The Final Act

Sep 25, 2009   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon, Food For Thought  //  1 Comment

(831 words, approx 5-8 mins to read)

(This article appeared in issue 13 of ‘Liverpool Lifestyle’ magazine from Aintree Publishing – the version here is a slightly different draft to the magazine article, which can be viewed at

I’d like to talk about New Year’s Resolutions.

Yes, I know we’re not even into autumn properly yet and Christmas is still months away, but bear with me and I’ll explain myself in what follows.

You see, I think we have it all wrong when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.

If this year was a play or movie, at this point in time, heading towards the last quarter of the year, we’d be just at the beginning the ‘Final Act’ – the little quiet before the most exciting bit.

Even if you aren’t a student of the dramatic arts, you may well still be aware that for most stories there are there three main ‘acts’ or sections.

The first act introduces us to the characters in their everyday situations and then leads us through how they connect with one another in some way around the story’s main theme. The second act then involves how the characters are called, pulled or even forced from their usual, normal lives into a new situation –  a situation that makes them question their behaviours, beliefs and values or even their identity, and they have to grow or change in some way to succeed and move on, or sometimes just to survive.

In many of our favourite tales there’s also an ‘inversion’ or crisis – a point at which deep doubts creep in, emotions are high and it looks as though all may be lost. Often the heroes of the story realise that they need even more determination to get through to the end than they first thought.

And then, just before the third and final act, there’s a slight lull or dip as the protagonists gather themselves and plan for a decisive push to the climactic moments and the denouement (a flashy word for the ‘happily ever after’ bit) to follow.

That’s where we’re at now in our annual calendar – the little quiet before the final push.

You see, in those great movies it’s NOW, in that little quiet, the strategy is put together and commitments are made to create the success that the major characters desire.

(If there’s a sequel to follow, it’s also in this final act that the seeds for that begin to be sown and hints made as to what might be in the next instalment too.)

It’s rare, if ever, that true plans are made at the very beginning of the story and, if they were, they’ve more often than not been abandoned by the second act because they weren’t relevant or meaningful in their new situation. More to the point, if you think about your most cherished movies or plays, the plans that finally succeed are often quite the opposite of what the main character would’ve come up with at the beginning, without the experience of the story.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions – the beginning of the movie of your life for the year – how often have you abandoned plans made in January by the ‘end of the first act’ or before..? Be honest now…!

I think it’s because they’re made in a rush at the wrong time, after the madness and excitement of the holiday season, or they come from the way we’ve been thinking in previous years. Too often we tend to assume that life carries on from year to year in roughly the same way, so we don’t give enough thought to our resolutions and plans for the coming year – we don’t really stop and think about whether they’re what’s truly best for what we really want, or whether we’re just doing them because we think ought to, or because they’re fashionable and other people are doing it.

Instead, I reckon the best time for planning those resolutions for next year is right NOW.

We’ve had the first and second acts to reflect on already and there’s often that little lull in our lives post-summer (unless you’re a teacher, in which case, a few weeks back might’ve been more suitable- sorry!) We now know what’s worked so far and what hasn’t and are probably better placed than at any other time of year to decide what’s best to do for the year’s final act and make plans for our sequel – 2010!

There’s also another great reason to sort out your plans and begin to take action on them now: when it comes to the end of the year, you’ll already have done something and built some momentum up so that, even if you coast through the holidays, it’ll be so much easier to get going again in the New Year.

So, how will your story of 2009 end? “Happily ever after”..? “To Be Continued”..? or perhaps some other way that, as you think about it now, would set the scene for a sequel like no other?

Remember, it’s your story, so it is entirely up to you.

Just do yourself a favour and make that choice now, in the little quite before the final rush.

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