How To Be Adventurous - The Series
So... About Those New Years Resolutions
The new year is upon you.
Do you feel any different?
The world seems to think you should, as though this magical flipping of the calendar has somehow also flipped your life. You’re the new-you now, or at least you ought to be. Time to break free of the mold, fulfill that forgotten potential, eat only the things your better-self says you should.
New beginnings are a beautiful thing, but we see a few problems with this model, and suspect you might as well.
The main one is this: despite the world’s expectations that you should by now be super human, or at least working at it, you find that you’re the same person you were last month. That will become abundantly clear a couple weeks from now when the excitement of that calendar change wears off, if it hasn’t already.
This confuses us, as we walk around wondering why we don’t feel dramatically better, why we’re not established wildlife photographers yet, and why we still haven’t climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. But eventually it becomes pretty clear why:
Because calendars don’t have any power to change your life! Pretty obvious, actually. Only you can make yourself buy a plane ticket to Borneo, hire a guide, and hike up that beautiful, sweaty, trying mountain.
Of course, something has to usher in the magic of this new year and help us turn into the-people-we-always-wanted-to-be...
Which is why we’ve created the trusted, reliable, never-failing New Year’s Resolution (NYR).
Known for sending herds of hopefuls to the gym and mountain trails for the first half of January, then dropping them like a bad habit as soon as it gets bored.
Shame on you, NYR. But whether we succeed or fail, NYR’s aren’t as new as you might think. We’ve been promising to do better next year since way, way back.
Babylonians made promises to the gods at the start of the new year, and so did the Romans. In medieval times, knights renewed their commitment to chivalry every December. Seems this 'fresh start' business is just part of human nature, like zoning out at the breakfast table, or always wearing out one sock before the other.
I’ve personally written dozens of these NYR things, and despite the fail rate (most resolutions really do fail after a couple weeks), I think they’re a good idea. How else will we know what we’re failing or winning at if we don’t write it down?
So if you haven’t already, we suggest you make one. A list of goals you’d like to accomplish in 2018. Places you want to go, things you’d like to do, people you’d like to be. Saying these things out loud and putting them to paper brings them front and centre, out into the fresh air where they can’t hide from you in the backwoods of your mind.
It’s a mess back there, we know. Don’t feel bad, just grab the pen and paper.
There’s No Right or Wrong Way to Set Goals – but There Is a More Effective Way
The most important thing you can do is make your goals measurable. Saying you want to ‘hike more mountains,’ will probably not amount to much, because ‘more’ is subjective. It’s too loose, too hard to tell whether you're winning or not. How will you know when it’s more? These kinds of goals are tough to pin down, and easy to let go of when we’re not sure if we’re making progress.
Instead of ‘hike more mountains,’ try making your goal to hike 5 new mountains this year, or 5 different mountains, or the same mountain 5 damn times. It doesn’t really matter, so long as you can know unequivocally whether you’ve done it or not.
“It’s June and I’m only at 2 mountains? Time to plan the next one.”
Now you’re on track.
Deciding to do something like ‘learn about photography’ is equally tough to measure and therefore easy to fail at. Instead, set out to take 10 great pictures a week, or 100, or even 1 if that’s all you can manage. Whatever it takes to let you know whether you’re doing it, or you’re not. Otherwise next December is going to creep around, you’ll dig that NYR list out of your sock drawer, look at that camera and ask yourself if you learned anything.
Well, I learned how to turn it on...
Great job. Mission accomplished. Time to start pitching National Geographic.
Personally, I want to write more. But I didn’t just put down ‘Write more,’ as one of my goals. Instead it says ‘Write for at least one hour each day, and more whenever possible.’
It’s small, but it’s just fail-safe. And it’s every day. Remember that consistent action, even when it’s small, always trumps occasional bursts of effort. If I don’t hit that hour I’ll know it. And I will rain down hell on myself in the form of a long, drawn out guilt trip.
Not all of your goals will pan out, and that’s okay. In fact that’s what next year is for. But try and accomplish your most important ones. Even if you can just nail down a few of those, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself at the end of the year, and have more motivation to keep chipping away at your list next time around.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The date today is January 5, 2018, and you have goals to accomplish. We trust you’re well on your way.