New Year's Resolutions are easy to pick on. And I do like to pick on things. And I don't participate in the fad myself—not overtly, at least. But I'll leave people and their resolutions alone. What's wrong with believing, even if just for the first two weeks of the year, that you can improve something about yourself. Right? Go for it. Get your resolution on.
I don't know what the smug set's issues with resolutions are, but I'll tell you the two main reasons I don't have my own resolutions.
First, I think it front-loads too much of the enthusiasm. I picture a cartoon version of a resolution like "I'm going to run a marathon" starting with a bang, a few consecutive days of running, followed by a few days of patchy running, followed by guilt, followed by forgetting the resolution. Sustaining that initial bang is hard—better instead to plan for the long road ahead, where "I'm going to run a marathon" is followed by figuring out realistically how much of a week and when you can dedicate to running, and then intentionally starting a little low and ramping up into it once you've laid in the habit. Scott Adams talks about systems instead of goals, but I think it takes both: systems in support of goals, or goals as a reason for developing systems.
The second problem I have with resolutions is that they are just begging to be another buffet problem. Why fix just one thing when you can fix several things at once while you're at it? Again: it starts heavy, and falls off. Again: better to start intentionally low (or few) and ramp up into it.
Instead of resolutions at the beginning, I keep a running set of curricula that I'm working on. The hardest part is keeping the set small. In my case I feel like I have to resolve to do less, not more or better. I tune the curricula every month, but the new year is a great time for throwing things out. And in addition to the curricula I keep some smaller habits in Way of Life.
So, at the outset of 2019, it looks like this:
- Chinese language: this is the one that will benefit the most from reducing in other areas. And it will probably benefit from focus and reduction itself. I'm still working on adjusting the contents of this one. Six years of studying and I still don't know how to speak the language well.
- Physical: Illinois Marathon in April
- Home: mostly learning to cook better, but also buying a house this year
- Communication: publish every day (hello)
- Projects: smaller things--some with other people (INCOSE), some with just myself (finish processing a half decade of photos)
The smaller daily habits in Way of Life have been constant for a while:
- 10 ideas
- House search
- Inbox zero
- Plan tomorrow