I have to confess – I am not much of a new year’s resolutions kind of guy. I haven’t really understood the impetus to resolve getting eight hours of sleep every night beginning January 1 versus say on February 21.
Then I saw the following in the Sunday funnies and it underlined why the annual ritual of new year’s resolutions doesn’t quite resonate with me:
Way too many resolutions are feel-good aspirations. Not enough are grounded in the reality of why they did not work the last time we resolved to accomplish them. Or, we commit to these resolutions without much of a plan, hoping that somehow good things will happen.
Hope is not a strategy.
David Eagleman, in his wonderful work of fiction, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, posits in one of the short stories that the afterlife is the same as our current life, with the exception that all similar experiences occur in contiguous blocks of time. So, we might experience sleep for 20 years in a row, shower for 14 months, and experience intense joy for 10 days in a lifespan of 80 years.
This story brings into sharp contrast what happens when we let life happen to us instead of living it with a sense of purpose. It’s not that we want to live life without a purpose, but it’s also too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of our daily routines and lose sight of the bigger picture.
So here’s what I propose.
Before making any resolutions this year, take some time to reflect on the past year.
- What do you feel good about? How can you continue doing that this year?
- What could have been better? How can you make that happen?
Then, come up with a plan of action to continue the former and change the latter.
Let’s say that one of your 2013 resolutions called for being more physically active and running 5 miles three times a week. You did this in college; surely you could do this again and feel great! Unfortunately, an analysis of your calendar points out that you only met this commitment 20% of the time. Analyzing this further suggests that your frequent travels make it difficult to go running in unfamiliar cities. If you are going to continue traveling this year, there is no point in making this resolution again. Fight the urge to say, “I’ll do it no matter what.” Embrace the constraint and talk to a trainer about creating a workout regimen you can use in your hotel room every morning leading to your goal of being more physically active.
It can be as simple as that.
This year, reflect before you resolve.
You’ll accomplish more of what you want. Guaranteed.
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