I really like this ritual we have of making resolutions,
being enthusiastic about them, trying for a few days, and then letting them die
slow, starving deaths just out of earshot so that they don’t bother us.
It’s an odd thing we do where we set aside this one time of
year to make promises to ourselves that we are not going to keep.
I’m not being cynical, about 8% of people follow through
with their resolution. This makes my friends who go to the gym all year really
happy, because they only have to deal with a flood of people for the first few
weeks of January or so.
Why do we make doing good things in our lives into a
once-per-year, make-or-break type thing?
That seems to create a lot of pressure, and our resolutions
are often things that require hard work and for us to break really entrenched
habits. Really, we need as much practice in choosing and setting goals as we do
in achieving them, because most people are dead in the water before January 1st
even gets here.
So how do we set good goals? How do we stack the odds in our
In general, when talking about goals, we need them to be
concrete, measurable and to have deadlines. We need to write them down. We need
to work on them every day.
Let’s take the most common resolutions as examples:
How are you going to do this? Gym? Diet? Those pills on late
night television? Methamphetamine? How much do you know about weight loss?
Which gym will you go to? Where will this fit into your schedule? Will you need
a personal trainer? Do you have a friend that will go with you? How many times
a week will you work out? Do you have any physical issues that need attention?
How much weight do you want to lose? Is this more health-oriented or do you want to look better? Where do you want to lose this weight? Is this actually possible for you? Is this a healthy number for you?
How much weight do you want to lose per week or month? How
long do you have to reach this number you are looking for?
What does this actually mean? Are we talking about
organizing your time, your house, your books, your paperwork? Are you looking
to get rid of stuff or just put your stuff in order? What will this do for you?
What does organized mean for you? When will you achieve this
goal? What will that look like? Can you state this without using the word
What will you need to accomplish every week and every month?
How long do you need to be “organized”?
Get better with money:
Are we talking about saving more? Curbing spending?
How much do you need to save per week and month and day? How
much less do you need to spend? These all need to have actual numbers on them.
When will you consider yourself to have achieved this goal?
What is the numerical goal? How much time do you give yourself to achieve this?
As you can see, there are a lot of questions associated with
each of these. I could have gone on too, but I got tired of asking them, and
this is emblematic of why we fail to achieve our goals and resolutions.
I am a fan of working on our goals every single day.
Immerse yourself in what it is you want to learn and change.
Read about fitness and exercise on your rest days, make knowing about money
your hobby. Everywhere you go, look at how things are organized, notice what
you like and don’t like about how your friends keep their house. Make a point
to talk to and surround yourself with people who manage their time or money
well, or who make fitness a part of their everyday lives.
Don’t let a goal be something that exists in a vacuum that
you have to go deal with a few times a week.
Make it part of your week, not a chore.
Whatever you decide, I hope it goes well for you, but only
you have control over that.
Happy New Year.
“To be everywhere; is to be nowhere”
One of my biggest problems is being scattered over too many
things, leaving me where I don’t get as many things done as I would like.
Let’s get one thing out of the way at the beginning: this
isn’t admirable or an example of hustle. It is an indication that I am
unfocused and lacking discipline. It is me being irresponsible with my time.
I am reading 23 books on my Kindle (I just counted), and I
have at least a dozen laying around my house. I have this blog and three books
I am working on. I am rebuilding my fence, putting trim up in the kitchen and
replacing my doorbell.
Instead of actually working on one of these, I built a
collapsible target for my bow and arrow the other day.
Here is a list of my current interests:
Integrating Stoicism and counseling more fully
Masculinity in in the modern world
Living a more natural life
Creating independent revenue streams
Near Death Experiences
Cross Country Skiing
Here is a list of everything I am an expert on:
Here is a list of other projects I have in the queue:
Rebranding my office
Creating a podcast
Getting some meditations recorded for clients
The above mentioned home projects
Looking into online coaching
Looking into a doctorate
Starting a martial art
Finding a way to disconnect from the internet and still run
a business (and publish a daily blog on the internet. I didn’t say they were
Figuring out why I like bulleted lists so much
Here is a list of completed projects:
My collapsible bow and arrow target
I am currently working on narrowing things down in many
ways. We are getting rid of a huge amount of stuff and I am saying no to a lot
of things that do not interest or feed me. I am looking to cut down on mental
and emotional clutter.
All of these books and interests and projects cause me
stress. Not because I don’t like them or enjoy them, but because they are
scattered all over the place and I am not really moving on them. They bring
self-judgment and anxiety. Not because I don’t want to work on them, but
because there are too many.
Because I am trying to be everywhere, I am nowhere.
Someone asked me to write about mindfulness and loss quite a
while back, and I keep putting it off because I don’t feel like I have a lot of
experience with loss. I’ve lost friends and family members, but it has really
only become difficult in the past few years.
I honestly think I was too emotionally stunted and tone deaf
to understand things for most of my life.
I just wasn’t connected to the situation when someone died.
I began to “get it” starting with my grandmother who lived
in Dallas. I think that her passing was one of the first times it really hit me
that this person was gone. My grandfather on the other side of the family was
next, and I remember being acutely conscious of the fact that this was a
turning point in life, and that things would never be the same.
I still miss both of them.
I didn’t have a mindfulness practice, or even an idea of
what mindfulness was when they passed though. The experience came and went, and
I was caught up in it. Present, but not necessarily mindful.
I had a whole story typed out about being present and
mindful in the midst of loss, but I got to the end and didn’t like it, so I
erased it. It seemed to miss the point. A mindful life is about being here,
now. This is important when we experience loss, and before we experience it.
When we lose someone, we can quickly move into unskillful
choices and our mind can be far from useful.
Judgment about how we are feeling.
Judgment about how we “should” feel.
Regret and guilt and anger.
What ifs and a refusal to accept the situation.
These are all natural, and they are going to be present, but
if we can allow them to be there mindfully they will come and go in their own
proper time. There is no reason to resist them, but we must also remember they
are not True.
Guilt, especially, is always a manipulative emotion.
The most important thing we can do in regard to loss is
available to us right here and right now. Understand that you will lose the
people in your life, every single one of them, someday. It may be through them
passing away, or you passing away, but there will come a point at which you are
not in each other’s lives. What would be different if this was the determining
factor in how you dealt with them?
What would be worth fighting about?
What would be worth choosing over them?
Loss is inevitable in this life. We cannot prevent it from
happening, but we can decide how we are going to treat the people in our lives
right here and now.
Look at the people you care about today, and ask yourself
what you might regret if they were suddenly gone. Ask yourself what you might
do differently, and then do it.
Look at yourself and ask what you might regret if you died
today, and then go fix it if you can.
Be mindful of loss in every moment, and make the right
Here are some of the most common things people tell me they
have to do:
Go to work
Feed my kids
Clean the house
Wear a seatbelt
Brush my teeth
The problem is that you don’t have to do any of these
things. They are all chosen.
You choose to go to work so that you don’t get fired
You choose to feed your kids because you love them or, at
the very least, would prefer not to deal with CPS
You choose to clean your house because it is uncomfortable
not too, or maybe because of CPS again
You choose to wear a seatbelt because you don’t want to get
a ticket or go through the windshield
You choose to take showers so that people don’t give you
dirty looks or bully you on Facebook
You choose to brush your teeth to have acceptable breath and
not get cavities
You choose to pay your bills so that you don’t destroy your
credit and get your electricity turned off
You choose to pay your taxes so that you don’t go to federal
Everything is a choice.
You even choose to sleep to some extent because it feels good
and so that you don’t die like that guy in China.
You choose to keep breathing everyday so that you don’t die.
This isn’t a simple choice for some people. I have pre-printed contracts for
people to sign promising that they will not choose to quit breathing between
Acknowledging choice is important.
It is easy to fall into the belief that we are trapped on a
rail and that we are being dragged through life with all these things we just
have to do, but they are all chosen. You don’t really have to do much of
anything except die someday.
What would your life look like if you acknowledged that
everything you do, you do by choice? Are there things you might not do if you
honestly considered them as choices instead of forced obligations?
Now, this isn’t me telling you to stop doing the good things
you do, but an encouragement to take ownership of choices.
This allows you to recognize the power you have in your own
life, and to address things you are doing that might not be healthy.
Seriously, keep breathing, sleeping, going to work and
feeding your kids.
Everything happens for a reason.
There are few phrases that put me on edge faster than this
I usually hear it immediately following someone telling me
about something stupid or selfish or just straight up horrible that they did.
“Yeah, he caught me cheating and kicked me out. Oh well,
everything happens for a reason.”
“So I got drunk and wrecked my car, and got arrested, but
everything happens for a reason.”
I automatically cringe when I hear this because there is
this subtle belief within this that the person isn’t actually responsible for
their decision, that there is some higher symmetry at work and everything is
actually for the best, no matter who was hurt or how bad things are.
“CPS is taking the kids away, but everything happens for a
“I got fired for not showing up again, but everything
happens for a reason.”
Yes, everything happens for a reason, but it really may not
be the cosmic movements of a higher power as often as we like to think it is.
A majority of the time, the reasons hit much closer to home,
at least they do for me.
I make somebody angry, everything happens for reason.
Unfortunately, the reason is most likely that I was tired or annoyed or
generally done with people and I said something shitty to them rather than God
himself working to help me draw boundaries in my life.
I rear end someone, which I did last week, and everything
happens for a reason. The reason was most likely a lack of sleep and general
fuzziness after having to unexpectedly put my cat to sleep. It wasn’t the
universe trying to slap me back into awareness. It was physics and a lack of
Everything does happen for a reason, but it is much more
often related to our own choices than to any sort of great universal lesson.
So why do we do the things we do?
They make sense to us at the time.
They have to, as a species we cannot do something without a
reason. There has to be some sort of motivating force.
Explore your reasons, you’ll find that they are there and
that they made sense to you at the time.
We are all doing the best we can with what we have, but if
we can examine the things we’ve done that we aren’t happy with, with
objectivity and insight, we can do better the next time.
Or, maybe, the universal overmind really is rearranging time
and space and bringing suffering to innocent people just to create some clarity
in your life.