New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. This week, radio show hosts all over the country laughed haughtily at the thought that America would stuff into gyms across the nation for one solid month, only to trickle off to the actual gym-goers (the ones who were there before the New Year) by February.
It appears that as a society we’ve become accustomed to making light of our supposed inability to find the time, energy, or resolve to – well – have resolve.
I think that’s a real bummer, man. We’re better than that. And all our sitting around reaffirming each other’s mediocrity isn’t doing us (or the human race at large) any favors. Why do we do that? Probably because it’s cozy. I know from personal experience that it’s far more comfortable to sit on the couch with my fat rolls tucked into my underwear playing video games and eating the entire box of macaroni and cheese than it is to announce my intention to do otherwise and then act on it.
That last part is key – the acting on it part. You usually have to put on pants for that.
This is about more than going to the gym, though that tends to be the most common resolution. This is about taking control of your year, and consequently, your life. If that means gym visits and personal health, so be it. It probably means something else.
How was 2015 for you? What happened?
For me it was pretty terrible, all things considered. It was full of cancer and seizures and suicide. It brought job losses and emotional turbulence and big, difficult moves. It wasn’t a repeater for me, you know, if I have my way and all. But I don’t measure my years by what happened to me; I can’t control any of that. Instead, I measure my years by what I did and how I navigated them. And part of that is whether I accomplished my resolution.
How many times have you thought about what a waste of life it seems to be to work, sleep, and pass away? Have you ever considered that you work your entire life for the promise of retirement and that by the time you retire, you don’t really have the friends, income, or energy to do the things you imagined you’d do? How often have you thought about all the things you would make time for or do or improve upon if or when you have the time to do it?
The nice thing about a new year is that it’s an easily defined point in time. It’s an obvious and complete cycle. It’s an opportunity for you to acknowledge the level of suck you have in a specific area and vow to improve upon it in a concrete way by the next year. It doesn’t have to be a time to mock how we’ll probably never change. It can be a time to authentically reflect on whether you’ve grown as person – and it should be.
You don’t have to declare some monumental achievement. You could try to progressively get better at something (dancing), or take on a specific adventure (go to another country). You could try every day to do one very simple and small thing consistently so that by the end of the year you’ve formed a real habit (eat breakfast when you wake up). Whatever it is, make it something that speaks to the voice in the back of your brain that yoinks at you and says you should do it and that you’d be happier, healthier, and prouder if you did. If you’re not a newcomer to resolution-making, then you should go big. Go scary. Pick the undoable and figure out how to do it. Those ones are my favorite.
It’s fine to be worried or afraid. There’s a reason you haven’t been able to do whatever the thing is yet. Maybe it’s hard to find the time or the energy or the courage. But you’re going to. And it all starts with finding the thing, calling it out, and acknowledging that you seriously suck at it.
There are a variety of ways you can go about this, friends, and while I don’t have any failsafe map for you, I do have a few suggestions. I have maps for 1-Day Challenges, 30-Day Challenges, and Year-Long Challenges up there in my handy dandy menu on the right (How to Suck Less). There isn’t any one right way to go about personal growth, but there’s definitely a wrong way and it’s to stay stagnant. You could make this the year that you rekindle an old, lost friendship. Or the year that you finally sorted through everything in your attic. You could trace your ancestry or join a club. I’ve used my recent years to conquer crippling anxiety, to do new and terrifying things to make my life more interesting and filled to the brim with stories, and to run 10Ks and half marathons. I can tell you with certainty that the years that I sought out to do something specific were filled with intention and mindfulness and growth. And the years that I didn’t were dark and dull and wasted.
This may beg the question of what I’m signing up for this year, but I’m going to wait on that. I’ve got my plan and I have every intention of executing it. But for now let’s focus on you. Don’t worry about starting exactly on the 1st, either. Your year starts when you say it does. Take the time that you need to genuinely assess yourself, your inhibitions, and your wants. Find something measurable and set up the goal posts. Then move. Reflect. Move. Reflect. Growth is inevitable.
It’s time you took control of your life, don’t you think? Next year you should tell the story of what you did with your time, not of what happened to you. And don’t worry – if you feel like giving up, think you don’t have the time or energy to keep on keepin’ on, or if you massively fall on your face – you’ve always got my saga here, chronicled in great and embarrassing detail for either encouragement or commiseration. Start small, or go big. Do you. But certainly do something.
Last year could be the very last year that you sucked. If you want it to be.
See you in 2016. ♣