I don't do New Year's resolutions, per se, but I do start the year by writing down some things that I would like to finish or accomplish by the end of the year. I like these opportunities for regular ceremonies, to pause for a moment at the end of one revolution about the sun before setting off on the next one. I try not to take it too seriously, but I also want to keep myself oriented in some direction—or directions, honestly, as I still haven't learned how to focus like a laser on anything. So be it.
I'm not even sure if "goal" is the right word here. Some things are like goals, some things are just like projects that I'd like to complete. Some things are ongoing things—where the "goal" isn't to finish, but to keep going. Goal is a good enough word to get going.
My assumption, not knowing much of anything,—how much can you know when you've been spending 99% of the time in your own house for almost a year?—is that people are really going to lean into the new year this year. Right? After an ugly year, who doesn't want to have a beautiful year? After a year of limitations, who doesn't want to break out? It's going to be like the endurance runs I used to do, where everyone blasts off from the starting line—but it's a long, long race, and it's a race that doesn't reward fast starts, only finishes. Fast starts are, for the majority of us, the first step to an early exit.
Don't despair. I'll lay out here the things I'm planning to work on. And if you're out there and you're planning to work on something as well, let me know. One of my favorite things about endurance running was that everyone—even though we were all competitors—was on the same team. If someone passed you, you'd tell them to get after it. If you pass someone walking, you'd encourage them to get going again. It mattered. It didn't matter. Racing is silly. We all signed up for it knowing that much. But it was also serious, and we arrived at the starting line with the finish line in our minds, ready to do what it takes to get there. I don't know why. It doesn't stand up to analysis.
I still organize the things I do in my life in terms of curricula. (Here's a version of it from 2018: Buffet problem.) I've simplified it somewhat, and although it's not yet simple enough, it's the boat I'm going to sail into 2021:
- Chinese curriculum: learning how to speak Chinese
- Home curriculum: making things (either building or cooking)
- Physical curriculum: running and strength training
- Learning curriculum: learning new skills, for work or for fun
- Project plan: all of the other things that I like to do that don't really fit neatly into the other categories
Here's what I'm planning to do in 2021:
- [Project plan] Post every day on this site.
- [Project plan] Publish The Captain's Newsletter every week.
- [Home] Perform a regional food showcase every month.
- [Learning] Complete PMI-ACP certification. (Q1)
- [Project plan] Create a working flashcard app on zhwotd.com. (Q3)
- [Chinese] Complete HSK Level IV certification. (Q3)
- [Physical] Top 5 in the Wildwood Trail Marathon. (Q4)
That's all. That's enough. Each one is fairly small, I think—nothing there that's explicitly going to change the world. But to do any of them requires some discipline. After 2020, what I want more than anything is to keep moving. Onward. Some of them are for me (the running race, the agile cert), but some of them are meant to build connections (daily posts, the newsletter, cooking at home). None of them are completely new—they're all variations or extensions of things I've been working on. The overarching goal is that it's better to be better—not for the sake of "self improvement", but it's just more interesting to get to the top of that next hill and see what everything looks like from there.
Here's a small pile of links that I found that I thought were at least somewhat relevant:
- Mark Manson, Your Goals Are Overrated, markmanson.net (2016-01-07)
- Christine Carter, Why New Year's Resolutions Matter More in a Pandemic, Greater Good Magazine (2020-12-28)
- Elizabeth Grace Saunders, Before You Set New Goals, Think About What You're Going to Stop Doing, Harvard Business Review (2018-02-05)
- Ed Kroemer, Want to achieve your new year’s resolutions? Set the right kinds of goals, University of Washington Foster Blog (2020-01-01)
- Bill Gates, What I learned at work this year, GatesNotes (2018-12-29)
- Jeffrey Davis, A Radical Alternative to New Year's Goal Setting, Psychology Today (2017-11-24)