Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions And Other Ill-advised Activity

...and I'm back from the final leg of Operation: Get The Fuck Out Of Kalamazoo.

This time, it was a glamorous Christmas weekend in that vacation wonderland known as the Bronx, a place composed mostly of brick, dog poop and attitude.

Great place. Had fun. New York is a little too large for my brain to cope with at times. It's the sort of place where coming up with things to do is not the problem: the big problem is narrowing it all down. Left to my own devices, I would mostly likely explore the place by simply picking a direction and then winging it.

Coming back, though, exposes a problem: my writing has definitely gone off the rails. Sure, it was on purpose, but sitting down at the keyboard again, I find myself having the same feeling you get when you return to the gym after two weeks off, albeit with less nausea, puking and public humiliation.

Since it's the first day of the year, I guess I'll do the in thing and make a resolution.

New Year's resolutions are terrible ideas, though. If you're the sort of person who feels driven to making New Year's resolutions, you're probably not the sort of person who's going to follow through with them.

A good resolution is comprised of several discrete components.

It has to be reasonable and achievable. Becoming swimsuit model hot is not a good goal, unless you're only twenty pounds out. Losing twenty or thirty pounds is reasonable. Hard, but reasonable. Saving a set amount of money before a certain date. Running a half-marathon even if you've never run before. Going to Ecuador for a week when you have a decent job. All to the good.

It has to be a measurable goal. Becoming a nicer person is not measurable. Doing charity work and sticking with it is measurable. Giving up smoking is measurable (but hard!). Losing twenty pounds and running a half marathon is measurable. "Getting back in shape" is not.

It has to have milestones built in. If you can't measure it, you can't tell if you're going off course. Because if you do drift off course, you could go WAY off course before you even realize it and then get depressed and give up.

More importantly, a lot of the more interesting goals have inherent components. If you want to backpack Mt. McKinley by the end of the year, there's some things you'll have to do first. Acquire climbing gear. Get plane tickets. Take a class. Set up an exercise program. Notify next of kin.

Milestones are important because they break a big mysterious thing into small manageable parts.

And the final component of a successful resolution: public accountability. This is where most NYE resolutions fall down. Everybody does them. There's no downside to failure. If you do fail, everybody expects it. The failed NYE resolution is one of the biggest running jokes of the season. On top of that, everybody's usually drunk when they make them, so they set unreasonable assumptions for what they want to do. NYE resolutions tend to be vague, poorly thought and overly ambitious and nobody really expects you to follow through with them anyway.

Screw that noise.

So I'm doing one anyway.

I've had a lot of success with these things. The 100 day 500 per day thing was doing fine, but the small chunks every day approach was starting to make my teeth itch. It was getting very hard to stay focused on the outline.

Instead I'm going to do one chapter per week until the book is done. It's achievable, it's measurable, and it has some implied down time built in so I have a chance to breathe a bit. It's not a big book either, so it should only take me ten or eleven weeks at that rate to finish it off.

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