New Year’s is coming up, which—not gonna lie—is one of my favorite times of the year for completely geeky reasons.
I like making resolutions. They make me feel so productive without even having to do anything. I simply resolve to do a thing, and: magic! I’ve accomplished so much! I feel all the warm fuzzies!
To my credit, I usually succeed in following through on the things I resolve to do for about… two weeks. Essentially, I make a sprint, totally prioritize my new modality for that temporary phase of time, and then… it’s not that I burn out, it’s just that the realities of maintaining that pace catch up to me, and I reprioritize.
So, for instance, I briefly tried getting up at 5 AM for a while because I feel so much better about the rest of my day when I get all of my personal priorities out of the way in the morning. I knew my difficulty wouldn’t be getting up so much as going to bed, and sure enough, I could only sustain a 10-O’clock bedtime on nights when I wasn’t spending time with friends. Because friends > writing my novel, it would seem. Stated vs. revealed preferences, yo.
I think this is why so many people fail their New Year’s Resolutions (and subsequently come to mock them so ardently). The problem with sustaining a resolution lies not so much in the task itself, but in the trade-offs you have to make in order to accomplish it.
In this light, the two-week sprint doesn’t look so much like a failure, and more like one step in an iterative learning process. Did that thing seem like a good idea? Well, here’s what it will cost to keep it going. Does it still seem like a good idea?
It’s OK to give your resolutions a two-week trial and then decide they’re not for you.
Or, if you have to make them work, it’s OK to give them a two-week trial and then test a new path toward accomplishing the same goal.
So I get a bit giddy when I plan out my goals for the year. But when they start to fray mid-January, I find ways to patch them up. Or I make alterations. And each time I try something new, I learn more about what I can and can’t accomplish.
I think we get hung up on the plans we make. We make all these decisions early on in the process when we have relatively little data as to how it will affect our lives and what we’ll actually have to do to make them happen. Then, when they don’t work out, our conclusion isn’t: I guess I should adjust my plan and find a different way to make this work. Instead it’s: I guess I’m lazy, and I planned beyond my abilities, which wasn’t hard to do because I guess I’m just bad at everything.
Well, we’re all bad at planning things. I can tell you now: my list for last year was absurd. I wanted to get so many things done, that I stuffed it full of the most insane pipe dreams. And what’s amazing is: I got about half of it done. I accomplished about half of my pipe dreams.
So resolve away. And if mid-January hits and you’ve already changed your mind, resolve anew.