Resolutions are bullshit.
Okay, maybe they work for you, but they only half- work for me. Every year, my Resolution Number One is “Don’t Die” and so far I am acing that. But when it comes to going to the gym four times a week, swearing less, taking underwater ballistic ballroom basket- weaving lessons at the local community center, etc, I have always started out with the best of intentions and have forgotten I’d even started by mid- March.
I don’t need to start any new year feeling like I’ve already failed: I’m neurotic enough by nature. I’ve given up resolutions. At the beginning of each year I set very specific goals for myself, and I give myself one Word Of The Year. I’ll get to the Word Of The Year in a minute. Let’s talk about resolutions first.
Goals of any kind work when they’re clearly worded and achievable. “Resolving” to do anything is about what we “should” do- all the awful, guilt- laden “ought-to” actions that bring us no joy. It’s vague and wishy- washy; resolutions are the things folks don’t even really want to do in the first place. They’re obligations that we secretly, resentfully don’t even feel fully obliged to do. We like drinking whiskey and watching Breaking Bad until 3 am on Wednesday nights. We like smoking Black & Milds when we play poker. We don’t want to give that up. Or at least, I don’t want to give those things up yet.
If each new year is a symbolic moment- this fresh shining moment in which we can turn over a new leaf, in which we can improve our lot and ourselves, why are focusing on taking things away? I don’t want to give things up.
But there are things I want.
Think it over, seriously. Don’t waste your time or energy on something you think you kinda- of, sort- of, really- should- be spending your time on, like losing 10 silly pounds or watching how many times you say a bad word. You only get so many days; what do you want?
For the sake of an example: I couldn’t care less about losing any weight or eating less carbs, but I have my heart set on running a half- marathon this year.
When I was living in England, I worked with this man, Jamie, who ran marathons. He didn’t run them in that showy, asshole way: “LOOK AT ME, I AM TRES SPORTIF!” No, Jamie just quietly ran marathons. That’s it. It was something he did, on the occasional weekend.
He knocked me out, Jamie did. 26.2 miles, man. 26.2 miles, all casual- like. If you asked him about it, he’d talk about it, and even then, he was so quiet about the thing. He did it because he liked to. It made him feel calm, quiet, happy, strong.
I’d like some of that, please.
Rather than set a resolution (“I will run a half- marathon in 2012! Hooray! Sometime in 2012!!”) I will make a very specific commitment: “I will run a 10k in July,” as a step to that goal, then I find a 10k in July, because otherwise, I’ll forget, fail to train, throw myself into a 10k at the last minute, and find myself puking on the side of a trail in the Maryland summer. Then, I say, “I will run half- marathon in late 2012,” and I pick out the half- marathon, too.
So now I have a set goal with clear- cut dates and expectations- I can do that! There are steps and a deadline. I’ve decided I will do this thing and I know exactly how I’ll get there. Hooray for a plan! I’ve gone from this strange, amorphous, and awfully vague thing hanging over my head to something I can easily accomplish. This pre- emptively destroys my Procrastination Monster. (Remind me some time to draw the Procrastination Monster for you. It is awful.)
More important to me than my Commitments, though is my Word Of The Year.
Despite being a yoga and meditation teacher, I’m not a very New Age-y “woo” person. I can’t even say the word “woo” without doing this terribly dismissive hand gesture: half jazz- hands, but up next to the temples, plus eye- rolling. I’m generally uncomfortable talking about this sort of thing, but having a central point of intention for your year changes everything for me.
Last year, I sat down with myself and thought about what I wanted my next twelve months to look like: what did I want? Did I want quiet, or was I looking for new things? Did I want to study, or did I want to explore? The idea of planning an overall theme for twelve months was intimidating as hell, but by looking at what had been good and what had been missing from the year before I was able to pick out the pieces I wanted most. After a day or two of thinking, I realized what I was looking for at that point in my life was growth & adventure- new experiences, new friends, knowledge. I decided that the Word Of The Year for 2011 would be “expand”.
I applied that word any time I had a decision to make. I didn’t get crazy, but I let “expand” be the theme of how I lived in 2011. I leased a studio for my business, moving it out of my home. I became a yoga instructor and started teaching yoga and meditation part- time. My business partner and I made the painful decision to break an alignment that was riddled with logistical problems that were sucking the joy out of our work; hard, but the healthiest decision I’ve made in a long time, and it resulted in a business that is mine, free and clear. I’ve begun writing again, for myself and for publication, and I have a book contract. Okay, I sort of let it get crazy. It didn’t matter. It was the right decision.
My Word Of The Year for 2012 will be “focus”. After a year of expansion, I have all these things happening now and I need to pay attention to them, cultivate them, try not to drop any of them. This is the vague part, the part where I’m allowed to have some flexibility: my Word becomes the theme by which I’ll live 2012. If that doesn’t sound very New- Age “woo”, I don’t know what does, but you know, it works for me.
What works for me doesn’t have to work for you. What are your resolutions, your commitments, your Words Of The Year?