If you’re already going strong on a New Year’s resolution, then good for you. Run with it. Don’t let me get in your way.
If you didn’t get around to making one, you didn’t miss anything. In fact you might have dodged a bullet. I’ve made a lot of resolutions that did work out, but none of them began on a January 1st. I figure just about any other day is a better day to make a real change.
The problem with New Years-ing your resolution is that it gives undue weight to the idea of a clean slate. It seems like January first really does reset something, and that it’s important to harness that rare chance.
But of course, it’s just another tomorrow. There are no clean slates. Past failures will still visit you in your head, from whatever year. Bad internal dialogues will still occur, and you’ll still have the same preconceptions about yourself and the kinds of outcomes you can create.
All of this stuff is real, and it doesn’t respect the Gregorian calendar. The glowing Times Square Ball doesn’t have any special powers to obliterate your weaknesses. Making a change must include confronting certain patterns and personal liabilities. You have to take them on willingly as a part of the deal — you can’t trick yourself by pretending they only exist in 2011.
So if you think you need a clean slate to make a change then you’re going to have trouble once you realize a new calendar year doesn’t really clean anything. Self-doubt will appear in 2012 too.
Most people use January 1st because it seems worthwhile to exploit whatever whiff of an advantage it seems to offer. They gravitate towards it as if they recognize that their chances aren’t so good to begin with. Admit you don’t need it, and pick a different day. Pick one that has no sentimental significance, no false help. Don’t even use a Monday.
Of course, if you’re serious about making a change, you know that it isn’t a matter of improving your chances. It’s all up to you, not the fates, so you don’t need to line up your plastic trolls and rabbit’s feet like the old ladies at bingo. You’re much better off if you don’t hang your hopes on anything you don’t plan to control.
If you pick a day like, say, Thursday, January 12th to mark a new stage in your life, then clearly you intend to build your new beginning right where you actually stand, rather than some mythical “clean” day. If you’re serious about your resolution, you know you don’t need the phony advantage of a fresh year.
In fact, it’s worth avoiding. Too many other people are at the gym for the first time, treadmilling with an an affected kind of determination that won’t be there in February. Too many other people are teetering already, about to relapse and have a cigarette or a drink. Share your resolve with those people and it will feel like you’re all on shaky ground, doomed to fail sooner or later. February is an excellent time to buy almost-new exercise equipment off Craigslist.
Distance yourself from that whole cultural meme and its ever-fading energy. Decide you’ll make a serious effort that doesn’t need a special calendar day.
Most importantly, make it temporary. Thirty-day commitments are doable for almost anyone and they leave you with something real. Unlike lifetime commitments, you can actually get them firmly under your belt, for good, and when you’re done you’re in a truly stronger position to decide how to live. Lifetime commitments to new habits are impossible and unnecessary.
Experiment No. 12 — 30,000 words
I’ve never written on an everyday basis. I’m closing in on three years of writing for Raptitude and there has never even been a week in which I’ve written every day. It’s still something I avoid out of habit. I get quite a bit done in a short time when my deadline is looming, but I know that my best writing happens when my deadline isn’t pushing on me.
So I will learn to write every day. A thousand word quota, every day for 30 days.
Sitting down is the hardest part of writing. The second hardest part is to work through the urge to get up. My plan is to sit down early every day and get a thousand words done.
I won’t overcomplicate it like I did my last experiment. Just sit down and write, every day, and don’t get up until the quota is reached.
The experiment will begin Wednesday, January 4th. Keep track of my progress in the experiment log.
Another announcement. This month I’m going to be heading out to the east coast for the first time. The plan is to work through my bucket list, meet a lot of people and take a lot of photographs. My primary destination is New York City, but I’m also going to do a bit of wandering in Vermont, Boston, and Washington DC, then hit Toronto on the way home.
Dates aren’t quite set in stone but it looks like I’ll be arriving in New York January 20th, and leaving for Toronto February 11th-ish.
If you’re in one of those areas and want to meet for coffee and teach me a bit about your home city that would be excellent. Better still, if you can help me do something on The List I would be very grateful and will credit you on the site.
Happy new year.
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Photo by Barry Yanowitz