Are you doing New Year’s resolutions?

Hey. How was your winter break? I hope you had a chance to rest, relax, and recharge, or just have fun.

I’ve been thinking about why I haven’t been able to make myself draw up a list of resolutions for the new year. And I think it has partly to do with my feeling that it’s hard to get anything done these days, with social media frying our brains. If I just spent less time online, I’d get more stuff done!

To that end, I deleted the Instagram app from my phone. I’ve found it’s not nearly as tempting to stay on IG if you have to look at it on a laptop computer. Actually, it’s kind of bizarre how much less appealing and addictive it is. My plan is to now only access IG from my computer and only on weekends. 

If I am unable to be moderate even with these parameters, then I’ll quit it completely again. (Facebook and TikTok are not a problem for me–I log on very infrequently.) What are your ‘trouble apps’?

But the main reason I’m not setting resolutions is because there’s really only ever one resolution I care about. And I’ve already got that one burned into my brain, due to a “year in review” exercise I did in 2018.

At the start of that year, I looked at all the notes and appointments from my 2017 calendar and made a list of everything I’d done that year. I had done all kinds of things–things to be proud of. Things I was glad I had done. But I had not made a movie.

To be clear, I don’t make a movie most years. But what I discovered is that if I have not written a new script, shot some scenes, started pre-production, or otherwise moved closer to making a movie, then the year feels like a loss to me. I feel like I did “nothing.”

So, if you’re not sure what you really, really care about most, make a list of everything you accomplished last year and then pay attention to how your inner voice responds. If you find yourself thinking, “But I didn’t go visit (insert name of one of your favorite people on this planet)” or “I still haven’t seen (insert dream travel destination),” or whatever, then it seems like that should be your resolution this year.

I assume most people, throughout any given year, are always working on a few goals, right, whether they start as official New Year’s resolutions or not?

For example, sometime last fall, I decided I want to get in “amazing” shape. To me, amazing means “better than usual.” So I started working out regularly again and I ordered two sets of heavier weights and started using them in my arm workouts. I also started trying to log 10,000-15,000 steps 2-3x a week. I’m not accomplishing this on a regular basis yet, but I’m working on it.

Also last fall I decided I wanted to start finishing books again. During the pandemic, I’d developed a bad habit of starting books and abandoning them, one after another. I am now finishing books again and it feels great. I recently finished a biography of Jim Henson, the Muppets creator, and I found it very informative and helpful (in more of a philosophical way than a practical way).

I think one more reason I’m not officially drawing up a list of resolutions is this: New Year’s resolutions feed into my belief that one day I’ll arrive at some nirvana state in which I’ve achieved perfection in every category of my life. And I don’t like fostering that hope.

I honestly think, at this point in life, the best goal I can have is to enjoy TODAY. To do that, I pause and listen to birds tweeting in our backyard. I talk to or text with friends and family. I eat good food. 

Because my repeat epiphany (the epiphany I have over and over again, that always strikes me anew, as if I’ve never arrived at it before) is that no matter what I or anyone else accomplishes, no one ever really arrives.

Just like Stutz and Michels say in their book, The Tools, “There is no Easy Street.”

Almost everyone wants to do more and have more. If a person does arrive at some pinnacle, what you usually hear is the elation doesn’t last long. That’s because of the seesaw nature of happiness, as explained in the fantastic book, Dopamine Nation. Because of the body’s tendency toward homeostasis, if you experience pleasure for a while, you almost always feel the thud of the other end of the seesaw hitting ground, as the body attempts to right itself, into a balanced state.

And then… you return to the state of wanting. At least, I do.

Even people who seem to have everything, whom you admire and envy–you find out they have wounds they’re nursing. I remember Nora Ephron saying she was still upset about one of her ‘failed’ movies. I recall a high school classmate, now long married, who is still angry about losing her high school boyfriend to another classmate. Famous people who seem to have dream careers–there are the roles they didn’t get, the failed play or book, etc.

Maybe it’s best to avoid the extreme highs or the inevitable, soon-to-follow pits. Staying balanced on the see-saw seems more desirable.

I’d like to be content with contentment that stems from nothing other than gratitude at being alive.

That’s my resolution/goal/wish for this year.

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