So, here it is mid-January, and I'm wondering how many of you have already broken some New Year's resolutions.
New Year's is traditionally the time for us to grab a metaphorical broom and clean house, out with the old and in with the new. We enthusiastically resolve, with eyes bright and drink in hand, that we will accomplish many new things during the coming year - or perhaps to stop doing some things. We'll lose weight, quit smoking, fall in love, tidy the basement, get a new job - whatever. And not necessarily in that order. The common element is that we tend to set these very general goals, some whimsical but many very unrealistic. We usually aim too high with this list, all the further to fall when we fail - and we will. In fact failure has become so much a part of the tradition that it's easy to shrug it off with friends, as it seems we all share that shortcoming. So there we are, with Christmas letdown, a New Years hangover, and the depression of long dark days and SAD - and we decide to beat ourselves up by focusing on the past year's failings and set unrealistic goals for the coming year. Goals that we know deep down inside we'll fail at.
Why do we fail? Maybe it's the timing, or maybe these are the same goals we set every year, and then ignore once the hangover wears off and the post Christmas bills arrive? Maybe we'd be better off to resolve to not make any resolutions that day, and also lower our expectations. Look at the year, do a lesson's learned, first look at what went well - and send that out in a Christmas letter to friends. Better than just a card and reinforces those things to you. Then look at what could be improved, and decide what you want to change. Then set yourself some smaller and reasonable goals and work on some attainable objectives for the next few weeks and months.
Or maybe instead you've decided to work on a "bucket list", which was popularized in a movie a few years ago, and now is widespread online through sites and discussions. This is a list of all the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket", a response to the question "If you were about to die, what regrets would you have?" Sort of like resolutions on steroids, since it gets amped up to things like getting a tattoo, sky-diving, or traveling the Sahara desert. I think this type list is more common in us older folks, who can see the end approaching better than an invincible 20 year old can, but the concept could guide us all. There are many sites out there with ideas on how to do a list and what to put on it, but you'll quickly realize it's a matter of priorities - you can't do everything at once, and some things are more "do-able" than others. What this exercise can do for you is cause a pause, a re-examination of where you are, who you are, and what choices you can make. It relates to choosing to not just be reactive and take life as it comes, but to be proactive and set some goals and objectives. And these don't all have to be huge things -rather than heading out to hit the world with a big splash, we can make some changes internally in how we relate to the world. Re-open closed relationships with friends and family, change our balance of work and play, maybe even redirect a career path to something that means more to us in a personal way, as opposed to collecting status and money. Re-examine why we are here, what we hope to accomplish, what would we like to be remembered for. Not always easy to do, but can leave you feeling more connected to life, to being in charge rather than a victim, to being one of those people that others envy as being so lucky to be successful and happy.
BTW - have I done any of the above? Some, but the challenge is always to get past the top of the list, "stop procrastinating." Being retired, I don't have the same pressure to be "busy busy", but could probably benefit from some goals of my own. Perhaps I'll write more on retirement and being busy in a later post. Sometime.