Resolutions are shit.

Resolutions are shit.

So you have a few resolutions? Great. That means one thing, and one thing only: there are aspects of yourself which you would like to improve upon.

That being the case, I applaud that decision. It’s no secret that my mantra is stolen from Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Apparently you’ve accepted this notion, too, if you’ve set a goal to grow. The problem is that resolutions never work. We all know this, and yet we set them every year. What were your resolutions last year? How many did you accomplish? I thought so. It’s not your fault- it’s human nature, really.

January 1, 2012 is, quite literally, a completely random point in the space-time continuum. It is not a “better” time to improve yourself than was December 31, or July 7. At best, it may give you a sense of a blank slate from which to begin. Here’s the thing, though: every single day of your life is a blank slate. Growth isn’t something that you begin because of a flip of a page on a calendar. It’s a desire to be better, a hunger. If you didn’t feel that hunger last week, you’re not going to feel it today. Not all is doom and gloom, though. In fact, I’d say this is good news.

You want to change? Okay. Start today. Now. Tomorrow is the only day of your life that never comes, so get to it. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, here’s a tip or two.

Trim your list.

If your list of resolutions is a page and a half long, forget about it. It will never get done. In fact, the longer it is, the less likely you are to accomplish anything, let alone everything on the list. Why? Think of the feeling you get when you’re washing dishes. Imagine a set of eighteen dishes- eighteen plates, eighteen silverware sets, eighteen glasses. Now imagine approaching these dishes in the sink. Inevitably, it will feel like an almost insurmountable task. Now, imagine the same scenario, but with only three sets of dishes. See how much better that feels? There is no smaller a sense of accomplishment when the task is finished, but the stress level in even approaching the task is drastically diminished. You’re much more likely to start this task, which, of course, is the first and most important step. Trim your list down to those things which you feel are the most vital to your growth, and focus on those. Once you do them regularly, they will become habits. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an action, but a habit.” Aristotle was a wise dude. Once they become habits, the rest is frictionless, and you can move onto another goal.

Get specific.

Eating less and giving more to charity are admirable goals, but unless you break them down, you’re not likely to accomplish them. The human brain needs specific action steps to take towards completing a goal. Measure your caloric intake, and set a goal of a few hundred calories less per day. Find actual charities you’d like to donate to, set aside a fraction or your paycheck, and give a certain amount on a specific date of your choosing. Do this with all of your goals: break them down into actionable steps, with clearly defined dates, and watch the ease with which you mark them off the list. This has the added benefit of making it easier to start each task, since you can start with small, actionable steps (much easier to implement) than with large, generic goals, leaving you without the foggiest notion of where to even begin.

Workflowy is a wonderful and simple tool to organize your goals into simple, actionable steps.

In sum, resolutions are shit, and 2012 will not be your year unless you make today your day. Today, right now, is your blank slate. Begin.