I realized some time ago that New Year’s resolutions work as well for me as they do for most people. I embrace them enthusiastically on January first and then drop them with reckless abandon sometime around January fourth.
If I was as goal oriented every day as I used to be January 1 through 4, I would have cured everyone’s cancer by now AND fulfilled my lifelong dream of teaching a water aerobics class to a group of 50 plus.
Maybe some of you are more dedicated to your goals than I am. Or maybe you all live your lives so effortlessly and perfectly that change isn’t really needed and so resolutions are pointless.
Well I’m not like you. I’m deeply flawed. Layers and layers upon flaws. Flaws coming out of my ears. Flaws coming out of my nose. And I pick at them and wipe them under seats in public venues. And then I chew off all of my fingernails and spit them across the room. And I don't even cover my mouth when I yawn.
I don't remember what we were talking about.
Oh yes. So, sometime around 2011, I sort of just stopped trying to set New Year’s resolutions because I was tired of creating things to be disappointed about. Disappointment happens often enough already that I don’t need to encourage it.
And then 2012 happened. And it kicked my butt. Well, the last few months of it did, which just so happened to be my first few months of living in Palau.
Palau was a much more traumatic experience than I ever imaged “paradise” would be. And by December 31, 2012, I moped and complained about this so passionately that my life became the new Telenovela. I even learned Spanish to make sure the drama was on point.
And so, sometime around the beginning of 2013, I was sitting in my office one day, thinking about how much I had changed in the last few months. Historically someone who doesn’t complain excessively, I had turned into a professional complainer. And I could actually see how annoying I had become.
Those friends I had who did not abandon me during this time should each be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and their names should be inscribed onto the Washington Monument. They should be recognized at country music concerts. They should get to buy movie tickets at discounted rates. They should each get two votes in gubernatorial elections.
The point is, these people are a special breed of human because looking back, I don’t think I could have remained friends with me, all things considered.
I decided that day in Palau, sitting in my office, that I needed to make a drastic change to my attitude. And I told myself then that 2013 was going to be The Year of Attitude for me. I was going to find a way to force myself to be positive. To choose to see the good instead of dwell on whatever seemed sad or stressful to me.
I didn’t set any particular goals or promise myself that I would engage in any specific practice. I just decided to adopt a general mentality.
And, strangely, this worked.
Throughout the year, every time I felt myself become tempted to mope or complain, I could hear a voice ringing in my head that said, “NO, ELI! THIS IS THE YEAR OF ATTITUDE! THIS IS NOT THE WAY A PERSON ACTS DURING THE YEAR OF ATTITUDE!” And it would zap me out of it. With nearly a 100% success rate.
And no, this wasn't schizophrenia. I'm not schizophrenic. And neither am I.
(Ba dum ching)
By the end of 2013, I was completely different than I had been at the beginning of it. And I was so pleased with this.
I’m really not kidding you when I say that in a not insignificant way, I had actually changed my life. I had improved in a way that I so badly needed to improve. And not because I had set a goal from which I could easily derail through one simple failure. But because of a general mentality I ardently sought to maintain and one that I forced to permeate every experience, every encounter, and every thought.
I think this worked because a weak moment didn’t feel like a failure the same way abandoning a goal might feel. For example, a goal to exercise every day for a year is easy to give up after missing a day on January 12th. But if I instead decide that this year is a year in which I’m going to be more active, not exercising on January 12th doesn’t feel so demoralizing to the general goal. Rather, on January 13th, I’m more motivated to exercise because I didn’t do so the day before, and missing two days in a row is surely unacceptable during The Year of Exercise!
I’m not sure if any of this is making sense to any of you. But for whatever reason, what I’ve described above resonates with whatever my personality is. So I go with it.
And that’s why at the end of The Year of Attitude, during which I saw so much success, I decided to pick another general area I wanted to improve in and set a theme for 2014. I deemed that year “The Year of Honesty.”
I didn’t see myself as particularly dishonest, but I thought I could be better at authenticity, and being vulnerable with my loved ones, and avoiding white lies, and not shutting people out, as I had done throughout my life.
Similarly to the Year of Attitude, throughout 2014, whenever I was tempted to be anything but authentic, I heard that voice asking me, “is this how someone acts during THE YEAR OF HONESTY, ELI?!”
And by the end of that year, I felt more authentic than I had ever been in my entire life.
I noticed, too, that just because it was no longer The Year of Attitude, this did not mean that I resumed my old poor attitude. A year of focusing on one mentality creates habits that die hard, and so, although I focused 2014 on being more honest, the positive attitude I had developed in 2013 carried through in important ways.
In 2015 I began The Year of Standing Up for Myself. It was aimed to combat my lifelong struggle to assert myself in professional settings and to eliminate toxic and draining relationships that I had enabled by being too much of a “yes man.” By the end of 2015, I found myself much more professionally respected, focusing much more on relationships that were meaningful, and rid of some that had been destructive in my life.
And still, I found I was more positive and honest than I had been in past years.
And so, this year, 2016, I thought long and hard before determining that I would make this The Year of Productivity. A year where not a minute is wasted on something that has no value. A year when I would finally do the things I’ve always wanted to do but that I’ve excused away from beginning.
This is much to the chagrin of Matt, who has nearly strangled me 2,000 times since January because I have screamed into his face that this is “THE YEAR OF PRODUCTIVITY” pretty much every time he decides to rest for a minute.
It has been an exhausting year, to say the least. But it has been the most productive year I’ve known in my 32 years of living.
When I find myself mindlessly thumbing through TV channels, I inevitably hear that familiar voice SCREAM at me, “THIS IS THE YEAR OF PRODUCTIVITY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”
This year I threw myself into Strangerville, a project I have put off for a very long time. I’ve written more than I have in past years. I’ve been more focused at the office, setting distractions aside, distractions that used to derail me from productivity, sometimes for hours in any given day. And because of all of this, and more, I feel more fulfilled in my work and my hobbies than I ever have before.
I’m not telling you all of this just so you’ll know HOW AMAZING I AM (oh my gosh stop it you guys I hate all this attention my hair just looks this way naturally iwokeuplikedis).
I wanted to share this with you because what I’ve described above has honestly transformed my life, and if you think this sort of thing might be valuable to you, I would love to have you join me in it. In the last several months of each year I start thinking long and hard about what theme I’ll use the next year (and my friends actively attempt to steer me away from themes that they know are going to extremely annoying for them. We all owe my friend Val an eternal debt of gratitude for stopping me from making 2016 The Year of Veganism and Crossfit).
And so, I’ll encourage you, too, to start thinking about what your theme will be. Give it significant thought, and then let’s all embrace our themes come January One. I’ll write to you then and unveil my own well-thought-out 2017 theme and invite you to tell me yours. And by the end of 2017, we’ll all have cured cancer and taught water aerobics.
OMG. I think I just became a motivational speaker. I’m basically Oprah.
|PC: Stranger Mike Batie|
~It Just Gets Stranger