My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

10 months ago - #life#improvement

Last year, I made a rather modest list of New Year’s resolutions. They were:

  • Clean my office/declutter the house
  • Drink more water
  • Cook more of my meals
  • Learn to play the ukulele
  • Run more 5Ks

Cleaning my office was a great one and was not easily accomplished. The big resistance there was that I was trying to get it done myself and I just couldn’t do it. I decided to stop banging my head against the wall and hired someone to help. In hindsight, I don’t think I ever could have gotten it done without help. I kept finding things in my office that would set off emotional journeys like dog tags for dogs that have since died. Had I not had a stranger in the room with me, I would have spent hours derailed by these objects. But with someone in the room, I squelched the emotional response, found a place for them and moved on. There were also tons of tax items and personal property items that I had no idea what to do with and she helped me sort out what gets saved, what gets shredded, and what gets thrown away. There was an immediate difference in a half day’s worth of work. My office has maintained than organization more or less. It is never more than 15 minutes away from being spotless. The benefits to having a clean desk were as great as I imagined: less stress, freedom of thought, feeling like my life was my own again.

The lesson there is: if you can hire someone to help, do it. Don’t keep banging your head against the same spot on the wall all by yourself.

Cooking more of my meals at home and drinking more water both fall under the category of "diet." After having success hiring someone to help me clean my office, I hired a nutritionist. This is continuing to be a real area of growth for me. It’s not always moving in the direction that I’d like, but I am much more conscious of what I eat. In general, my weight is the lowest it’s been in 20 years, so let’s mark progress where it’s due. I don’t yet have the relationship with food that I’d like to have, but I feel I’m slowly chipping away at bad habits. I’ve learned how to eat healthy when I go out to Peace House. I’ve learned to eat healthy when I’m spending the day flying or stuck at airports. I eat carrots at movies instead of popcorn or candy. There will continue to be ways in which I need to reprogram bad habits, but it’s getting much better.

My ukulele habit is one of the things in my life that I unabashedly love. I’m so happy that I play the ukulele. I’d like to post more videos of me playing the ukulele as I think it’s getting to the point where it’s fun to share.

And the final resolution I made for 2017 - to run more 5Ks - turned into a resolution of running a 10K, which I did. I love public runs and look forward to running them with more frequency and increasing length.

Somewhere in time I made a resolution to upgrade my wardrobe. I think that might have been a resolution I made for 2016. Now that I’m fitting into clothes better, I ditched my cargo pants and Hawaii t-shirt uniform for a more varied look. I have some upscale polo shirts, fancy button-down plaids, and other nice-looking shirts to wear. I’ve been wearing more slacks, upscale jeans, and high-end cargo pants. This is the first year in a long time that I’ve been getting comments from strangers saying that they like what I’m wearing. I want to continue this habit or dressing like a smart, creative person. In that spirit, I bought one of the most daring and bonkers articles of clothing I have ever owned and I can't wait to wear it everywhere. If I ever become a Batman villain, that's the blazer that will become my uniform.

So on to the resolutions for 2018...

Let’s start with health and fitness. While I will always continue to have a trainer and try new classes, I like resolutions to be concrete and measurable. I could have a goal of benching a certain weight, but honestly I never feel compelled to pile on a lot of weight just for bragging rights. I will continue to push myself with weight-based work, but I don’t want to give myself a target number. The main resolution for health is: Run a half marathon. I’m really hoping I can run the Avengers Half-Marathon at Disney that was offered last year. If that doesn’t happen, there are lots of half-marathons in National Parks that look fantastic and would make for a great fitness vacation. Leading up to that, I hope to be running a few public 10Ks next year. They make really great long weekends out of town. I had set aside one in Nashville and one in Mystic as good spring runs. In order to hit this, I’ll need to keep going to Mile High Run Club to get my speed up and increase my distance.

For diet, I will continue work with my nutritionist. I will continue to find times that I tend to splurge and replace those with healthy eating patterns. For instance, my new cinema snack is carrots. We worked on getting better food with me when I travel so I don’t fall back on airport food. Those things will continue. When it comes to working out, I often get a strong drive about what I do. I get a desire to want to be at my personal best and push as far as I can. When it comes to diet, that almost never happens. My attitude around diet is often "how much longer do I have to keep this up?" Or "what can I get away with?" It’s very rarely "how can I eat as healthy as possible?" For me, Healthy Diet = Deprivation. I’d like to turn that around in my head. When I ran my first 10K, in the last two miles I felt like a million bucks. I could have kept running. So I picked up my speed and pushed myself. It felt good to push myself and feel that freedom. I’m looking to have that same experience with my diet: empowered and eager to see how far I can go.

And one small diet resolution: I’m putting my utensils down while I chew. No more looking at my phone while I eat. No more holding the fork ready to put the next mouthful in. I’m going to savor my food and bring more awareness to eating.

In terms of making a concrete diet goal for 2018, I’d like to focus on eliminating sugar. A few times in 2017, I eliminated sugar entirely for two-week stretches. It felt good. Two weeks is my personal sweet spot because it’s short enough that when I felt like splurging, I could say to myself "You can eat whatever you want in two weeks. It’s really not that much time." and the craving would go away. It’s also long enough that sugar cravings fade away and I stopped wanting sugar. I’d like to get back to that. I’d like to make a goal of 13 two-week sugar detoxes. No sweeteners of any kind while being on detox. If I do 13 of them, then I know that I will have spent half the year without any sugar. That’s not to say that I’ll be binging on sugar half the year, it’s just to say that it won’t be completely off-limits.

Next up, I declare a war on procrastination. It is the root of most of my unhappiness. I think there are a few things going on here. There are things I get done, but I don’t get them done quickly. I want to avoid doing them, so I allow myself to be distracted with a "quick" Facebook check or a "quick" play of ukulele before I actually do the task. Most of the time that results in me not completing the task. If I look at people in my life that get a lot accomplished, the thing I notice the most is that there’s very little time between when they put the task on an internal to-do list and when they accomplish the task. They don’t delay, they get something done as quickly as they can. I may have things stay on my list for days or weeks or even longer. So a big part of my war on procrastination is to just get things done quicker. I hate having to start off emails with “Oh my god, I’m so sorry to not have responded sooner!” I hate having envelopes of bills accumulate on my desk. I need to get the little stuff in life finished and moved off my plate. I’m going to set aside a half hour every day to bang through the to-do list so that things don’t stay on the list. I’ve also signed up for an online course by Jen Sincero about building new habits and I plan to use that course to eliminate procrastination.

For larger items, things like writing or programming or creating, the procrastination is even harder to fight and it feels like a different kind of battle. Without someone else involved, there is very little motivation to get something done. The rewards of completing my task are months or maybe years away. And the work itself is hard. I feel like I need a whole new tactic for fighting procrastination here. I think I should take a lesson from my resolutions of 2017 and find someone that can hold me accountable. I’m going to get myself a writing tutor - someone that I have to check in with on a regular basis to review my work. This is New York City. I’m sure there are plenty of writers that need extra income. Or perhaps I could do an exchange with someone to help them with web work in exchange for writing coaching. Regardless of how I find this person, I resolve to find someone that I am forced to check in with on a two-week or monthly basis to review work.

My next major resolution for 2018 is meditation. Parts of 2017 were so awful that I was forced to embrace a meditation practice. If I didn’t keep to a meditation practice, my anxiety went through the roof. Every time I went for a walk, I practiced meditation, mindfulness, and living in the present moment. It eventually got me to a very good place. I don’t want to lose that.

I had started some good habits with the Headspace app. I like it, but I felt like I started to outgrow it. I want to sometimes have longer meditations that are silent and I want some meditations that are very specifically guided. I met someone at the end of last year that would like to attend Insight Meditation in the city and I spoke with my acupuncturist who sits with a Zen meditation group. Both of those practices sound excellent. I think using Headspace and supplementing my meditation with other practices will be very beneficial.

I don’t know how to incorporate this into a resolution with a tangible, measurable goal. As I’m reflecting on it now, I’m thinking that part of this resolution is to incorporate meditation into a daily habit. If I have a daily habit of meditating, I don’t need to constantly be looking for group meditation sittings to fulfill this goal. If I reorganize my morning routine, I will make sure that meditation is included into my ritual of waking up. If I have a daily ritual, then going to things like a group meditation sitting will be like icing on a cake. Maybe I’ll get some nice seating cushions for the library.

A lot of this year was spent fighting random anger attacks from other people (our neighbors, a former colleague of David's). I hate it. I understand anger happens, but it tends to go hand-in-hand with delusion and in both of those cases, the angry people were 100% deluded in their thinking and created bizarre narratives in their head that had nothing to do with reality. The narratives were fictional accounts of their own victimization that gave themselves free license to vent irrational anger. I would like to counter-act that. I had read something from Oprah that having anger in one’s life is a result of not having gratitude. I think she meant having anger of one’s own - not having anger directed at you - but I still would like to get anger that’s directed at me out of my life - especially when it is generated out of delusion or others not taking responsibility for their actions. My shield is Gratitude. I would like to keep a gratitude journal as part of a daily habit. I know that Oprah keeps a gratitude journal and I’ve read that other people swear by them. I tried doing this at night last year, but I’m often too tired at night. So I either need to do this before dinner or at the start of the day (maybe with morning coffee).

And my other shield against Delusion/Anger is complimenting people. I know that there are times when I’m down-in-the-weeds about life and someone will compliment me and I feel like my whole day has turned around. I need to be generating that a lot more. One of the banes of modern life (or at least life in NYC) is that it feels mostly superficial. It’s hard to make a genuine connection with someone. When I get or give a compliment, I feel like it opens the doorway just a little bit to having a genuine connection with someone.

I think I now have two lists of New Year’s Resolutions. One is spiritual and unmeasurable. One is definite and exacting. Both are important.

The Spiritual List:

  • Attach my "drive" to my diet; constantly strive to connect my best self to my food choices
  • End procrastination in my life; don’t get bogged down by little things; reduce the amount of time things stay on my to-do list
  • Build a meditation practice that gives me focus, calm, and creativity
  • Create more than I consume; write a play; share it
  • Be free in giving others compliments

The Action List:

  • Have 13 two-week sugar detoxes
  • Create a morning routine to incorporate meditation
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Get a writing tutor/mentor
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Complete the Jen Sincero workshop to eliminate procrastination

While all of these are important, resolutions always come after everything else is taken care of. That means having a clean and welcoming home, a happy husband, a bouncy dog, and good times with friends and colleagues.

I know a lot of people that have had a really bad 2017. Myself included. I am genuinely excited about 2018. I don't expect that circumstances will necessarily be great (Trump is still president), but I feel like I'll be great regardless of the circumstances.

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Tell me if this sounds familiar. A close friend or relative is complaining about an obstacle that they have in life: problems at work, spousal frustrations, backstabbing friends, etc. You listen attentively and politely. You offer productive and easy-to-follow advice. You friend looks at you like you have overstepped some boundaries. They either tell you that your advice wouldn't work and launch into more complaining or they are downright offended that you offered unwelcome advice. And no one ever follows your advice. Ever.
I just finished reading a book called "Pomodoro Technique Illustrated" by Staffan Nöteberg (http://www.amazon.com/Pomodoro-Technique-Illustrated-Really-Minutes/dp/1934356506). I guess it's a little premature to say that it's changed my life, but in my first week of truly implementing the method, I find myself on Thursday and have already accomplished more than I had mentally apportioned to get done for the whole week. A couple of months ago, I had read the free PDF by the original author and decided to test it out, but in typical fashion I sort of did it half-ass.
I'm noticing a trend over the years here. My resolutions are shrinking. I used to have a list of about 10 things for the year ahead. Many of them were very grandiose. Now I have a few things that I'd like to accomplish - and none of them are particularly exciting. Is this a sign of age? Is it knowledge that I'm only going to accomplish about five or so of the things anyway?