With the new year in sight many are in the midst of that personal promise-making process which tends to happen whenever the calendar year enters “reset mode”.
Typically these promises we make to ourselves are of a superficial nature…
“This year I’ll drop 15 pounds and keep it off!”
“I’ll change my diet and really eat better this year!”
“I’ll be better with my money and give more to charity!”
“This year I’ll engage in more ‘random acts of kindness’!”
The lists vary from year to year but many contain a sort of surface level optimism, which promptly becomes lost in the grind we know as life, and leaves us resolving to do better and wondering where we went off the tracks this year.
If you’re a resolution type, who’s fallen victim to unfulfilled expectations then you aren’t alone, because I’m right there in the same boat which is riddled with structural defects. Take it from someone who’s repeatedly engaged in this dysfunctional cycle, this year won’t be any different for you unless you resolve to change your entire game up, and this requires a change in the way we choose to view the New Year “reset” phenomenon.
The good news is that this disconnect can be resolved in a meaningful way.
Thoreau noted once that:
“While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings.”
Perhaps this is the springboard from which we can propel ourselves into an effective, lasting process of personal transformation.
Taking A Personal Inventory
Before you go and sell all your belongings, cut up the credit cards and hitchhike to Alaska to live in the wild please know that changing your entire game can be as simple as meaningful self-reflection.
There is a concept that I’m particularly fond of, which I simply refer to as “personal economy”.
To many, the term “economy” either conjures images of an uncomfortable, yet affordable rental car from their family vacations of years past, others seem to think of the subject focus of that boring elective they took their senior year of high school to get an extra credit for graduation. Regardless of what significance, or insignificance, people attach to the concept of economy, I can promise you that this concept alone is worth dwelling on and will produce the most vital change in the individual going forward.
Personal Economy is simply understanding what you as an individual have at your disposal, whether it’s assets such as charisma, work-ethic, teachability, networking skills, etc. It’s understanding yourself on a deeper level and choosing to give credit where credit is do. What do you have a surplus of which you can use to your advantage? What is lacking (or scarce) within your personal reserve that you have to work around or compensate for?
Much of our current social culture is outward focused when it comes to deficiencies, or conflicts. A culture of victimhood diminishes the need for introspection of the individual, and the desire to adapt to undesirable circumstances, placing all social capital in the hands of those who successfully manipulate others to conform to their desires (aka “The Professional Victims).
This may be successful, but it isn’t a sustainable way to live, and those who understand themselves better, and are able to adapt to the unfair nature of life will easily become more resilient and more efficient than those who play victim.
So what do you have within your personal arsenal of talents, relationships, and abilities?
Have you ever thought about this?
Most people, myself included, while not overly concerned with playing victim, haven’t actually contemplated their strengths and weaknesses in a comprehensive fashion. Most people don’t utilize their natural gifting to their advantage. When people do begin to unlock their innate potential, they’re able to identify new routes to successfully achieving goals which were only previously wished for.
Flexing Mental Muscles
Like anything, taking stock of one’s personal economy isn’t enough, it’s simply the first step. Thinking about achieving things doesn’t achieve them. It’s only through action and practice that people see the benefits of their self-discipline.
Identifying a desire for a large bank account balance is great, but if a person only waits to deposit money once a year with their tax return, they’ll never se sustained growth or teach themselves how to truly budget. The same is true for becoming an athlete, or growing a company, or learning a language. Training your muscles, not only the physical kind but the mental kind as well, cultivates you into the person you’d like to be.
Humans are creatures of drama, it’s why we love movies about heroes and heroines and the great storylines they find themselves immersed in. We’re all wired to desire change and personal transformation. The danger of an entertainment culture is that we’ve lost our perspective on the length of the process leading the hero to act heroically.
New Year’s resolutions are not only superficial but dramatic in nature. They renounce the old and boldly proclaim, “This year I’ll turn my back on my months, years, decades of pre-formed habits and be reborn anew!”
And we wonder why the pre-formed habits always end up kicking our butts in the end?
There’s no such thing as instant transformation. There are certainly catalytic moments which we all encounter, but the truth is that the vast majority of life is built on the foundations of habit, so it’s only natural that this year, after you’ve taken stock of your natural abilities and connections, the goal then becomes to practice and cultivate those gifts until you strengthen them into worthy tools with which you construct your existence going forward.
For a great read I’d highly recommend the first chapter of Arnold Bennett’s 1911 Essay, “Mental Efficiency: And Other Hints to Men and Women” which I found through The Art of Manliness project.
The process to creating significant, personal change isn’t in dramatic declarations posted on social media on the firsy day of 2018, but through introspection, self-analysis and creation of positive habits.
So let’s take a look at 2018 through a new lens, make our actions meaningful, and not find ourselves regretting mediocre outcomes this coming December and wishing for a “better 2019”.