Forget the New Year’s Resolution … Create a New You Resolution

I don’t like the idea of the New Year’s Resolution.

Frankly, I think the whole notion is counterproductive. And a study headed by Richard Wiseman of the UK justifies this claim. In 2007, a group of over 3000 people were tracked, as well as the progress toward their goal. Fifty-two percent of the cohort were confident they would achieve their New Year’s Resolution; at the end of the year, 88% had failed.

An 88% chance of failure? Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that this number should be lower? Why wouldn’t there be more success among people who have 365 days to achieve a set goal?

I find the New Year’s Resolution is a fad more than anything. Social norms state we should all celebrate the new year by having a goal we can talk about on New Year’s Eve. But should the change of the calendar really be our motivation? Can a change in the calendar be motivation enough? Apparently not … for 88% of us, at least.

That’s where my problem with this tradition lies. Why do we need a specific day on which we can decide, “I want to change myself”? Why is January 1st any better than March 10th … or July 17th … or August 7th … or December 26th?

Why can’t we motivate ourselves on any random day instead of letting the changing of the year motivate us? This is why the failure rate is so high—outsourcing our motivation makes failure inevitable. If you have a real goal in mind, you’ll go for it, hell or high water … regardless of the date on your Pug-A-Day calendar.

So if you must have a New Year’s Resolution, let it be this: over the next year make several New You Resolutions. If you want to change, if you want to improve yourself, start now. Whenever the fancy strikes you, go for it … and certainly don’t wait until next year to start striving toward your goal.

Now, with that rant out of my system … ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! (I’ve been working on my Spanish … and it’s not even January 1st yet!)

Excerpt — The Power of One

We sat on the steps of one of the rose terraces, my grandpa tapping and tamping and lighting and staring squint-eyed through the blue tobacco smoke over the rusty roof into the pale blue beyond. After a long time he said, ‘All I know about the Bible is that wherever it goes there’s trouble. The only time I ever heard of it being useful was when a stretcher bearer I was with at the battle of Dundee told me that he’d once gotten hit by a Mauser bullet in the heart, only he was carrying a Bible in his tunic pocket and the Bible saved his life. He told me that ever since he’d always carried a Bible into battle with him and he felt perfectly safe because God was in his breast pocket. We were out looking for a sergeant of the Worcesters and three troopers who were wounded while out on a reconnaissance and were said to be holed up in a dry donga. In truth, I think my partner felt perfectly safe because the Boer Mausers were estimated by the British artillery to be accurate to eight hundred yards and we were at least twelve hundred yards from enemy lines. Alas, nobody bothered to tell the Boers about the shortcomings of their brand-new German rifle, and a Mauser bullet hit him straight between the eyes.’ He puffed at his pipe. ‘Which goes to prove, you can always depend on British Army information not to be accurate, the Boers to be deadly accurate, the Bible to be good for matters of the heart but hopeless for those of the head, and finally, that God is in nobody’s pocket.’ – Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. New York: Random House, Inc., 1996. 309-310.

What we can learn from the tallest tree in the world …

This is Hyperion … the tallest known tree in the world.

Photo Credit: James Balog (notice the person in blue)
Composite Photo Credit: James Balog (notice the person in blue)

Hyperion is a coastal redwood that stands just shy of 380 feet … taller than both the Statue of Liberty and the Big Ben clock tower of London.

hyperion-height-comparison-statue-of-liberty-big-ben

Being between 700 and 800 years old, Hyperion knows a thing or two about growth—including a common misconception about trees.

Most of this tree is actually dead.

That’s not to say this tree is dying, or at risk of dying—in fact, apart from some damage caused by woodpeckers, Hyperion seems to be quite healthy.

So what is the reason behind all this dead tissue?

Well, that’s just how trees grow. For many trees—even trees of an average stature—it is common for only about 1% of its mass to be living tissues. This is because the growth pattern exhibited by trees.

The cambium represents the majority of the living tissue within a tree and is the thin layer of dividing cells just under the bark of a tree. It’s this layer that gives rise to the vascular tissues which connect roots to leaves … and it’s because of this constant cell generation that tree trunks grow.

As the cambium generates cells, it pushes itself outward from the center of the trunk while the inner layers die. It’s the accumulation of these dead cells that make a trunk’s girth increase. It’s also the seasonal variations in the growth of these cells that produce tree rings.

Kauri_cells2
Seasonal environmental variations cause the different sized vascular cells which create tree rings.

Give this process several hundred years, and you get one very large tree.

I think we would be wise to take a leaf from Hyperion’s book … so to speak. We can think of trees as constantly renewing themselves, letting die what is no longer necessary so that new growth may take the place of the old.

Everyone has a part of themselves that could be seen as negative … that is holding them back. Be it over-sensitivity, self-criticism, insecurity, pessimism, or my favorite to scrutinize: fear.

But what would it take to let this part of us die … not only let it die, but to replace it with new growth? Let thick skin take the place of oversensitivity … self-praise the place of self-criticism … confidence the place of insecurity … optimism the place of pessimism …

What would it take to let courage take the place of fear?

A decision. A conscious commitment to let that part of us die … and more importantly, to grow something new to take its place.

Trees experience a continual death … but in the interest of a continual life.

If Hyperion had not been constantly dying, it wouldn’t have grown … and it likely would have died itself, hundreds of years ago, outcompeted by neighboring trees.

So let go of that which is holding you back … step forward into growth … and reach new heights.

Hyperion from above the canopy.
Hyperion from above the canopy.

Predestine Wisely.

I used to reject the notion of predestination … the concept was just a bit too religious for me.

But what if we view predestination not from the perspective of God, but from our own perspective?

Really, predestination means to determine your destination in advance. In the sense of an omniscient God, I had interpreted as him deciding for me. But what if it’s us? What if it’s our decisions that determine where we end up?

That’s empowering … but at the same time, frightening. What if we aren’t cognizant of these decisions … what if we fail to recognize how they will affect our lives further down the road? Then we fail to see with foresight … we will fail to meet our goals … we will fail to guide our lives in the direction we desire …

But if we are cognizant, we have a great influence over the course of our lives. We realize how every decision may affect our final destination, and can use that foresight to help inform our decisions.

Fate isn’t some concept that acts on the scale of infinity. It’s something that is formed day to day, month to month, year to year—we write our own fate. So when you think about predestination, remember that it is you who determines your final destination … so predestine wisely.