This is probably the first time I'll be able to say this, but I kept all my resolutions last year. That's not for lack of ambition, either. I made multiple resolutions in multiple categories. I want to share what this feels like. Resolutions and goals only work when they are emotionally in harmony with what you really want. Ignoring your honest feelings will sabotage you every time.
We get it wrong in so many ways. We criticize ourselves. We tell ourselves stories about how we always let ourselves down, how we fail, how we never follow through, how we procrastinate. What we don't do is to allow ourselves to really want things, to make radical changes that will annoy or upset people close to us, to be proud or triumphant or to gloat when we do well.
I'd gloat for you! If you do well at something, I think that's awesome! Brag all you want and I'll most likely try to convince you to brag some more about something else, too.
I'm gloating about my resolutions in public, not because I want people to think I am awesome, but because I think resolutions are awesome. If I really wanted to brag, I would put up a picture of my abs. It is perfectly legitimate to make secret promises to yourself, to hold them sacred, and to celebrate privately. Just because you reach a goal or a milestone does not mean you are required to tell people.
Every year, I try to make at least one resolution that benefits others more than myself. If I have something nice to say, say it. Try to stop interrupting people. Ask, before judging someone, whether I have ever done that thing, and if yes, do not judge. Sponsor a student in the developing world. Sharing these ideas is a way of spreading them. If I mention a charity, it's because I want to advertise it so that others might donate, too. Talking about positive action is a form of social pressure. If you're going to walk your talk, but you don't talk the walk, then all you're doing is walking alone.
It all comes down to the categorical imperative. I rephrase it thus: Act in such a way that if everyone in the world did the same thing, you'd be cool with it. Being kind to animals means you think everyone should be kind to animals. Wearing deodorant means you think everyone should wear deodorant. Yelling at people means you think people should yell at you. I make New Year's Resolutions, and I believe that the more people do this, the better the world will be. It feels logically consistent and commonsensical to me. Let's all quit texting and driving together!
It's not all logic and public service announcements, though. Whatever emotion I can harness to get me to a worthy outcome, I will exploit it fully. Desire for revenge and I'LL SHOW YOU has motivated me to do all sorts of things. Breakups, overhearing nasty gossip about myself, not getting a job I wanted... these negative feelings cause me to RISE UP AND CRUSH. It's all rocket fuel that helps you reach escape velocity.
We'll do anything if we WANT TO and we KNOW HOW. How-to instructions on every conceivable topic are only a ten-second web search away. You can get instructions on how to make a shrunken head. A shrunken head! I've watched embarrassing videos on how to fold fitted sheets, how to clean a shower door track, and how to put my iPhone headphones back in the case, and I had to play them more than once. Knowing how is the easy part. Wanting something with all the capacity of your true heart's desire is the complicated part.
Transformation is my aim. I won't waste my New Year's on piddly little incremental changes; I just adopt those as they come to my attention. New way to open a pomegranate, check. I don't want to make a small, manageable change. I want to choose something that scares the crap out of me. If it isn't intimidating, it's a trap. It means I'm deluding myself into taking the easy road again. I chose running because it sounded absolutely awful. I chose public speaking because it made me want to hurl. I forced myself to pass the driver's test before I turned 30 even though it made me cry hysterically and took me three tries. I knew that I could either be me and do what comes naturally, or I could be smart, use my imagination, and learn to think like someone who is good at these things.
This year, I know that I have transformed myself. I knew that resistance is always a sign of submerged power. I went for the area of maximum resistance, public speaking, specifically because I can't allow resistance to gain ground in my spirit. What I've proven to myself now is that turning my focus on the resistance can transform it from revulsion and dread to genuine joy and affection. I love running now. I have a blast giving speeches and performing now. There's always someone who is thrilled to do things I hate and fear, someone who is having fun doing something that I find scary. What if I felt that way, too? What's it like to be "the kind of person" who does this thing?
I always do a big resolution, but I also do a bunch of smaller ones. I pushed myself to get over my dread of public speaking, and I'm really glad I did. I also did some easier things like rearranging my living room and putting in a garden. Most things don't come with a natural deadline, and if we don't impose one, then we never get around to doing all of the things we think would be cool. Most people's true desires involve passion projects like traveling the world, working with horses, playing a musical instrument, or learning a foreign language. We just expect that the passion will fall on us from above, like a shower of gold from Zeus. What we don't realize is that passion comes only after the curiosity, the awkwardness, the inconvenience, the feeling that maybe this isn't for me, and then the gradual realization that BY JOVE, IT'S WORKING!
Start with a wish. I wish I could speak French. I wish I could make super-fluffy mashed potatoes. I wish I could draw a comic strip. I wish I still fit in those jeans. Now, take that wish and imagine how you are going to feel when it comes true. See yourself as a person who easily does this magical thing. People wish for realistic things. Why not travel the world or be a better cook? Why the heck not? The more vivid you can make the image, the more often you repeat it, the more it will start to become real to you. Millions of other people have probably succeeded in doing the thing you want to do. When you've done it, you'll be welcomed. Not long after, you and everyone else will take this fabulous new part of your life completely for granted. You only really believe in it after it becomes mundane, routine, and commonplace. For today, just be curious about what it will be like, and keep experimenting until you know for sure.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.