In September, while moving into a new apartment, I stumbled upon my handwritten New Year’s resolutions for the year 2000 (see photo below).
It humbled me because I’d failed at most of my stated goals.
Yet I was thrilled to find the document. It’s a snapshot of who I was at age 25, and it’s more revealing than any photo or Facebook post could ever be.
Rereading the list today, I feel like two different people:
* The well-adjusted 37-year-old. I’ve grown a humorous appreciation for the scope and quantity of my age 25 aspirations. The 13 intervening years have taught me to be grateful for who I am in the present moment. My health and subsistence and family and friendships are an immense blessing, and they are more than enough. I call this my “Eastern yogi” side.
* The 37-year-old who is very much the same person he was at age 25. Then there’s the part of me that still wants to accomplish almost everything on this list. This same part of me fears that the Eastern yogi side is really just a front for rationalizing laziness and failure. I call this my “Ayn Rand” side.
Where does this leave me?
All told, I think I have a better grasp of resolution fulfillment. Four takeaways:
1. Aim for small improvements, not distant finishes. My first Year 2000 goal — to weigh 188 pounds — was farfetched. It would’ve required losing 20 pounds. That’s possible, but it’s not sustainable. And it’s certainly not fun. A more realistic goal would be something like this: Lose five pounds by July, and keep it off for the rest of the year.
2. Specify how, not what. Four of my Year 2000 resolutions — improve at yoga, basketball, and frisbee, and keep a clean house — offer no blueprint about how to improve. A more fruitful resolution would be: Attend two yoga classes per week and practice once a week at home. Or: Scrub your bathroom on Fridays, sweep your floors on Saturdays.
3. You can’t hurry art, and you can’t control injuries. My third and fourth goals — to write one-third of a novel and to jog everyday — were the foolish aims of a vainglorious young man who believed almost anything was within reach. I tried to jog every day. I was hobbled by March with shin splints and a sore left hip. I also tried to write one-third of a novel. The result was an execrable first draft, composed more in the spirit of goal completion than art creation.
4. Fewer is wiser. As a 25-year-old, I erred by believing it was possible to achieve a dozen New Year’s Resolutions.
Now I know better. So I have only three resolutions for 2013:
* Read “Middlemarch”
* Paint every room in my new apartment.
* Lose five pounds by July, and keep it off for the rest of the year.