For 2020, I decided to do monthly resolutions instead of having one yearly resolution. I’ve been picking something new to try each month so I can experiment with different goals. I like the idea a lot more than having only one thing you make a big deal about changing each year.
With the New Year’s resolution, you might follow it for a month or two but a lot of the time you run out of steam and just let the goal fade away. You stop trying to better yourself again until the next year when you give it another go. I think a lot of the time we beat ourselves up when we slip up and then we let it go so we don’t have to face the failure anymore, even though it’s usually not a big deal. We also tend to set big goals for New Year’s resolutions, because we have a whole year to complete them. Then if we get a few months in and we haven’t made the progress we want, completing the goal seems more and more unachievable and scary, because now you need to make a year’s worth of progress in 9 months, and if you put it off more, 6 months, and so on. So then when we fail, it’s a big failure, and we feel even worse. One of the biggest problems I see with trying something for the entire year is even if you do make good on your progress, you don’t get the satisfaction of completing it until the year ends, and a year is a long time for most people to delay gratification, including me.
With the monthly resolution, each goal is made to be a lot more reasonable and attainable. You can focus on your goal for the month without pressuring yourself to be perfect about if for a lengthy period of time. At the end of the month, you can pat yourself on the back for doing a good job and renew your motivation for the next month. For the next month you can keep the same goal you had or you have the opportunity to go after new things. Conventional wisdom is that it usually takes three weeks to form a new habit, so a month is long enough to instill whatever your goal was into your routine. If it was going to the gym or cutting down on sugar you now know you have the willpower to make those changes. At the end of the month you can have a perspective switch that going to the gym isn’t something you’re making yourself do, or a punishment, it’s just something you do now. You’re someone who exercises. You’re someone who knows you’re able to turn down a sugary snack. Now you can take the pressure off yourself, and focus on improving yourself in a different way.
So what have I done for my own resolutions? For January I made the goals to write every day, and to not play video games unless I was playing with friends. I’ve wanted to get into the writing habit for a while, but have never been able to force myself to carve out the time. I only made the minimum requirement fifteen minutes so that I wasn’t intimidated to follow through each day. By not letting myself default my free time to video games, I forced myself to be more productive, and I was able to follow my writing goal really well. I wrote almost every day, and a lot of the time for much longer than fifteen minutes. Now that the month is over, it’s been a lot easier for me to continue to write and I’ve been continuing to do it daily for the most part.
In February I didn’t drink coffee in any form, but still allowed myself to have other sources of caffeine, like tea. One reason is I wanted to see what my body does if I’m still getting caffeine, but not from coffee. It also served as an exercise in self-denial, since I had been consuming around three to four coffee-based drinks a day. I noticed after I got through two weeks of no coffee, I felt clear-headed most of the time. I noticed my body would feel, not tired really, but bored. It’s like it’s just waiting for that quick go energy it’s used to but nothing is coming. In the third week of not drinking coffee, I started to really crave it. At first I thought to myself “two weeks has been enough, I could stop now.” But that was just me being weak. If this is actually an exercise in self-control then going through this harder point would be the point. I started drinking coffee again after the month was over, not as much as before, but at least a cup or two a day, and I immediately noticed the clear-headedness I was enjoying quickly went away. It pains me to say it, because I really like coffee, but I’m going to have to make caffeinated coffee a once a week treat. It’s such a clear improvement in my ability to think when I’m not on coffee that I can’t justify keeping my normal consumption. For March I bought an Excel course online and committed to learning it for at least half an hour a day, which I did.
I really like the variety and amount of skills I can work on with this method. I’m planning on cycling between different types of challenges like physical (biking, swimming), mental (meditating), nutrition(no snacks, fasting), and skill-building(magic tricks, learning a software). There’s a ton of stuff I’d like to work on and learn, but I won’t do anything well if I try and do it all at once. If I focus on one or two things at a time, I can actually learn each thing well and eventually get around to everything.