Thanksgiving is a lot of fun, Fourth of July is iconic, Christmas is the headliner. I’m a pretty big fan of holidays in general. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good day off that almost always ends in a good meal. Holidays are also about family and being together, even in 2020 when that’s not physically possible in a lot of circumstances. Last, but not least, they are about taking stock in our perspective as well. Christmas is about giving, the Fourth of July is about remembering where we came from, Thanksgiving is well, it’s right in the name. As much as holidays are about the festivity of decorations, parades and eating some far too large piece of meat for dinner, they’re about lessons in being a good human being.
My favorite holiday actually happens to be New Years day and it’s because of the lesson rather than the festivities. We get caught up in the latter when it comes to the holiday. I think when most people consider New Year’s they think of New Year’s eve first. Staying up until midnight, smooching their partner, perhaps enjoying some alcoholic beverages while wearing funny glasses that serve as a reminder of what year we are celebrating. It’s great fun and don’t get me wrong, there certainly was a time as a younger man where I was all about the festivities of New Year’s eve. It’s fair to say that’s even where my love of the holiday was first born.
Nowadays it’s probably a 50/50 proposition of whether or not I’ll even make it to midnight. However, I’ve found much more joy in the lesson of New Year’s which is self improvement. After we all go out until the wee hours of the night celebrating, drinking, smooching and otherwise causing ruckus, the idea is we make the most of a clean slate the following day with the start of a new year. It’s somewhat ridiculous. Anyone could elect to start new on any day of the calendar or better yet should pick a day that is most advantageous for new beginnings. Whether that day is January 1st or December 15th is largely irrelevant. Still, I enjoy the concept and since there are a number of logistical advantages to “start fresh” at the beginning of the year I figure why not?
Every year I have one big resolution and make six goals around the theme of that big resolution, one for six separate categories: career, financial, family, social, personal, health (I know some people who add spiritual as a 7th category to this list). I’m a huge nerd so I’ll track those goals in a spreadsheet along with weekly, monthly, 5 year, 10 year and 30 year goals in the same six categories. There’s something about the yearly goals that make them my favorite. I think it’s because they are the right combination of long enough to be something big, but short enough to where they are easy to stay focused on. Every New Year’s day I sit down and write out my goals and put together anything (usually another spreadsheet) I need to layout the plan to achieving them over the coming 12 months. It would be a lie to say I then go out and execute the plan flawlessly. In fact, I’ve yet to accomplish all six in one year...this year the social goals got obliterated as well as the personal, financial took a step back too. It is what it is, though I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted this year I made progress towards all six of my goals and that’s the point.
The big key with self improvement, whether it’s New Year’s resolutions in a spreadsheet or something you just decided on before you fell asleep last night, is this: don’t stop. We put an insane amount of pressure on ourselves from the moment we decide to improve. It’s understandable, taking that first step is the absolute hardest one to do on a path of self-improvement no matter what it is you’re doing. That’s the point we become invested 100% and being invested 100% in anything is scary. When we hit adversity along the path of reaching our goals we can beat ourselves up, admonish ourselves for not being good enough. That type of thinking then leads to doubt about our ability to ever accomplish our goals and then we end up just giving up. More often than not when it comes to New Year’s resolutions that cycle plays out before the calendar turns to February.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes, oftentimes even, the simplest things will derail us from our plans because we let doubt creep into our heads, but nobody is perfect. Just because I didn’t accomplish three of my six goals doesn’t mean I’m not going to make six again this year. Improvement takes time and it takes getting it wrong...a lot. Think about it, there’s a reason you’re trying to improve whatever it is you’re trying to improve: you’re bad at it, you want to get better. Being bad at something you want to be good at sucks, it’s hard but there’s no way around it. Until they invent an elixir that suddenly improves your skills the only way to get better is to do the work and grind through the suck until you get to the polished product on the other end.
So I’ll challenge you to make a resolution yourself this year. No you don’t need to break it out over six goals and put it into a spreadsheet with 9 other tabs like giant nerds like me do, but think of one way you want to improve. Think about how much better you will be at it on New Year’s day 2022 if you commit to it on Friday, and whether you end up sleeping through that workout or deciding to eat that eclair for dessert or missing your night class or running into whatever other hiccup might come along the way to accomplishing your goal that’s ok. You’ll get it tomorrow, just keep going.