OCCASIONALLY, in the safety of my own head, I find myself doing something most bizarre: I find myself giving military-style pep talks.
One minute I will be thinking about the usual – that is to say I will be thinking ‘I wonder what’s for tea’ – and the next I will hear, from my subconscious, a stern voice ordering me into imaginary battalion.
“Attack from the flanks,” it demands. “The enemy is weakest there. Let us rid the oppressor from these lands which are rightfully ours.”
And, then, I will roll up my sleeves and do the washing up.
I asked a friend once if this was normal and, after a few seconds looking at me in the same way I look at the TV when watching University Challenge, he confirmed it probably wasn’t.
“Now, having a sports commentary running through your head,” he added. “That’s normal.”
Presumably the dishes in his kitchen go on a long unbeaten run before his team turns up and scores five without reply.
In any case, if his life is a run of cup finals, mine is a series of pre-20th century military conflicts.
Sometimes I am a Napoleon-like aggressor, rolling over on to her side of the bed while telling any conscientious objectors within me that such territory incursions are to be expected of a strong nation in need of greater natural resources.
And sometimes I am a Braveheart freedom fighter taking on tyranny.
It is the latter which comes out in me at this time of year. And it comes out in me every time I get asked if I have made any new year resolutions.
No, I haven’t. And neither should you.
To do so is nothing but to be tormented by a despot of one’s own making; it is to open your borders and invite in oppression.
Dramatic? But of course. And yet, perhaps vaguely true, too...
For new year’s resolutions are nothing if not a sure-fire way of making oneself feel inadequate. Society’s obsession with them is not about self-improvement, but about making a quick buck from a person’s self-loathing.
If you really wanted to go to the gym more, give up cigs or learn a new language, you wouldn’t be using the Gregorian calendar as inspiration, would you?
Don’t be one of the estimated one million people who will this week invest in gym membership and never use it after February. Don’t fund the multi-million pound ‘resolution economy’ by buying detox products which cleanse the wallet but nothing else. And don’t bother starting the quit-cig cycle where you go from never-having-another to only-at-weekends to well-I-could-get-hit-by-a-bus-tomorrow. All by January 5.
Don’t do any of that.
Instead, accept it’s not your personality which is the enemy, but your resolutions. And then resist making them.
Because if being a great military leader has taught me anything, it’s that timing is key to a successful campaign.
And, it seems, health experts agree. Because this year’s popular advice is, before rushing into any self-improvements war, it’s best to wait for an optimum moment – which probably isn’t January when the world is cold and uninspiring.
This way, when the time comes and you really want to change, you stand more chance of success, and you’ll be sure you’re doing it, not for social expectations, but for yourself.
Sound advice indeed, I reckon.
Although in my case, I’ll be doing it for my general too.