I’ve never liked traditional New Year’s resolutions for all the common reasons. I like the concept. I like using an arbitrary but significant time to take a look at where I am in life and where I want to be. And I have made progress based solely off of resolutions in the past.
But the traps are always there. It’s easy for a resolution to be terrifying in scope and there is a social construct built almost entirely around breaking these resolutions.
So I’m trying something a little different this year. Last year, by the by, I had just one New Years resolution:
Finish my MBA without losing my family or my mind.
I mostly succeeded. I didn’t lose my family, and now that I’m sleeping more than two hours a night my mind is doing much better, thank you for asking.
What’s better than a goal?
In general resolutions seem to take the form of a “goal”, something you want to accomplish in the next calendar year. There are usually three:
- Get in better shape
- Spend money more wisely
- Do a thing that makes you feel more like yourself
For me the third one has to do with writing. So I’ll set specific writing goals and then pull a Douglas Adams and miss them entirely. The difference, of course, is that nobody is sending a courier to my house to publish my book whether it’s finished or not.
And these goals are useful! I have definitely made progress in all these categories when I have focused on them. I have been focusing on them, and I will continue to do so.
But like I said, I’m trying something new this year. Instead of shooting for one “SMART” goal in each category, I’m working on creating a personal theme for the year.
The difference, in my mind, is that I’m already working on my goals. I know what I want to accomplish in the next twelve months. But who do I want to be during those twelve months? What do I want to change about myself?
Thus a theme instead of a set of goals. If I were a business I would perhaps call this a mission statement, but I intend for it to be more open and encompassing than that.
And here it is! My theme! I have definitely stolen it from deeper thinkers over the last…well, two to three millennia, as near as I can tell. It’s a not-uncommon phrase, and has been used by several illustrious individuals.
For those of you who don’t spend hours researching dead people’s creeds or mottos, it is often translated as “Make haste, slowly.” And is a delightful little paradox. Various people have worked it into images, such as a turtle with a sail, or a crab and a butterfly or, more famously, a dolphin and an anchor.
Image used under CC-BY-30 license from Arminiuzz See Original
You can read the Wikipedia Page page if you want more analysis of how the world has used the phrase, but here’s what I get from it:
Keep doing, but take the time to do it right. There is always more that could be done, always more we should do. It’s easy to bounce from task to task, never finishing anything, never seeing anything through. And it’s important to do things! But we, well, I, need to slow down and ensure that I’m doing things right, and doing them until they’re done.
So instead of committing to finish any specific goals this year, I’m going to commit to doing things right, staying busy but being focused in my busy-ness.
Such Power There is In Clear-Eyed Self-Restraint
This fits with my life motto, the above quote, attributed to James Russell Lowell. My goal is, as always, to find ways in which I lack self-restraint, and to practice and improve.
So that’s what I’m working on in 2020. My hope is that giving my life a theme like this will help me be more focused, and more focused on the right things, in the coming year.