly, let’s also not be too finger happy at home, compulsively indulging in online purchases that we do not need. No worries, Mr Jeff Bezos. You are rich enough. We do not have to contribute to your already over-fat wallet by buying more stuff through Amazon.

Personally, if I were to venture towards a new year’s resolution, I would certainly try to change the way I react to unpleasant happenings, unforeseen reversals, and bad news. Is it possible to gain greater understanding and control over my own responses to external events?

Is it possible not only be more responsible, but also more responsive in a completely different way to my own mental processes? To live more consciously and to refrain from giving myself to negativity and despair would be the way.

Further, if I can harmonise, Zen-like, my own energies with those of the universe, perhaps I would not need to make — and break — new year promises, whether to myself or others. I would avoid as much as possible succumbing to my own tendencies and traits that make me feel incomplete and unhappy. To cleanse and correct my own sense of inadequacy which attracts external negativity to myself.

To stop that spiking clasp of external negativity from latching on, coronavirus like, to my own receptors would be the only emotional and mental vaccine that I need to make 2021 better than 2020.

Such a spiritual vaccine is, luckily, free and closer at hand than the as yet not easily available vials of the virus antidote which are soon to roll-out all over the world.

Makarand R Paranjape
Image Credit: Gulf News