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Resolution: Form Fits Content

I resolve to set reasonable minimum expectations and meet them. This approach isn’t new to me. I’ve used it for years, finding it motivating to say, “Well, at least I’ll do five pushups” or “Writing one sentence shouldn’t be too hard,” and then blast past the ridiculously minimal goal. To push past fear or indifference, I’ve had to mess with my head, but it’s become a very silly game. Some parental part of me treats myself like an irresponsible child, and then the childish part of me proves the old guy to be a suspicious jerk. It’s like I’m doing a one-person version of The Breakfast Club.

A resolution is a huge commitment. It’s an attempt to foresee the results of your (changed) behavior. How will things resolve? What do I need to do to make that happen? For many people, the answer to both questions is, “Oh, shit, I’m not doing this.” I usually don’t bother, and I’m starting to understand why. Making a resolution is related to goal-setting, in which I’m supposed to come up with a big goal and then develop a micro-management plan that’s supposed to keep me on task but usually involves so much tedium that I go off track. Whereas my old version of setting minimums left too much unstated, typical goal-setting requires too much guessing about specifics before I have a sense of what’s really going to happen.

For some reason, making a resolution doesn’t feel like adding a layer to that ineffectual process. I’m thinking about how a resolution allows more flexibility in the planning. Goals are concrete, even if they’re complex, whereas a resolution serves a more foundational function. Putting it in too-simple terms, I do my goals, but my resolution is, or becomes, part of who I am. It adjusts to my needs, moves with me, like a trusted friend or a superhero costume.

My resolution should promote, and even clarify, all of my goals, especially finishing the manuscript of my novel. From now on, the minimum is the minimum. If I meet the goal, I’m done for the day, week, whatever. If I exceed it, that’s fine, too. Either way, I’ve done my job and have pushed along. Little by little, stuff will get done. I’ll be more engaged and, as a result, efficient. In short: I resolve to treat myself well and hold myself accountable. Will that be so difficult? Maybe, but not as difficult as it would have been five years ago, or even two years ago.

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  2. […] nice not to have to do it alone. Last year I broke my own pattern of not making resolutions by resolving not to over-enforce my goal-setting, especially with writing projects. The idea was that I would […]

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