New Year's resolutions, behavior change, and my hopes for 2020.
January 31, 2020
We've wrapped up the first month of this "new decade1." By now, people have already started (or given up) their "new year, new me" transformations for 2020. Most people write these posts just before the new year or on January 1, but I'm choosing to write this now.
I was never one for coming up with New Year's resolutions. It seemed rather peculiar that just because it's a "new year," all of the sudden, things will be completely different. When time is merely a human construct2, how does the tick of the clock single-handedly3 alter the trajectory of millions of people's lives simultaneously? Is there some astrological explanation for this? Being a Libra makes me fairly logical, so I don't buy into all that astrology stuff.
"Ruddy stargazers. Not interested in anythin' closer'n the moon."
I always wondered what was so special about January 1 when we could just as easily choose today to make even the smallest adjustments in our lives for the better.
"So this is the new year
And I have no resolutions
For self assigned penance
For problems with easy solutions"
—Death Cab for Cutie
The most important function of time, in my opinion, is record keeping (not scheduling your next meeting). So it’s really not about the new year. It’s for us to collectively reflect on the last 12 months. To find patterns and identify what we’ve accomplished and where we could potentially improve—as individuals and as a society.
So can’t we just reflect on a routine basis? Yes and we should; however, there’s something else at work during the new year. We understand birthdays and holidays are not the only times when we can appreciate our friends and family, but we still celebrate these “special occasions." It’s a time when we can collectively celebrate people. So New Year’s resolutions aren’t just about self-improvement. They’re about community—encouraging each other to continue pursuing our goals. It’s about empathy.
I have a friend that tagged virtually every post they made on social media in 2018 with #newyearnewme—from January through December. Maybe that is the key... It sounds silly. It was silly. It was satire. But within that dumb joke lived some very real insight—did I really just call a hashtag insightful? Yes, I definitely did.
It was commitment.
The truth is, most of the time, these resolutions don’t last. I’ve read articles, books, and watched videos about habit and routine building4. We get excited about these new ways we want to improve our lives; however, as time goes on, we get distracted or discouraged. We slip up.
We may initially overestimate our abilities in establishing new behaviors without fully comprehending what it will take. We don’t break them down into manageable chunks and build on them over time. We're in such a rush to instill all of these new changes that we think will completely turn our entire lives around! But for most of us, they never seem to stick.
It is key to understand that failure is inevitable. It’s the key to success. There's no real "hack" for these types of changes, and there is no universal method that each and every person can apply. Lifestyle changes require resilience, dedication, and experimentation. Understanding why we want to make these changes and remembering them is as important as how we will go about making them.
I began my "New Year's resolutions" in September last year. When I started, I wasn't thinking about the new year. I had a goal in mind: I need to finish my portfolio. I wasn’t necessarily looking to completely change my life. It’s just that I realized evenings were no longer opportune for me to work. After getting out of the office around 6pm, going to the gym, and then cooking (when I was really motivated), I had very little energy or even time to be productive. So I decided I start waking up earlier.
It doesn’t sound like a huge lifestyle change, but for me it was. I would generally get to bed around 12:30am and be asleep by 1am or so. I’d wake up at 8am and scramble to get dressed, make coffee, and head to the office. That wouldn’t work for me if I wanted to get work done on my portfolio in the morning.
At the time of writing this, it’s 8:38am, and I’ve been awake for nearly 3 hours—voluntarily. My 15-year-old self would be in shock. I was able to make breakfast, eat it, wash whatever dishes I used, make some coffee, get dressed, and edit this blog post. I know it’s not groundbreaking for others, but it’s a great accomplishment for me. Here are some things that help me stay motivated:
Understanding why I want to wake up early (i.e. completing my portfolio will help me with my career growth)
Figuring out the specifics of how I will wake up early (i.e. list out exactly I need to do in the mornings such as brushing teeth, making breakfast, specific tasks I will tackle for my portfolio each morning )
Removing as much of the resistance as possible (i.e. picking out my clothes the night before, prepping my snacks for the next day)
On days I feel like sleeping in, asking myself if I need more sleep or if it's just more comfortable
Recognizing the accomplishment of following through each day
Remembering to be encouraging to myself instead of feeling disappointed on the days I do not wake up early
I'm not hitting my mark every morning. This is a routine I actively work to maintain. There are mornings, I sleep in because I didn't plan it out. There are mornings I'm just too damn tired. It's okay. I'm not trying to be a robot—I'm just trying to be better.
Lastly, I want to close out with some of my aspirations (or "resolutions" if you really want) for 2020 and onward . There is no particular order, and I don't expect to be constantly successful. They're a reminder of what the person I strive to be—at least for now.
Continue waking up early to design, write, or read (depending on the day and my goal)
Execute on some of the personal projects on my list
Write 1-2 blog posts a month
Read at least 6 fiction books this year
Write in my journal each evening before bed to clear my mind
Workout 4-6 times a week
Stop waiting on the weekend and start living for each day
Declutter my home and my life to make room for the important things
Consume mindfully rather than impulsively
Stop buying so many shoes (okay, except those Infrared 90s if they drop this year—but that's it!)
Shoot more photos and video (and develop that black and white film that's been in your freezer for years!)
Technically, every moment begins a new decade (i.e. birthdays), but I won't go on about semantics.
Let's set aside the various quantum theories in which time is malleable.
I thought that was clever.
This article does a good job of exploring the differences between habits and routines.