January 8, 2018
I was reading a book this weekend and got to thinking: every year, I resolve to read more. The past two years, I have been more intentional about that fact and I have been keeping myself accountable by documenting the books I read on this site; see 2016, 2017, and the current year. Not all the books are long or difficult to read and it doesn’t take into account any of the books I read with my children, which in the case of my four year old has started to include some rather hefty ones. However, my intentionality in my reading is partially about entertainment, partially about information, and partially about completion.
The first book I complete each year is a milestone that kickstarts all my crazy ideas. I think this is the case for all people at the beginning of the calendar year. Call it whatever you like—clean slate, new leaf, etc.—the point is most people think they can start over with things that they have lost sight of. Being or eating more healthy, reading more, finally learning that language or instrument; these are all good goals, but without strict accountability all year long, there is no way to make sure that the person is on track for where they think they should end up.
Perhaps the problem is that most people choose innocuous or open-ended resolutions each year that amount to a week’s worth of work before they realize it is simply too hard, not worth it, or not what they wanted in the first place. In my mind, these open-ended ideas need milestones to show progress, as well. Each “going to read more” needs to see at least one book’s end to show some modicum of progress; each “eating healthier” needs a meal that doesn’t contain fried food or sugary snacks; each “working out” needs to set a goal and reach it; and each “learning a skill” needs an accompanying performance of said skill.
What we need is a win, a small goal to start with that leads us psychologically to know that our goal—or any goal for that matter—is attainable. Once we understand that the goal is attainable, we should focus on goals that are harder to reach and include something more high stakes in the end. If I resolve to learn a new skill, shouldn’t I be force to share that in a forum that requires that skill? If I want to read more, join, lead, or create a group that forces me to be accountable to others who are reading the same book. When you take a class, you take a test to prove your knowledge. When you make a resolution, you make a commitment to capitalize on its gains, ideally for the betterment of others.
I have made it clear that I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions, but the problem isn’t the resolution, the problem is the timeframe and the joke that has become the lack of follow-through. I resolve to do better no matter when I think of it and I resolve to be accountable to others in the resolutions I make.