Contemplating 2023…

According to the internet, January 17 is “Ditch Resolution Day,” the day when the majority of people abandon their New Year’s Resolutions.

But let’s be honest …anyone who came up with a resolution that includes the words “every day” has already failed.

Most likely on New Year’s Day.  Definitely by day 8.

I mean, who came up with this system?

Let’s stay up until midnight, drink, and eat a big pretzel on the night before we’ve resolved to get up every morning at 5 am and work out.

I’m guilty of making overly ambitious goals.  Every year around November, I start thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in the next year.  Then over the holiday break, I reflect on the year that’s ending.  I like to go through my calendar and notebooks and make a list of everything I’ve accomplished and all the significant events (good or bad.)

This is the part I love.  It’s amazing how quickly I forgot that in 2022 I (stupidly) climbed the ice dunes along Lake Erie and finally saw the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.  I read sixty books and gave five film talks at my local libraries

Can you guess how many of these things were on my 2022 goal list?

I’ll bet you guessed zero, and if you did, you’re right.

For 2023, I decided to do something different.  A scaled down list of goals.  More attainable.  Instead of (a goal to) work out every day, I’d work out five days a week.  Well, except when I was on vacation.  Or what if I got sick?  Or injured?  Or really tired?  Five days every week is probably not going to happen.

So maybe five days on average.  I could keep track, and some weeks I could do more than five days to make up for the weeks when I did less.  I could make a spreadsheet and….

You see the rabbit hole I’m going down.

So I scaled back even further—I’d just track all my workouts.  Or plan them by the week.

Same thing with my writing. 

I’d make a list of home improvement projects, and places to visit.

I’d make fun goals, like going to the movie theater once a week.  I used to do this effortlessly, no goal required.  But are there enough movies on the big screen to warrant this?  Maybe an average of once a week?  Or every other week?

I’d only read the books I already owned—no new ones.  (This one is particularly delusional, despite the fact I have about 100 unread books in my house.  But I’m not going to read Prince Harry’s memoir in 2023?  Get real.)

I’d go to bed on time.

I’d stop drinking so much coffee.

I’d stop being so hard on myself.

That final thought was a record scratch moment in my mind.  I’d stop being so hard on myself?  This after issuing myself a list of demands and homework assignments, making me feel impossibly behind before the year even began?

No, no, no.

I would keep it even simpler this year.

I’d come up with a one word theme.  (This is another big strategy you hear in the productivity world.)

But what should my word be?

Now!  (I’d stop putting things off.)

Trickster!  (A concept I love from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic that basically boils down to having fun with the world and not being a martyr about your art.)

Lift!  (I want to make a habit of strength training.)

But honestly, even this sort of thing has lost its luster for me.

When I was procrastinating finishing off the homework I’d given myself for 2022, I saw a video on YouTube that simply had a man typing the following:

Plans:  All plans subject to change at any time without notice.

We have no idea what 2023 has in store for us.

Didn’t the pandemic teach us this?  Or the war in Ukraine?

And really, that’s just a media talking point.  Most of us have learned we have no idea of the future in much more personal ways.  A scary diagnosis.  An unexpected job loss.  A death.  But good things too—an unexpected person comes into your life and makes it better.  A flashy idea in the shower (like writing a movie blog, for example) that you act on.

We can’t control—or even predict—the big things by micromanaging the little ones.

In the end, I didn’t even choose the one word theme.

I don’t need to make up for lost time, or bend the world to my will, or even accomplish anything.

What needs to get done will get done.

I’m going to do what I always do, what we all do—bumble around from day to day reacting to changing conditions.  I’m going to right my wrongs where I can, take care of myself, prioritize the ones I love, and keep writing.

What else is there?