I’ve had a lot of people ask me this past week if I’ve made any New Year’s resolutions. You probably have too, if you’ve been talking with people at all recently. With one exception, I haven’t had much to tell them (exception elaborated upon in the epilogue of this post). Last year, I made several – like climb a 14er, visit every brewery in Fort Collins, write every day – none of which I actually accomplished. Looking back, though, I think that’s okay.
Resolutions are problematic. They’re very specific, unless they’re hopelessly vague (‘exercise more’ being a common example of the latter). The specific ones don’t leave any room for flexibility or change, and the vague ones are so intangible that they don’t give any direction or goals. Neither, I’ve found, have been very helpful.
For me this new year, I’ve become more interested in New Year’s Intentions. Another way to say that is the idea behind the resolution. Take my 14er resolution, for example (for those of you not familiar, ’14er’ is Colorado slang for a mountain over 14,000 feet about sea level. There are around 50 of them in this state, of varying difficulty/intimidation). I made it in January, having been here three weeks, and having never climbed anything involving more than a long day-hike, and never hiked above the altitude my new home was at. So I had no idea what I was getting into. But the intention behind it was to get out and explore the mountains, which I did through other means – road trips, camping, day hikes. So while I failed on the specific goal, I met the intention. Which is just as good. And similarly with the others – I may not have followed the letter of the resolution, but I learned a lot about beer, and writing, and myself, and many other things I may not have if I’d been more focused on the resolutions themselves.
So I’d encourage us not to be too hard on ourselves if we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to last year. And in looking to 2016, not to be so narrowly focused on a specific goal that we miss the opportunities that a year will present us with. At the same time, let’s not be so vague about what might be upcoming that we miss opportunities to grow and work toward what we already know we want.
Instead of a laundry list, let’s have one eye on last year and one eye on this one, and find a balance between stagnation and narrow focus. Think about how far we’ve come and where we’re headed, who we are and who we want to be. Set the intention for what’s to come, and be open to learning and changing along the way.
Epilogue – I did make one tangible resolution, the intentions behind which are to get outside of my personal viewpoints and start to get a sense of my privileges as a straight white American male. I want to read at least 12 books this year, one a month, written not by white/western men. Any recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments below…