The first thing to be said is that I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. They might work for some people, and more power to them. I operate under a level of self-criticism that essentially amounts to a series of resolutions on a near-daily basis—I should be doing this, I should be doing that.
Instead, this year I want to explore the notion of trajectories; of directions I would like to point myself in. I find this more interesting and helpful than resolutions, because I think that resolutions makes far too much of the will. Here’s a not-so-secret secret: willpower is bullshit. Resolutions usually require a set of skills and resources that can only be gained with hard work over time.
Take, for instance, the resolution to lose 20 lbs. While this is at least a specific resolution—much better than “get in better shape”—it fails to take into account the full range of skills and resources it will take to achieve this goal. Is losing weight the goal, or becoming fit? Is fitness a goal in-and-of-itself, or is it merely the means to some other greater end in your life, such as lower stress, a general sense of well-being, or improved body image? Of course, at this point we’re going beyond the typically rote resolution into a more reflective mode.
But a few more points: you have a good reason to get more fit. How are you going to do it? Do you know how to change your diet? What type, quantity, and frequency of physical activity will you do? What type of accountability structures do you have in place to ensure you keep doing these tasks when you run out of willpower? (You will run out of willpower.)
Resolutions are just the tip of the iceberg. Resolutions are fine, but they need to take place within a larger framework of thought and care that is generally ignored.
Enough about resolutions. Here’s my trajectories and things I’d like to explore in the New Year (some of them even sound like resolutions):
- Mindfulness. My friend Adam started talking a lot about the Buddhist practice of mindfulness a few years back. I didn’t share his enthusiasm at the time, but I’ve been hearing more about it lately and, coupled with my desire to learn more control over my mind and emotions, I’m going to explore it.1
Be involved in study & discussion. I relentlessly seek new thoughts and subject everything I come across to critical evalution. I’ve had some irons in the fire on this front for some time, but they need to actually happen.
- Set a blog posting rhythm. It’s the rhythm that’s the key. I’m thinking 3–4 times per week right now.
- Start polyphasic sleep again. I liked the overall well-being I’d achieved while doing it.
- Jog twice a week. Three would be better, but two seems to be my sweet spot. Get my rate to 5:30 min/km.
- Explore writing on more consistent topics. My rough thoughts right now would be to write about justice topics in my local context.
- Figure out what “success criteria” are in my life at Flatlanders and in my business. When your only evaluation rubric for something is “I should be doing more,” you’re on a surefire path to moodiness, melodramatic teenage angst, and generally unnecessary feelings of failure. While wanting to do more can be healthy and an impetus for growth, not the way I do it.
There are more things on my mind than these, but this is a hefty list. Many of them are specific goals along trajectories I’m already, perhaps makers along the way. There are others which I don’t want to write about publically, and yet more that I would be tempted to include except that an important part of this exercise is to not set myself up for failure.
Here’s to a great New Year for you, too.
- You might find yourself asking “why mindfulness instead of prayer?” Firstly, one does not exclude the other. Secondly, I always feel like prayer is supposed to be productive, while mindfulness appears to be more about dwelling in the moment. We’ll see if I’m right as I explore it more. ↩