One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.
If you’ve read my New Year’s post from two years back, you know how I feel about them – real resolutions aren’t made around this time. Really, don’t bother with making a habit of resolving to do anything – that’s saved for the masses that relish pre-determined seasonal routines: a dozen roses on Valentine’s day, getting wasted on St. Patrick’s day, camping out for deals on Black Friday/Boxing Day, etc.
As I look upon my past year, I can say that I have a good recollection of most days, and a vivid memory of a select number of days. Driven by a desire to experiment and create, I constantly, and perhaps slightly perilously, put myself in a state of change and challenge. Doing my best to stay true to the “do one thing every day that scares you” maxim, my days never blended into one another in a forgettable haze.
Some days I would attempt a conversation in a foreign language. Some days I would strike up conversation with attractive women in public. Some days I would be on the dance floor making a scene, the good way, in a nightclub on the other side of the world. Some days I was trying out new business ideas. Almost every day I was either creating or learning something new. Keeping this blog updated is a part of it, since non-technical writing was never my forte. Though I can’t lay out days past photographically, I can say that the feeling from the moment I woke up to the end of any day was never tiring like it was in my office days. I may have been burnt out at the end of some days, but it was a satisfying tiredness.
And, believe it or not, I wasn’t travelling most of the time. Having a memorable year due to long-term travel is almost a given, and, although creating the circumstances for long-term travel requires more determination and fortitude, the journey to getting there is nonetheless simultaneously memorable. If you have indeed been travelling for the past year, then I’ll assume you’re in a pleasant place reading this post with a smile, wherever you may be. As for myself, strangely enough, while I coasted through different parts of the world, I felt that beyond working on my video projects, I didn’t really need to travel so much. I realized I would have been just as content being in one place working on great projects, and as a result, that’s where I am now.
Not surprisingly, the lifestyle I have chosen also comes with many ups and downs. I have my share of loss and failure. At the same time, I feel like I’ve condensed five years of learning into one. Getting used to the roller coaster does require some grit, but so long as I don’t stay down, loss becomes determination, which in turn is a motivating force – not the other way around. You’ll always remember a loss, but if you allow one or many to take over you, perhaps in the form of a depression, then your days will no longer be memorable. Instead, you will remain in that same murky haze, waiting for each painful day to pass.
So, given what I’ve said, how can you spend the first few days of the New Year?
If you have some written goals, it’s a fun time to review them. Read them over. See where you are. Revise them as needed – things change along the way. For instance, if you’re a goal newbie, you may find that material goals may decrease while personal goals such as having better relationships, balance, and mental peace to be at the forefront. Jotting them down, and then looking back on them in a journal is a fun idea because it’s really interesting to see your progress. And remember, goals are never really a destination – be in it for the journey. As I may have mentioned before, I actually don’t review written goals often – I’ve more or less internalized them, and question my progress frequently.
If you’re already in a place where you’re taking action, perhaps from reading this blog :), then congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back and simply continue doing what you’ve been doing. Being on track is a noble place to be, and if I’ve helped, I’m glad to have been a stepping stone on your journey.
If, on the other hand, you haven’t made any significant steps towards change, then at least be honest to yourself right now and acknowledge your shortcomings. This is the first step towards any change. If you’ve found that, once again, you’re in this stage of non-action, then it’s really time to get serious with your determination. There may be too much glut in your life, but I’ll have to save my productivity tips for later posts. For now, just try to TAKE ACTION, TAKE ACTION, TAKE ACTION.
I’ll get real here. The condition of mediocrity is putting up with a draining routine. The daily routines that consume your time and siphon your life energy. If your past year consisted mostly of an unending string of homogeneous daily routines, then there’s a good chance it wasn’t memorable.
What can you do?
First, I highly recommend eliminating. Simplify. Eliminate the routines that are draining you or your time. Once you have eliminated, take another look at your routines, and eliminate some more. This is not easy. Eliminating requires deliberate action, because over time, draining routines camouflage themselves as necessary activities. For example, giving up the news requires breaking a bad habit you might have previously thought was good. You might need to put in considerable effort to resist typing in the URL of your favorite news site in your browser (or, if you’re technically savvy, redirect the URL). Or, you may need to do something more drastic like my friend George does, such as giving away his TV. Or, perhaps you may need to tackle a more difficult time-consuming routine like reducing the amount of time you commute to work. This could require negotiating a remote working arrangement, moving closer to your workplace, or even changing jobs.
When you’ve eliminated enough, then maybe – I stress maybe, because first and foremost, focus on elimination – maybe, add one important (and preferably simple) routine. An important activity is something that moves you towards a goal. As Stephen Covey wrote, this is not to be confused with an urgent activity that needs to be done, such as grocery shopping or driving your kids to dance lessons.
With the important routines, your days will become something to remember. For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the piano, then you would have to sign up for lessons and allot daily practice times. If you wanted to become a better speaker, then you’d have to find a local Toastmasters club and attend weekly meetings. If you wanted to be in better shape… well, at this time of the year, I hesitate at recommending going to the gym, as it’s more or less become a seasonal routine for many. Instead, try finding a physical activity you actually like. Many of my friends gravitate towards team pickup sports such as indoor soccer, ultimate frisbee, or softball. I prefer rock climbing.
Coming full circle, remember, this post is written around the New Year, but is applicable at anytime. Make it so that at any day of the year, whether it be on February 4th or November 7th, you can look back on the past 365 days and know that they were all well spent. If you want this coming year to be a good one, focus on making each day memorable, even if just a small step, and a great year will be a reflection of the sum of its good little parts.