“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy
Except for in December. As each year approaches its end, we all huddle with our notebooks and coffee, and start to reflect upon what we didn’t achieve this year that we need to or want to get done next year.
For the past several years, I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions. The idea seemed silly – why create an impractical pact with yourself on January 1st of every year, and then feel terrible every year in December when you hadn’t achieved it?
But then I realized, the fault didn’t lie with the concept of New Year’s Resolutions, but with my execution. I had to adjust my approach to something that makes sense to me. Thus, I started reflecting back on the past few years of my life, and bucketed my “resolutions” into rather arbitrary groupings.
Now, not all of these are traditional resolutions. I have decided to continue working out 4-5 times a week (including learning) yoga under my “health” grouping, and starting to meditate and cook regularly as a part of my “personal development” bucket. However, as I lay out my ideas, I realized some of them were more generic plans – like create and execute a project for externship. Many of the things I’m already doing, such as journaling, reading about basic quantum physics, and talking to my parents regularly. Some ideas were new, such as reconnecting with my students with hand-written letters and building financial health.
Together, the six categories – impact, friends, family, personal development, health, and professional development – create an overview of how I want the next year of my life to look. And my real resolution is making it all happen. The two keys to doing that for me are making habits stick and porting of the sense of urgency I had while teaching into my everyday life.
For the things that I’m already doing, I want to make sure it becomes a habit. I’ve started making my bed every morning; I’m going to make sure this tiny step towards organization becomes a constant in my life. I just feel so much better walking into my bedroom with the bed already made.
If possible, I also want to do better across these activities. Currently, I cook (beyond eggs) at least a couple of times a month, but I want to make sure I’m learning recipes that I can reproduce and not skipping weekends. To this end, most of my goals are easily trackable, like the exercising one. For now, quantity will have to be a proxy for quality.
In school, the sense of urgency was supposed to reflect our belief that every moment we spent with our students mattered, and could play a huge role in putting them on a better life path. I want this to bleed into my lifestyle, with bias being towards action. It’s like applying the 2-minute rule to your whole life instead of just your inbox, which I need to get over inertia. I think getting the little tasks done, such as calling the handyman, picking up dry-cleaning, buying gifts, etc. in the moment that they’re thought about rather than delaying will create space in my mind to focus on the things that do matter.
So while my 2018 notebook page is full of ideas to build more meaningful relationships, improve my health, develop personally and professionally, and impact others’ lives, the two keys to making it happen for next year is building habits (not letting excuses get in the way) and operating with a sense of urgency in routine, everyday tasks.
Tolstoy’s quote seemed crazy to me when I first read it, because it’s so much easier to change yourself than the world. After all, it’s something that largely within your control. But I do hope, in some ways, changing myself gets me to the point where changing the world seems a little more within reach – a little more achievable. For me, it’s become a critical step in the process.
“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Rob Siltanen
I’ll leave you to think about the juxtaposition of these two quotes and how you choose to interpret and implement them in your own life.