So. Along with what I’m sure are millions of other people on the planet, I’ve been giving some thought this week about the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing.
I decided it was garbage.
After years of conveniently abandoned “resolutions,” I’ve decided that what I really need to do is make New Year’s ACTIONS. A resolution, like all talk, is cheap. Iffy. Contingent on will, intent or “as conditions allow.” Anyone can make them, because they come at no cost.
By contrast, action is defined as:
1. The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.
2. A thing done.
Resolutions may work for some, but my brain knows the difference.
I resolve to do a lot of things. Become fluent in Spanish. Scan and convert all my paper files to digital format. Konmari the hell out of that last scary corner in the garage. All of which, at this writing, remain undone. Why? Because a resolution screams optional. There’s always something better or more pressing to do (not to mention easier).
Resolutions are aspirational. Think about that. An aspiration. When was the last time an aspiration changed your circumstances? Created measurable results? Altered the course of your life?
An action, on the other hand, is either performed, or it’s not. It doesn’t exist in some aspirational queue waiting for you to get off your noncommittal arse and finally pull the trigger. If it hasn’t gone down yet, you’re left with a big pile of pixie dust and fairy farts. No matter how many lists of “things” you write down, they’ll never be actions. Intentions, maybe. Goals, at best.
Let’s repeat together, then: Nothing counts as an action until it’s a thing done. A box with a check mark in it. Only actions create habits. And only habits create lasting change and results.
It’s OK to think, plan, talk it out, and write stuff down. Encouraged, even. Clears the brain and gets the juices flowing. Births deadlines. But don’t fool yourself. You haven’t taken any “action” besides…well, thinking, planning, talking and writing. As I’ve learned the hard way, it is entirely possible to remain stuck in this state indefinitely, convinced that you are getting things done and getting closer to your goals. (What do you think all those endless, pointless meetings at work are about?) You haven’t actually done THE THING until the thing is DONE.
But Terri, my crunchy granola friends ask. What about learning to be present and in the moment? Simply enjoying what IS?
Yeah. OK. We can all agree that there’s a time and place for everything, including quiet reflection and simply enjoying the journey. But there’s a balance. Some of us have veered too far – and for too long – into the land of avoidance and paralysis, elevating it to an art form. We keep rehashing in our minds the things that need to happen, but we’re not doing them. There comes a point when you just need to shut up and act on the 80% of information you have. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.
Here’s how I see it. I need to train myself to think along the following:
For any positive change I want to create in my life, there’s only the entrance ramp, and the finish line. No exit ramps. No “Ooh, look, a Starbucks!” or “Is that an IHOP sign up ahead?”
I don’t have time for pancakes.
Pancakes were not the goal.
If my program breaks down for any reason, fine. I can pull over briefly, shed an angry tear, and kick the tires in frustration. Regroup. Phone a friend. Ask the audience. For five minutes. Ten, max. Then it’s time to quickly diagnose what went wrong. Fix it. And pull myself together long enough to safely merge back into the highway lane.
The only AAA coming to rescue me roadside is Adjust, Adapt and their can-do sibling Act.
What I CAN’T do is leave my potential stranded on the shoulder, or exit Highway I-2016 without having met some milestone. Like do the one thing that scares me. Learn something new. Take a big risk. Make a positive difference in the lives of others. Invest in myself. No bailouts without having done something to be better off today than I was yesterday. Resolutions won’t cut it.
Resolution = Pixie Dust and Fairy Farts.
Understand I’m only ministering to myself here. You can do whatever you want. I’m hard on me, because I have to be. Forty-nine percent of my brain’s DNA is controlled by an alter ego named Slick Willie (short for Wilhelmina).
Slick Willie is cunning. Always looking for the exit ramp. And she F*s with me daily.
Terri: I need to finish this post. We set a goal of two a week, remember?
Slick Willie: Yeah. You’re right. This blank page, though. Ughhh. Kinda stressing me out right now. Let’s open up five more browser windows and do some “product research” first and then…oh, look, two new texts. (Picks up phone.) What? Yeah, but it might be one of the girls. Let’s just check real quick. Oh. Never mind. Just the shipping confirmation. Ooh. That reminds me about the other thing I wanted to look up. (Opens sixth browser window.)
Terri: I should work out. I told myself I would work out
six five four days a week, minimum.
Slick Willie: Yeah. We totally should. We skipped yesterday. But you know what? If we treat this as a second “off” day, that will give your body 48 hours instead of just 24 hours to recover, so the ligaments and whatnot can sufficiently contract and relax, or whatever. Sounds nice, right? Then we can bounce back fresh day after tomorrow and hit the gym HARD….What? Yeah, I know we said that last week and the two days turned into four. But it was the holidays, lighten up! I said, and you agreed, that we should eat, drink, be merry and sit around in our underwear watching Downton Abbey. You always gotta bring up s**t from the past, let it go. Anyway, I think I know how to get us back on track. You know what we should do? Go to bed with all our workout gear on, even though those Lululemon pants are so damn tight it’ll probably give us a blood clot and kill us in our sleep…YOU shut up. I’m tired. And I want a donut. Aarrrghh. I know it’s not gluten-free, I can read the label. Sick of you and this damn gluten-free crap all the time. These chips, then. Fruit?!? Bitch.
Slick Willie is relentless. She has a PhD in Distraction Studies. And is always happy to remind me that these resolutions of mine are just rough guidelines subject to her whims and fancies. Overthinking things is her wedged door. Her embossed invitation. The fuel that keeps her powered. She lives there, remember? When you co-own the equipment, you know all the weak spots. And how to exploit them.
But I’m no victim. I, and I alone, am responsible for her rise to power. I choose the mindset, and I set the rules of engagement.
The antidote is clear. Less (over)thinking, and more doing. Barring any unforeseen illness, family emergencies, personal tragedy or other factors outside of my control, I…
Stay. Performing. Actions.
I’ve got a few already lined up. Stay tuned. You’ll recognize them by their clear action steps, tools and strategies. (Some may even mirror your own goals.)
If you take away nothing else from this post, just remember:
Pixie Dust and Fairy Farts. Is that the world you want to continue to inhabit in 2016?
Some of you do. And I won’t judge. Not everyone is ready to get real. That’s cool. But I’m done. If I’m going to be the landlord of my own mind, I can’t block invading squatters yet allow domestic hijackers as tenants. All must go. None shall enter.
Slick Willie is jamming me up. Blocking progress. And she must be stopped.
Or, at the very least, contained. No system is perfect. The brain is tricky terrain, so the chance for missteps is always present. But I have to try. Too much stuff to accomplish this year, and no time to entertain her shenanigans.
Do you have a Slick Willie? (Be careful. Some seep in from the outside, masquerading as friends and lovers, relatives, spouses or others in your “inner circle.”) If so, you might want to take stock, and decide who’s going to be running things in 2016. As a reminder to myself about who’s in charge this year, I’ll be keeping a bottle of this by my bedside:
Want your own? You’ll have to make it. I bought the last one on Etsy.
Happy New Year!
P.S. Before we get down to business, let’s share a laugh over this New Year’s Resolutions parody video of Adele’s Hello. Because there’s always time for anything Adele.