Two thousand fifteen … not all that much different that two thousand fourteen as the calendar flips, to be sure. January isn’t all that much different from December around these parts. It’s still mostly cold and somewhat snowy. The skies are a slate grey, the trees a bare brown, the air is a few snaps more than crisp. The nights are long but at least they’re starting to get shorter again. That’s probably the biggest difference and it pasted on the equinox a week or so back.
Even so, people take up their champagne flutes and beer mugs, clank them together, hung and kiss with a folk song they desperately wish they more than three lines to replaying in the background. Each January 1 at midnight hauntingly similar in some regard to one before it.
And, thus, it’s the same “I don’t make resolutions” rant about to occur again because New Year’s is such an arbitrary day to take stock of what previously happened and set new goals for what happens next. It’s an old cliche to promise yourself you’ll make all these changes in your life and then be disappointed when you find you seemed to accomplish no outcome you set forth too.
It happens for any number of reasons. Too many promises to try and keep. Too big of chances to effectively accomplish them. Too many other inputs throughout the year distracting and side tracking. Too arbitrary of timing in making the changes. Or too often assuming the wrong result to be aiming for.
“Be what you would seem to be—or, if you’d like it put more simply—Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise” – Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll
Effectively managing life is all about a mindset and in that last point is where I’ll start first in why I don’t do the whole resolutions thing. We like to imagine we’re in control of outcomes, endpoints. If I only do this or that then I’ll get the outcome I want. The problem is how we’ve defined the outcome, what we believe to be the success we’re looking for isn’t just based on our individual actions. Our actions are but one input in a series of them influencing the end point we imagine we are aiming for. We fool ourselves into feeling we are in control when the reality is all those other factors, many of which are unknown initially, are the actual elements creating what happens.
Thus, we begin from the wrong definition of the end point. It is a matter of framing. Rather than arbitrarily choosing an ending in advance which is what most of this resolution setting is about, it should be thought of more in terms of progress and actually adjusting to these new inputs. It’s about expectation setting and interpreting results.
We think of outcomes often as a duality, starkly contrasting opposites. It is either a success or a failure. And we do this based on our initial preconception that the result has to fit into our initial definition when setting the resolution. However, life is not the SAT. I say this all the time: There are no right or wrong actions only the ones YOU take and the outcomes that happen. You don’t control the inputs in and you don’t actually control the outcome only the decision to do one thing or another based on your interpretation of the inputs. There is no way of knowing what will happen most of the time until after you execute your action. And even then, it is all in how you chose to interpret the outcome. Outcomes are rarely singular in nature either. Many variables in means many variables out too. If you chose to only judge the outcome based on a single variable you are probably missing something.
The reason I don’t do yearly resolution setting is life isn’t dictated by the single variable of the one day changing to the next when the calendar flips. Other than many for some accounting purposes in tracking my money and paying taxes few things actually being, or end, aligned with the calendar year. The calendar flip is rarely an actual input into the equation of success for most things in life. It isn’t tied to my birth, or my relationship or job anniversaries, or the starting of most activities, so it also isn’t a natural end point in reviewing them for me.
By dividing up my resolution making into more intuitive points during the year it actually helps me with another reason why resolutions fail, because I’m not trying to make them all at once. I am not trying to simultaneously change or optimize everything and thus I don’t become overwhelmed by the experience. I don’t become frustrated trying to manage it and I don’t become easily depressed because I can’t interpret the outcomes from previous resolutions because there are so many to analyze that might not have lived up to my supposed expectations. My personal challenges are wrapped around my birthday, my aspirations for my career built upon work anniversaries, education tied to matriculation, the house progress is fixed upon the closing date, my marriage upon variations of our different anniversaries and so on.
For example, often, around my birthday I joke about regular, uneventful birthday years and those falling on mile markers. This year, it’s a mile marker. A few decades ago, it would have been a much bigger mile marker as it was affectionately referred to as being over the hill. Physically, some days, I totally feel like I am … but emotionally, psychologically however you want to view it, I am still spry and youthful in my mind. Full of opportunity to learn, to experience, to grow. This happens regardless if the calendar flips from one annotated year to another so many of the personal things I want to accomplish are tied more to what I decided back in September (which I realize now, I never actually cataloged this past year, woops)
The year anniversary of my marriage was a few months back and the journey continues. We have, as a couple, a short bucket list of things we’d like to accomplish in our second year of marriage but we aren’t looking at New Years as being a big part of defining that. In part because both of us have an aversion to resolutions on New Years for our own reasons, and in part because we’re constantly exploring what our expectations, needs, wants and desires in the relationship are and not waiting till December 31 to take stock in what we have accomplished and where we’d like to progress next.
So, does this mean everything I do is tied to some other day? Not exactly. Since life doesn’t conform to the standard units of calendar time to begin with the cycles of closing out the old and no longer relevant or beginning something new, or adjusting something along the way. Inevitably some of that actually occasionally does happened along with the holiday. That’s fine when it does, who am I to argue with inputs I can’t control? Remember, all I have is what I decide to do with the inputs and what occurs from there.
Siblings and other family members and even some friends are engaged now. Raise that new beer as a toast to them and their exciting news. Although, non happened on New Years Day, they were all close enough that my moment of an epiphany actually comes now. My thoughts? I realize I am not as close with some of these people as maybe I’d like to be, or should be. It gives me pause to consider this. I tend to keep a very close circle around me. So close, sometimes it’s not even a circle but more like a single hug. It is in my best interest to expand that a bit. Something between the hundreds of friends I have on Facebook and the handful I actually see somewhat regularly in real life is what I probably need. I knew this before, I’ve even noted it within other posts but I’m reminded of the importance to put a greater emphasis on relationship development among my friends and family seeing others’ circles expanding. More of me needs to be more available to more of the world around me and focusing on cultivating a few more relationships that transcend the superficial would probably be beneficial to everyone.
I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to accomplish this and to what end I’m actually working toward. I think I know how I will monitor progress along the way and what types of milestones I could look for. In the meantime, toast a new beer to me for trying!
And, on that note, I’m going to try and get some sleep now too. It’s been one of those years, if you know what I mean…