I wrote this back in 2014 going into 2015. I decided to update it for 2018 going into 2019.
Promise. Guarantee. Oath. Decree.
Whatever word you wish to use, there’s a good chance your brain will hold it to a higher standard than a resolution.
We have incinerated the meaning behind a resolution when it comes to the beginning of a new year. I’m not the only person who used to make resolutions when doing an annual retrospective and realized I had been failing on some of those resolutions for a decade. A decade! Clearly the, “buy a new calendar, write your goals, and become a new you” stuff has been a terrible way to motivate my life, and likely yours as well since you’re reading this. If you ignored it, it’s probably because you know how to get your life together.
“New Years Resolutions” has become a running joke; an empty gesture. Most people make them and most people fail at them by the time spring comes around. I have yet to read a person list their completed resolutions in December. They were forgotten by the time the snow melted, and feel like a different era by the time the snow falls again.
But how does one make themselves accountable to changing their life? Hard to say. You won’t get much more than strong critical analysis from me because I don’t have any results to show from past years of great resolution completion. But what I can tell you is what doesn’t work, and what Iv’e seen work from others.
The most important thing you can do is start now. Don’t start January 1st. Don’t write out a list and think you’ll get on it after your New Years Day hangover. Get organized early. Get your habits established, or at least the roots put down. If you have to miss a little sleep now it’s fine because the holidays are around the corner. We all have different responsibilities. Maybe you work or host family or have kids to take care of, but you will always have work, or family, or kids to take care of. This stuff doesn’t stop. And you need to learn how to work with it. Start today.
Next, do not make your list an anxiety reminder. This is similar to when people try to quit smoking but they smoke for anxiety and trying to quit creates anxiety. You’ll never quit if you don’t replace what calms your anxiety. Your list should be the same. This should be things you can achieve, big and small, that will ensure the list doesn’t just sit around as a constant reminder of your failures of the year. That’s not the point. That cannot create growth.
What you should be writing down is less about what you want to accomplish and more about how you get to your accomplishments. You know what you want. Don’t write that down. Write all the things big and small you need to do to accomplish it. And as you complete those things, you’ll naturally get closer to your actual promise for 2019. So instead of staring at, “I want to get healthy” you are instead looking at, “Five clean meals a week” and can check off when you do it.
Finally, there are 365 days in the new year (and when you do this in 2020 there will be 366 but let’s wait to get there), and we often think of it as day of 365 with plenty of time. But we also have twelve “first day’s” which give us a lot of time to think we have a lot of time. It’s December. Seems like it came here fast, didn’t it? That’s because every month started and the days flew by. You didn’t stop yourself until you got to the midway point, and realized you barely got anything done. It’ll soon be the end of the month and you’ll wonder why nothing got done. This is because of how we rationalize our calendar.
What has honestly helped me more than anything, and I stopped doing it until I re-read my own article, is getting a blank calendar and putting the days in descending order. So January 1st isn’t 01. It’s 365. Janaury 2nd is 364. I suggest getting a whiteboard to do this, or goto a Staples type store and get an “Open-Dated” calendar. This allows you to write down the days so instead of looking at March 6th as the start of the month, you know it’s Day 300 and you’ve burned through 65 days of the year. It’s a great way to get you back on track. And while that might be something that’ll rattle you, it’s not like the consistent “start of month/halfway point/end of month” you go through and ultimately lose yourself to.
In 2016 I said we need to hope less, without being hopeless. I think I lost that along the way. A lot of 2018 was feeling hopeless and living with my failures instead of accepting them and becoming better through them. As I said then, it was when you suffer the persistence of loss you hope for hope, because hope is an invisible reward. The carrot dangled before the nose of the draft horse to keep him plodding. In 2019, so probably time I start taking my own advice from when I was closer to what I wanted to be, instead of barely living and wondering why I have a hard time waking up in the morning.
Make a promise instead of a resolution. Hope less, instead of being hopeless. Whoa, that guy was onto something. Wonder where he went?