“Trying is the first step to failure.”– HOMER SIMPSON
I don’t care much for New Year’s Resolutions. The idea of sitting down to make a list of things I must or must not do. Frankly it makes me want to jam a pen in my eye. (Which would, incidentally, be less painful than watching as I inevitably fail to stick at any of them.)
My feeling is the exercise is more about indulging false hopes than it is about setting specific, measurable goals. Where we end up writing out these fairy-tale type lists. Where we say that this year we’re finally going to become the perfect version of ourselves – the person we were always meant to be.
Instead of coming to terms with who we actually are and the hand we’ve been dealt. Instead of appreciating what we have and accepting what currently is. Instead of taking stock and reflecting on the painful lessons of the previous year.
Instead, we make the same mistake by charging head first into the new year – setting our expectations sky high and then… BAM!
2020 (and then 2021) smacks us in the face with a baseball bat (or a cricket bat if you’re British).
The question then becomes, what’s left?
What’s left when your identity as a super high-achieving what-the-fuck ever comes crashing down to earth? When all your goals, aspirations and plans go out the window? When your partner leaves you? When your career is left in tatters? When close relatives or friends pass away? When your own health deteriorates and you become wholly dependant on others?
That’s what’s happened hasn’t it? For so many of us over the past couple of years. It’s forced us to ask some very difficult questions. To come to terms with difficult life circumstances out of our control. To think deeply about our relationships and our careers. About the values that define us.
In my eyes that’s what this time of year should be about. Not about how you’re going to have a rippling 6 pack or a fat bank account. But about reflection. Looking deeply at both how you have lived up the values you say you hold dear and in what ways you have failed. And then from there, looking to course correct. Using the valuable lessons of the past year to steer your ship.
Goals are then meant to be an expression of those values. Of who are at your core. The version of yourself that makes you feel whole. That makes you feel integral. They should change throughout your lifetime as you evolve. They should move depending on your unique life circumstances.
Goals are, at the end of the day, simply something to shoot at. The results of which matters far less than the process – than the the actions that you take everyday. That define you as a person. That are based on an increasingly clear set of values or overarching principles that have strengthened over time. That help to keep your head above the water when all else fails. When shit hits the fan and all that you’re left with is a fat waistline and zero dollars (thanks pandemic).
Now, here’s the trick that nobody taught you.
The moment you tell yourself in absolute terms you have to do something, you’re going to resent doing it. You’re going to hate it. A bit like telling yourself you can’t have sex until you get married – you’re going to be thinking about it your whole life until you do. Not only are going to hate doing or not doing that thing, you will become tied to it. Your self worth will become entirely dependent on whether or not you stick to that resolution or achieve that goal. And if you fail, well, you’ll probably feel like jamming a pen in your eye.
The truth is you don’t have to do anything. With the exception of breathing, sleeping and eating, you don’t have to do shit. Nor should you think in those terms. The language you use matters. You don’t have to write in a gratitude journal. You get to. You don’t have to be part of saving the planet for our children. You get to be. You don’t have to eat your vegetables or go for a run at 5am (you definitely don’t have to do that). You get to live a healthy lifestyle.
So, this year, instead of listing resolutions you feel you must keep, maybe you should refuse to write any. That way the habits you want to form might actually stick. That way, more importantly, it won’t matter so much if they don’t.
After all tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow, thankfully, is another year.
I’m curious to get your thoughts on resolutions. Should we even have them? Are specific measurable goals the way to go? What about being clear about our values?. Let me finish by saying it’s been an absolute pleasure connecting with all of you on PO this year. To each and every one of you – for lifting me up, for making me think, for challenging me, for everything… thank you!
I wish you all a very happy New Years ahead.
You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com
You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com
Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot