2017 was a tough year. I think we can all agree on that. My aunt asked me today how my year was and I didn’t know how to respond without making some kind of velociraptor screech. But good news! It’s nearly over.
After the drawn-out period of mourning that was 2016, the surrealist nightmare of 2017 was a harsh reminder that the turning of the year is no promise of relief. Yes, Virginia, things can get worse. And yet, as we all collectively approach insanity, nevertheless we hope for the best from 2018. We decide that this year, while society crumbles and our cities burn, we’re still going to read 50 goddamn books. We’re still going to learn Japanese and take up weightlifting. Because fuck you, 2018. I am going to rock this year.
So here are some tips on making that resolution stick.
- Translate your resolution into a goal, and make that goal quantifiable. You want to write x many pages (stories, words). You want to run x kilometres or run your favourite distance in x time. Save x amount of money. It helps to have something specific to aim for, rather than something vague.
- Forget perfection. Perfect is the enemy of good, as the aphorism goes. You’re not aiming for perfection, you’re aiming for consistency. It’s the small steps over time that will lead you to success, and there will be days when you feel like you’re going backwards. That’s okay. Maybe your runs this week have been slow. Maybe all your writing this week has been terrible. It’s all still contributing to your eventual success. Consistency is the key. A day when you binge on pizza is not that big of a deal when it comes to your weight-loss goal; the key is to hit that calorie limit as many days as possible. Which leads us to…
- A mistake is not a failure. If you trip up and don’t go for a run all week, or you haven’t written a word since Tuesday, you know what? That’s fine. You can’t do anything about the past, but you can do something about now. Do not think that because you fucked up last week that means you failed. You’re still in this. This is a marathon and there’s a long way left to go, so don’t use a day, week, month of mistakes as an excuse to quit.
- Motivation is fleeting. Harness it while it’s there to build some habits. Once something is a habit, it’s easier to maintain. You’re still going to need discipline on days you don’t want to do that thing you need to do, to build that habit in the first place, but once this task is a part of your life you can put that discipline to work somewhere else. That way you keep adding positive things to your life.
- Some people achieve more when they tell their friends their goals and have someone to hold them accountable. Some people achieve more when they keep quiet, because talking about their goals gives them some satisfaction they’d get from actually doing them… so they don’t get done. Work out which kind of person you are. Speak up or stay quiet accordingly. Either way, write your goals down and put them somewhere you can see them.
- Celebrate achievements. Even the small ones. It’s that positive conditioning that helps you keep moving forward. Got out of bed early? Fuck yeah, dance it out. Some people like to have rewards lined up for big achievements: dinner at a favourite restaurant, a family outing, that video game or book they’ve been eyeing. Be imaginative.
- Keep track. Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to tick things off on an app (I use Loop Habit Tracker, personally) or perhaps you prefer making Xs on a calendar, or crossing off numbers on a journalling card or something. Find what it is that gives you that positive feedback, but make it something that requires you to tick something off, or you’ll be surprised how many days you miss without realising it.
- Do something every day, no matter how small, to move towards your goals. Something is better than nothing. Do one push-up. Write one line. You see, it’s the starting that’s the hard part. Once you’re there on the floor, you may as well do another push-up, and another. Once you’ve opened that word processor and written a line, you may as well see what else you can add to the piece. Make it a Non-Zero Day.
- That vision of you? The one who gets up early and grows vegetables and runs and reads and doesn’t just browse reddit or tumblr all day? That person’s not just a daydream. You can be and do whatever you want. You can unfuck your space, you can get fit, you can go back to school. All this is possible. Maybe it’s not possible now, maybe there are other things you need to do before you can start thinking about your eventual goal. But this isn’t a pipe dream, you can get there. Unless your goal is “win the lottery” or “achieve immortality” or something in which case, yeah, you’re fucked.
- Get a planner. Break down your goals into steps. Maybe you need to lose some weight before you can run that marathon, maybe you need to save some money before you can go back to school. That’s a step. Write it down. Now break down that step. See what it is you need to do to make this thing happen, and then put it in your planner. Set yourself some deadlines. If you miss those deadlines, well, whatever. Your goal is still alive. You’ll set new deadlines. Plan out your shit. You can use stickers and rainbow gel pens. I give you permission.
- Jesus. I know I had a number 11. I mean half of these tips kind of bleed into each other anyway. What was 11? God, I’m so tired.
OH WAIT I remember! See, the trick is, you don’t have to do these things you’re trying to make habitual. You get to do them. You get to go for a run tomorrow. Half an hour to yourself, just the music in your earbuds and the wind in your hair? Fucking bliss. You cannot wait for your run tomorrow. (And fucking trust me on this: you never regret a workout.) You get to write this essay. Is the essay hard and boring? OK, sure. But this is part of what’s getting you to that next level. You get to write the fuck out of that essay and make it to the next step in your goal plan. FUCK YEAH. I know it sounds silly, but reframing stuff that you know you do enjoy on some level but maybe don’t feel like doing right now (or tomorrow or next week…) as “get to” rather than “have to” can actually help you get started. If you spend all day dreading that run, it’s going to be harder to actually lace on your shoes and get out there. But you know you’re going to feel great afterwards. You know that. You get to go for that run.
You know that feeling that life is passing you by, and one day you’ll wake up and you’ll be 80 and you won’t have done anything you wanted to do? I named my blog after that feeling. Torschlusspanik – because if a negative emotion exists, German has a word for it. Well, turns out that if you do something productive every day, that feeling goes away. You know that maybe you won’t achieve your goal today, or tomorrow, or next month, or even by the end of the year… but if you keep making progress, if you keep making your life more positive and functional and fun and , you will get there eventually. And even if you don’t, you’ll have left the world a better place than when you came into it.
Anyway, the inexorable march of time yada yada, and before you know it it’ll be 2019 and you’re wasting your life, oh god so make sure you’re productive on a regular basis so you don’t feel like you’re slowly dying. And enjoy yourself! The world is ending and you may as well The world is ending and you may as well make sure you get as much out of it as you can.
Love ya! See you next year!