I’ve always thought the idea of a New Year’s resolution to be a little silly. Maybe it’s just me. A year is a long time to focus on just one goal, or even a set of goals, before you know what’s in store for you.
First of all, there’s the accountability. Who’s keeping track of what goals you set for the future? Your friends? Your mom? No. You have to keep track of something like that for yourself. Have you ever tried sticking up a note next to your workspace to remind you to do something? How long does it take before that note, so obvious at first, becomes just another ubiquitous bit of background? Maybe if there were an app that reminded you of your resolutions each month, it would be possible to remember what you resolved last January. I seriously have no idea whether I even made a resolution last winter, let alone whether I made any progress on it.
Second, how do you know when you’ve accomplished your goal? Say you set a goal to spend more time with somebody, or less time doing an unwanted activity; did you measure the hours you spent doing it last year? “More” or “less” are pretty vague quantifiers. If you’re going to set a goal, you need to get specific. Even if you say “I’m going to lose weight”, does your resolution specify how much weight you’ll have to lose to be successful? Or what your action plan is to accomplish the goal? If your resolution doesn’t include these specifics, you might as well save your breath, because you’ll never know whether you succeeded.
Last, the timing. Once a year is an awfully long wait to set a goal for self-improvement. I understand the significance of starting with a clean slate at the beginning of a new year. It can be a powerful motivator. But if you slip up, it can backfire on you just as powerfully. Once you’ve botched an “I’m not going to do x or y this year” resolution, that’s it; you don’t get another fresh start until the end of the year. And if you think of something in say, March, that didn’t occur to you in January, you’re not going to want to wait nine months to get started; you want to begin right away, while the motivation is fresh. Goals and resolutions should be an ongoing process, constantly refreshed and reevaluated to see if they’re accomplishing what you intended them to.
So I’m not going to make a New Year’s resolution tomorrow night. I’m going to continue as I have been doing – setting goals day by day based on what I see is most important at the time. I’m not going to say “I will finish writing ‘Pegasus Chained’ this year” or “I will publish three stories” or anything like that. If I do, then I do, and why stop there?