Happy new year. As much as I loathe to write it, this is a post about resolutions. You're probably thinking, loathe is a strong word. Here's why I chose it.
I don't believe a new calendar hanging on your wall is the best reason to resolve to change. I think the best time to initiate change is right now. Or, more accurately, the best time to change was yesterday.
However, after spending time with Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations," I've come to appreciate that the nature of the universe is change. It's a constant. And to stand in the way of change -- particularly any reason at all to change for the better -- is to get crushed under the weight of the universe.
For the reason at the beginning of the previous paragraph, I've never had a new year's resolution, and I think that has been to my detriment. This year, I have nine. These are the big four:
- Be more useful to others.
- Blog three times per month.
- Mediate for at least five minutes, three times per week.
- Read a book per month.
You'll notice a common thread with three of four: they're measurable. I'm using Way of Life, a fantastic habit building and breaking app I heard about on a recent episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, to track my progress. Four days into the new year, all systems are go. Keeping things measurable has been critical. Here's why.
Before broadening my fitness horizons, I was a gym rat who dreaded the first week of January. I didn't dread it because the gym was crowded, or because the new members didn't know what they were doing, but more so, it was because the majority would be gone by the next week.
What was especially frustrating and depressing was that with a slight adjustment to their approach, I knew their new habit would stick. Here is an example of an adjustment I made to one of my other resolutions. Italic type is the rough draft. Bold type is the final cut.
- Get better at Jiu Jitsu and earn my blue belt.
- Train Jiu Jitsu at least three times per week.
First, the obvious: one is measurable, the other isn't. Second, not so obvious. Let's look at the philosophy in the rough draft. It's goal-oriented. I'm a goal-oriented person (it's something I'm trying to change, but that's a post for another day). But getting to blue belt, or any belt -- or really, any arbitrary milestone in life -- has a way of leading to shortcuts and a loss of appreciation for the journey.
It also sets you up for total derailment if you hit a setback. What if I trained every day and didn't get the promotion? I'm more likely to give up on the resolution, or maybe on Jiu Jitsu.
By resolving to train three times a week, I'm better positioning myself for success for three reasons:
- I can measure my progress.
- I'm likely to better appreciate the journey.
- I'm likely to absorb more Jiu Jitsu because I'm grounded in the present, not looking ahead toward a milestone.
Back to the gym example. Instead of resolving to lose 15 pounds (measurable, but not unlike my blue belt example) or resolving to get fit (kind of like resolving to get better at Jiu Jitsu), I'd advocate for resolving to exercise three times a week. Tying exercise to a place -- the gym -- adds another point of failure to the fitness equation. Besides, you can get better exercise for free all over the internet. I'd recommend getting yourself a light kettlebell and checking out Fitness Blender.
This concept doesn't just apply to fitness. The same is true of my mediation resolution. The bar is set low: only five minutes, only three times a week. That's intentional. I've made the onset of forming the habit as easy and accessible as possible. I know I can manage five minutes, and that makes me optimistic that I'll work up to longer sessions at greater frequency.
Of my big-four resolutions, the first -- be more useful to others -- is neither specific nor quantifiable. That makes it difficult to sustain. However, it's supported by the next three -- chiefly, blogging three times per month. It's my hope to make this blog more useful to you in 2016. My deepest thanks to you for reading.