Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jan 1, 2007

New Year's Resolutions?

I'm a little ambivalent about doing any New Year's resolutions this year, largely because I find it difficult to predict my progress towards concrete goals. This may, in fact, be my problem: my goals are too abstract for me to make reasonable progress towards accomplishing them.

Let's take an example of one of my goals: find a better job. The difficulty comes in defining what, precisely, constitutes a "better" job. One that's in a better location? One that pays more? One that offers better opportunities for advancement? Ideally, I'd like to get all of those things, but often it's necessary to settle for just one of those qualities . . . it may even be necessary to take a cut in one of the other areas.

So, it's often difficult for me to decide what opportunities to pursue, and even then, they tend not to pan out. I didn't do such a good job of accomplishing my resolutions for last year, largely because Something Came Up. I think this possibly qualifies as the Lamest Excuse Ever.

So, this year, I've decided to take a slightly different approach. My overall goals are the same (I'm in pretty much the same position I was last year), but I'm going to try altering my approach to them. So, for instance, instead of resolving to lose a specific amount of weight, I'm going to try NutriSystem for a month and monitor my weight. If I lose weight, I'm going to focus on keeping at it for another month, and so on.

Likewise with finding a better job: I'm going to look at the want ads and apply for anything that looks good this week. Then, next week, I'll do it again. Sooner or later I'm bound to find something.


softwareNerd said...

That's a better approach. If you frame your goals in terms that are *clearly* achieveable, there's a better chance you'll succeed. (The stress here is on the *clearly*, and the focus on what you will do, rather than the outcome makes the goal more clear.) Obviously, it's the output/result in which you're interested, rather than the input; yet, in some areas, the only confident commitment one can make is on the input/effort side.

I'd also suggest that you make your goals achievable by being as unambitious as possible while still making a difference.

Last year, I also reviewed my resolutions approximately every quarter and changed some around. The idea is not to let the plan run your life, but also not let your life get so out of line with the plan that the latter becomes a joke.

Anonymous said...

Softwarenerd writes, "I'd also suggest that you make your goals achievable by being as unambitious as possible while still making a difference."

I think this is a huge insight. It's true, I think, on several levels and in different contexts.

Also, I don't think this is a call, necessarily, to modesty in one's long-term ambitions. Rather, it's an insight into how our minds work, and how lasting change comes about. It's a recognition of each man's limited capacity for action and thought at any given moment. A man who is content with baby steps is, I think, also a man who recognizes how to go between the widest abstraction (like a long-term goal) and an immediate need (today's task).

From my own experience, most big, successful sea changes that I have seen in business came about because someone stuck with a realistic vision long after others had given up and forgotten about it (usually because the vision wasn't big, sexy, or exciting enough).

Even so, some realistic visionary remained committed to it, content to sweep the oars of his modest rowboat lightly through the water one stroke at a time, endlessly patient through storm and gail, always holding the bow of his boat on the same general bearing, while the big ships thunder by going this way and that way, their powerful screws surging ahead through the water, and their sailors, who have no idea where their own ship is heading, lining up on their own lofty decks and ridiculing "the little guy", because he doesn't appear to be getting anywhere.

Yet -- somehow! -- it is often this man in his tiny rowboat that ends up determining the destination of many of the big ships. (Maddeningly, those taunting sailors never seem to be the wiser for it.)

As my partner likes to remind me, it's often the littlest tugboat that turns a giant freighter.