I talk big about making changes and how change adds energy to life, but in truth I don't make a lot of big ones. For example, my only change of note in 2013 might be my new MacBook. But that doesn’t stop me from looking ahead, searching for the next change that’ll make me a better man. This translates into, of course, New Year’s Resolutions.
However, I understand how NYR can be scary for a lot of people. The very idea implies life-dissatisfaction, and who wants that.
But for me, I see NYR as hope that I can be better and stronger and smarter next year. Not that my previous years were unsatisfactory, but that next year can be my best ever. I see NYR as leaning forward into the future.
We used to have a Labrador named Lady, and she ran thousands of miles with Cyndi and me. Often during a run she would jump through the pond at C. J. Kelly Park to cool off. And as soon as she cleared the water she did what all dogs do after they get wet - she shook violently to sling off the water.
Once Lady shook off the water she was ready to move on down the trail, full of expectancy and joy. She had no interest in retrospection or analysis, all she cared about was the road ahead. She wanted to keep moving.
And so, entering a New Year should be like that for us. It's a time to leave behind the sentiment of Christmas and move on to something fresh. It’s our opportunity to shake off the old stuff - the goals and projects and bad habits – even dissatisfaction - of last year.
You didn't lose the extra ten pounds last year? Shake it off and start over. Didn't break a three-hour marathon? Shake it off. Never got around to writing that novel? Shake it off. Didn't get your own business started like you'd planned? Shake, shake, shake!
And then, after shaking off last year, it’s time to move on down the road to next year. Who cares that the trail ahead might be the same as last year’s? So what if our goals are the same old routines we've covered hundreds of time. It's a new year and time to move on. Shake off the old and move into the new with expectant joy.
Here is my list for 2014. This is my most interactive list so far, which means I’m asking for assistance and advice with several of these. It turns out I can’t be the man God wants me to be entirely on my own efforts. I need your help.
Knees: Stop complaining about my knees. Everyone hurts somewhere, and as bad as my knees are they get me around better than many of my friends. And besides, I love movement more than I resent the discomfort, so I should just shut up about it. Here’s the deal: if you hear me complaining about sore knees, ask for all the loose change in my pocket and I’ll give it to you.
Draw: Last year I had the goal to draw or sketch every day, on the theory that learning to draw would improve my vision and make me a better writer. I did this for a few weeks, but it fell away. I don’t know why. Maybe I wasn’t committed to the project as much as I thought. Or maybe I just didn’t like drawing. I’m willing to take this on again, but I need some advice from someone who does this well.
Improvise: I finished 2013 reading the book Improv Wisdom, by Patricia Ryan Madison, and she convinced me that I need more improvisation in my life. “For many of us, age produces an increased tendency to rely on known patterns, if not an all-out petrifaction.” I’m not sure how to go about this yet, but the most obvious place to practice improvisation in my life is with music. Once again, I need advice and counsel.
Assume: I want to spend 2014 assuming the best intentions on the part of everyone. That includes family, friends, enemies, business, and politics. I’m sure I’ll be proved wrong occasionally and learn someone had bad intentions, but they are going to have to convince me before I buy into it.
Publish: Publish my fourth book. I used to dream of being a big-time writer with tons of cash and lots of chances to travel and speak. I would still enjoy that, I think, but the odds of that happening are close to zero. I’ve finally understood that isn’t why I write, anyway. The fact is, I believe God gives me things to say, and it is my obligation to repeat them. God gets to decide how many read them. But obligation is a key word for me. I believe if I don’t keep publishing, the insights and ideas will dry up, and I cannot fathom a life like that. As part of this goal I’m planning to use Schrivener to help structure the book. If you have any thoughts about that, I need to hear them.
Evernote: I’ve poked around the edges of Evernote for years, but never fully committed to making it part of my life. Some of the smartest and most creative people I know use it extensively, so I think it deserves a better attempt on my part. Any suggestions or examples?
Proactive: I want to take a more proactive approach to working out and stretching to prevent further injuries and extend my functional years. I have too many miles to go, yet.
Minimize I’m pretty good at cleaning my clothes closet, but I think I can do better. My plan for 2014 is to reverse the clothes hangers so that they point away from me, meaning it will be more difficult to pull them from the bar. I’ll put them back the right way after I hang up my laundry. By the end of the year I will know exactly which clothes I never wore all year long, and consider giving them away. So if you see something in my closet that you want, you know what to do. Just reverse the hanger whenever you see it.
Project: I have a magazine article I promised a friend but I’ve been putting it off because I don’t think I’m very good telling other people’s story. It is time to do the right thing and finish this project.
Planning: I will work with Cyndi to finish our wills and estate plan. It’s become even more obvious to us these past months how important it is to do this right, and depend on people we can trust to do the right thing.
Pass it on: You probably know by now I’m not happy unless I drag a few other people along with me down the trail of life. So I hope you’ll join me in 2014. I’d love to hear your own goals for next year.
Don’t waste time over failures or shortcomings from last year, just shake them off. In fact, do it right now. Stand up and give a quick shake. Then point your nose toward next year and take off running. This is a new season and a fresh start. Good luck.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32