Goals are lovely. New Year’s Resolutions are grand. However.
There’s a cottage industry of life hack porn consumed and never followed. Here’s a few pieces of standard advice:
Change is hard
Set realistic goals
Keep a journal of your progress
Be held accountable
Don’t be too hard on yourself
You’ve probably read something like this before. You’ve also ignored said advice.
Here’s some more advice.
KEEP YOUR GOALS TO YOURSELF
You notice when you’re doing the bad activity you’re hoping to break (bad diet, No exercise, drinking too much, kleptomania), you never discuss how .
Most New Years Resolution lists tell you to be open about your goals, as a means to keep you accountable. What they usually don’t take into account is the burdens for others with your openness.
Face it, you didn’t need outside support to skip the salads and go for the ribs, so why do you need it now?
The best thing you can learn about your goals is how to create your own motivation. Meaning, keep your friends as friends instead of positioning them as parents.
The sad truth is a self-oriented goal is a lonely effort. People only have so much psychological support they can give before becoming angry. When we give our burdens to other people we often are not looking for support with our cross, but a savior. Other people will fail every time, because it’s not their job.
THE RESEARCH IS THE DELAYING
Want to lose weight? “Yeah.” What are you doing about it? “Reading a health book.” How’s that working out? “I know a lot about amino acids now.” But you are a donut for breakfast. “One more cheat day.”
The School House Rock motto, “Knowledge is Power!”, deceives because it ignores the element of action. It’s lovely to know things. It’s meaningless to not apply.
The reason you’re reading a bunch of exercise books is not because you’re wanting to exercise, but the opposite. Read that again. Everyone knows how to do a pushup. Are you doing pushups? “I want to be thorough.” But are you doing pushups?
We all know the cliche of the artist, working on every aspect of the art except creating the art itself i.e. writer in coffeeshop. Action is the hardest process, which is why we avoid it at all costs, because it’s a better feeling to be constantly prepping up and covering all bases than trying and failing. But only the latter achieves the goal.
You’re complicating the process to avoid the change. This isn’t the moon landing. Watch this clip.
Iron Man eats it. The reason the scenes of Iron Man testing his suit were so compelling wasn’t because people care about how a thruster works, or if Robert Downey Jr.’s goatee can fit in the helmet, but because it’s true to life. Meaning, it shows the actual creative process of trial and error. Good scenes about a creative act always contain this nugget of wisdom.
Bad scenes are generally the opposite. The unearned breakthrough, the first prototype being great. This is why you totally bought Iron Man’s character arc in the first movie, but not his antagonist, whose metal suit felt unearned. Because it was.
If you didn’t see Iron Man, or don’t remember the plot, let’s put it another way: actually acting versus thinking is going to impact reality (So external, so objective.) Yes, it’s good to know different exercises, but why not try the five you know first? You’re getting in shape, not running a gym. Real progression requires you to go through the lower levels, whether you like it or not. There is no cheat code. If you protest, know I saw you reading those articles about how to talk to women. Also know I saw you look at that girl, and never buying her a drink. Why didn’t you? “Didn’t feel like the right moment.” What does the right moment look like? Describe. Something from a movie? A TV show? This is fantasy.
No matter how much you know about quitting, if you don’t quit, you are still doing the thing. If you read a manual on women psychology and didn’t ask her out, realize it was never the lack of information that kept you from making a move, but you. The research was just a way to not face failure.
CHANGE IS HARD BUT ALSO ISN’T.
One annoying thing about New Year’s Resolutions is Facebook Martyrdom. You’ve seen the post. Person talks about how it’s so hard to quit or do something. Friends swoop in to offer support. When you see this post, it’s not a matter of if the person will relapse, but when.
Here’s a good question to ask yourself: do you actually want to change? I’m not being flippant. I mean it. I’m not saying “do you want things to change,” but you. Knowing this will help everyone involved with you avoid a lifetime of hurt.
Notice I didn’t say you, but others. People are willing to help, until they’re not. If people take you at your word, and you break your word, you’re now a person who breaks their word. Brutal? Yes. True. Yes.
Self-preservation means all good change is going to be uncomfortable. What you must decide is to live with that unpleasantness. Soon it will become easier. And then you will change.
If you love something more outside of yourself, you will find the process of change not only necessary, but delightful. But you must choose to love.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
Any goal driven by narcissism will feel hollow when accomplished, because the goal was never about the goal, but about you. I’m sorry, but the itch to feel better will never get scratched the way you want.
There’s a reason plenty of schoolteachers work long hours and don’t complain, because it really is about the kids. There’s also a reason why a bad teacher is one who complains the students don’t get the material, because it really is about the teacher.
You must choose goals that transcend you. Goals in which the goal itself is the chief aim, not what it communicates about yourself to others. If this sounds too old-fashioned and depressing, Huffington Post is that way.
Think of the mid-life crisis cliche: guy who makes 250k a year, great family, still cheating on his wife with the secretary. He feels nothing he’s earned is real, because his goals were just ways to show the world he was special, and his wife fell for the trick. If you think I’m being cynical, my guess is you’re this guy or the wife, just twenty years earlier.
There is no perfection nor true end, but sometimes you have to create a finish line. You have to move on. You have to have grace towards others and your own efforts.
And the glory of love might see you through.