With the New Year right around the corner, now’s the time to make some resolutions about how to be better, do better, and work toward worthwhile goals.
If you’re anything like me, coming up with resolutions isn’t always the hard part — at least not as hard as actually following through on resolutions.
With that in mind, it’s worth thinking not just about resolutions, but what sort of resolutions are attainable, and how you plan to accomplish them. And one of the best ways to do both is to reflect on what’s worked in the past — and what hasn’t.
I’ve found that the best way to look forward is to have a conversation with my younger self.
1. Don’t put artificial time limits on your goals
Hey, Isaac, remember when your cousin Helen got married? She was 28, her groom, Andrew, was 29, and your 14-year-old self couldn’t help but think to yourself, “Man, are they old.” Andrew has grey hair already for crying out loud!
Of course, they were on cloud nine, and everybody was incredibly happy for them, and you were, too. But you also thought to yourself, “I am never waiting that long to get married.”
Sorry to break it to you, Isaac, but you’ll still be looking for Mrs. Right Huss at the ripe old age of 32.
Here’s what I’d suggest instead: Live your best life, now. Don’t give up on your goals of marriage and family, but don’t obsess over making it happen, and don’t dwell on the fact you’re not there yet.
Oh, and don’t be a wuss — ask that girl out (you know the one) and treat her like a lady and do what you can to sweep her off her feet. The worst she can say is ‘no.’ And if it doesn’t work out, there’ll be other fish in the sea (don’t even get me started on this thing called “online dating”).
After all, there’s a silver lining to being single for this long: you’ll be able to develop your writing, learn how to make craft cocktails, travel extensively, and become a regular at all the karaoke bars.
2. FOMO fades!
As the great Jim Gaffigan (a prophet from the future) said when driving past a McDonald’s sign advertising two Big Macs for $2, “I don’t want to lose money on this. I’ll get 80!”
The joke, of course, is that you don’t lose money on money you don’t spend. And the same goes with fun “experiences.”
Remember, younger Isaac, that time in 6th grade you chose to watch a last-place Timberwolves team on TV instead of writing your geography paper? You know, the one that led to the poor grade that got you suspended from the baseball team? Yeah, I thought you’d remember that part.
Since you didn’t want to miss out on that forgettable Timberwolves game, you ended up missing out on two weeks of playing on the baseball team. And let’s face it — the vast majority of things you have to “miss out” on are forgotten in no time.
Well, I’m here to tell you: that temptation will never totally leave you. You’re still going to be obsessed with the Timberwolves (you’re going to love this Karl-Anthony Towns guy, by the way). And you’re still going to be tempted to indulge yourself in your favorite things at the expense of, well, simply being responsible.
So here’s something I’ve learned in my old age: one of the best ways to resist the temptation of FOMO, is to have a plan ahead of time. Just like you might budget your money (you’ll learn this later, young Isaac), I’m making plans to budget my fun-seeking, even if those things don’t necessarily cost me excess cash.
For instance, if I’m planning to go out on Saturday night, that might be reason enough to take it easy on Friday night. If nothing else, it helps to ensure that I have a productive Saturday morning and afternoon. And if that doesn’t sound like that big of a battle, well then you don’t know me.
I’ve had enough of these FOMO-motivated experiences that I ended up staying up too late, or having too much to drink, or otherwise getting in the way of my bigger goals. Now I want to plan ahead to keep those forgettable experiences to a minimum, so I don’t get in the way of the real important things.
3. Treat yourself and others better
Here’s a list of things you won’t regret, young Isaac: staying in every once in a while; going home before midnight; spending the extra money on a cab ride home rather than driving after drinking; and working through relationships instead of taking the easy way out.
You will regret hurting people.
Like when you went to the football game with your buddies and your sister, and you left your seats while she was in the bathroom.
Or when you kissed that girl when you had no intention of ever asking her out on a real date, which then became painstakingly clear to both of you.
You will regret losing your temper with your mother. Again. And again. And again.
One of the things you’ll learn as you get older, Isaac, is that nobody decides how you treat others except…wait for it…you. In particular, there might be things your mom says or does that really riles you up, but you could choose to react differently.
And as you get older, you will gain perspective, and come to realize what’s truly valuable in life. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the money you make, the things you acquire, or your 401k (Google it). It’s not how much traveling you do, the experiences you relish, or even the goals you accomplish. Ultimately, what’s truly valuable, what’s truly meaningful, are the people in your life and your relationships with them.
That’s why they’re called ‘loved ones’ after all — because they’re the loved. By you.
Some advice for your resolution making
As this year comes to a close, consider having a quick convo with your not-so-much-younger self about what went right and what went wrong.
- What did I do for others, and what did I fail to do?
- How did I treat people well, and how did I treat them poorly?
- How much time did I spend thinking about myself, how I felt, and what’s best for me?
- How much time did I spend thinking about others, how they felt, and how I could help?
Resolutions based on this kind of self-reflection have the power to not only make next year better, but improve the year for others, as well.
In fact, that might be the best New Year’s resolution of all: to resolve to focus less on me and what I want, and more on others.