Two months ago, I was riding the subway at 6:30 in the morning. Bones tired and eyes struggling to stay open, I got off at my stop and stumbled into bed while the rest of New York started their day. I was supposed to be home 8 hours prior to this, but mandatory over time had become a predictable part of my life. I woke up with bedhead and red eyes, walked into a room of people perfectly adjusted to midday, and proclaimed that I was going to blow up my life.
The New Year’s Resolution seems like a no brainer, but its origins have been traced back to early Babylonians who would make promises to their gods that they would repay all debts before the next year. A blank slate, it’s comforting or terrifying depending on who you ask, but with the calendar turning over, a cyclical feeling brings me comfort that this is the right time to make a big change.
I’ve left money, security, and health insurance on the table in exchange for…well, the unknown. That’s a bit of hyperbole. I’ve given those things up for the opportunity to improve my health, make better use of my time, and complete some promising projects. Some of you reading this might believe that this is a terrible reason to blow up my life, but to each their own.
My suggestion to other twenty-somethings with no other lives to support but your own is to continue to search until you find something that makes you happy. Otherwise, what’s the point?
This isn’t the first time that I’ve put dynamite on my daily routine. Some of my major changes were made by me, and some by other people, but I’ve certainly become an expert on packing up my things and starting over.
So, 300 words into this Tuesday Thought (I’m getting better at getting to the point), I’m going to invite you, the reader, to evaluate if you should be blowing up your life and how to rebuild it successfully.
SHOULD I HIT THE RESTART BUTTON?
ME: Do you have a family?
YOU: Yeah! My Mom and Dad and brothers and sisters and our dog and-
ME: Do you support them financially?
ME: Great, then you are in the clear!
Part of making this decision is technical. It’s not irresponsible to start from square one if you’re the only one to take care of. You can do that. You should know how to take care of yourself, or maybe that’s what this restart is all about. BUT, if you have a child, one on the way, your pay helps out your family, you have a dog to feed, whatever, then that should be stopping you right here. That has to be concern number one. Can your family survive your restart financially? If there is any hesitation in your response, then you have your answer, and it’s a resounding “no.”
For those who are not bound to anyone or anything, we will move on.
ME: Are you happy?
YOU: I suppose so…
ME: Are you doing your best?
YOU: Yeah, I’m pretty good at my job-
ME: No, are you doing your best?
YOU: I don’t know what you’re asking me.
ME: Are you truly talented in some way?
ME: Do you believe that?
YOU: Yes, I do.
ME: Then are you doing everything you can to make good on your talent?
There is the hard question that should hit every millennial right in the heart. We suffer from being raised in an era of excess and becoming adults in a recession. Our parents let us know we could succeed because they could see so many factors that would be in our favor. Those resources dried up. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a success story, but it means you have to be comfortable with, and realize, that if you do not put forth effort, then you will not succeed.
Let that really sink in. This should be the mantra for any resolution of any kind. It’s nice to say that I will get six pack abs this year, but you can’t go straight to visualizing the “oos” and “ahs.” You need to work on something to actualize it, and you have to work harder and better than you are working now.
This is an article about restarting, but that is a bit misleading. To restart suggests going back to the beginning and giving it another go. It seems obvious, but it needs to be said that this is impossible without a time traveling DeLorean. Let me help you deal with that…
ME: Imagine that you are in first grade again.
YOU: Ok, but I don’t see what that has to do with-
ME: But you have all the knowledge that you have right now.
ME: What would you do differently?
YOU: Well, I’d be like a wonder kid! I would be more mature and smart than the other kids, so I would be confident! And I could combine the sports IQ I understand now with the energy I had as a kid… and I can become a great athlete! I wouldn’t waste time watching Rugrats and instead I would have the freedom to really improve myself!
ME: Great. Then why aren’t you doing that now?
ME: Why aren’t you becoming that person now?
YOU: Well, I’m not actually a first grader with the intellectual maturity of a 26 year old.
ME: True. You are a 26 year old with the intellectual maturity of a 26 year old. You have all those great things you wish you had earlier. You have the ability to change your lifestyle, to make more time for perfecting your health to go along with your *sighs* “Sports IQ.”
YOU: Yeah, but even if I worked out all the time now, there’s not time for me to become NFL MVP.
ME: Nope. But you can improve your happiness greatly. Maybe that should be your goal instead of being NFL MVP.
WHAT GOALS SHOULD I AIM FOR WITH MY RESTART?
The short answer – a healthy mix of tangibles and intangibles.
The hardest part of completing any new change is “doing the damn thing.” Why make that harder on yourself? It’s easy to say out loud all the things that you want to change and get overwhelmed and respond by hiding under a blanket and never coming out.
Instead, you have to treat this change with seriousness for it to be effective. Make a list. Hold yourself accountable. Write down notes. Hold yourself accountable. Put reminders in places that they can’t be ignored. Hold yourself accountable.
YOU: You said hold yourself accountable a lot…
YOU: How do you do that?
ME: …by holding yourself accountable.
YOU: Yeah, but, how?
ME: Having self respect.
YOU: How do you breed that if you aren’t good at it?
Man, I sound brutal in that dialogue. There is some truth to that though. While I don’t suggest any self harm or damaging behavior, you have to find some form of “punishment,” for missing your deadlines if you aren’t good at holding yourself accountable.
Some less harsh ways of doing this?
– Tell lots of people about your plans to better yourself. That way, if you get lazy and they ask you about it, you will be faced with admitting that you failed, which should in turn motivate you to do better.
– Write a To-Do List. I cannot stress enough how important these are. My earlier mention of being weighed down by having so many things you want to do is taken to task by making a list. It gives you a visual representation of what you want to accomplish. It’s manageable if only because you can hold that list in your hands. When you cross something off your list, cross it off vigorously as a reward to yourself. If there is something you miss on this week’s To-Do list, then it should go to the top of next week’s. Don’t allow yourself to do anything on the new list until you’ve gotten past your leftovers from your old list.
– Have a friend act in the role of trainer for you. Tell them to help hold you accountable. Maybe it’s your roommate. Maybe you tell them that if you don’t meet one of your goals, that you will do the dishes for the month. Trust me, they will be on board for this.
When I first started doing these weekly To-Do lists, it was because, somewhat embarrassingly, I couldn’t function as a human being as a result of being broken up with. It sounds silly, and it sorta was, but I made sure to litter my lists with stuff that should be easy like “Brush your teeth three times a day,” or “Wash your sheets.” These are some of those tangibles that should make their way onto your lists. It’s a good reminder to get some basic stuff done, and it also puts some easy things that allow you to build up momentum to get the harder stuff done.
Again, put some unobtainable things on there at the top of the list. Things like “obtain enlightenment.” You will never get there, but what will happen is you will start to see how the things smaller on the list are working together to chip away at those big goals, and it will bring you peace.
HOW TO GO ABOUT SUCCEEDING AT MY GOAL
I’ve already gone over a few of these, but I will list them again here:
– Hold yourself accountable
– Make a list with tangibles and intangibles
– Take it seriously
– Tell everyone about your transformation
ME: How is your resolution going?
YOU: Not so well…
ME: What’s wrong?
YOU: It’s really hard.
ME: It should be! Anything worth doing is hard.
YOU: I don’t know if I can do this.
ME: If you believe in yourself, you can do anything.
YOU: That sounds like a fluff statement. What’s next, are you going to give me a trophy for participation?
ME: That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying you have to believe in yourself to do great things.
YOU: But people without a lot of confidence are just the type of people taking your advice! How can you expect them to believe in themselves!?
ME: First, you’re getting a bit too meta. I don’t think you’re supposed to be aware that you are a character in a self-help piece. Second, You already said that you believe in yourself. That was criteria in blowing up your life to begin with!
YOU: It was?
ME: Yes! It’s not fluff. Hell, I don’t even believe in you-
YOU: Thank you?
ME: But it doesn’t matter what I believe. Let it motivate you. There are probably people who have been disappointed in you that made you want to change. Prove them wrong, not right, and not out of revenge. They want to see you succeed. Show them you can. At the beginning of this thing I asked you if you were doing everything you can to make good on your talent, and how did you respond?
YOU: By blowing up my life.
ME: Yes, so you believed that you could do better. Keep believing that, and back up your belief with your actions.
The biggest reasons for failed New Year’s Resolutions are setting unrealistic goals, not keeping track of progress, and forgetting what your goals are.
If you follow the plan I laid out in this piece, then that knocks out those three big hazards. The only thing left in the way is doing the damn thing.
So when you are arriving at that New Year’s party late, frustrated that your terrible job you don’t care about kept you late, and anxious because you hate being the only person who doesn’t kiss anyone at midnight, think about maybe blowing up your life. Start right there, at that party.
(11:59pm At a New Years Party)
ME: (drunkenly) What are the words to Auld Lang Syne again? Where is a UVA grad when I need them-
YOU: Andrew? ANDREW!
YOU: I have been getting better at my goals!
ME: That’s great! Do you have anything left on your list this week?
YOU: Yeah, not be the only person alone at midnight on New Years.
ME: …are you asking if I want to kiss you at midnight?
YOU: NO, not you!
ME: Oh, right, right. Of course- No. That would be ridiculous… Who then?
YOU: That really attractive person alone over there.
YOU: You don’t think they are attractive?
ME: No, I do…
YOU: What is it?
ME: Remember when I talked about making realistic goals?
YOU: I believe I can do it.
ME: Yeah but-
YOU: You think I should find someone more attainable and realistic.
YOU: So you are asking me to kiss you at midnight?
ME: (terrified silence)
YOU: (returned terrified silence)
Happy New Year everyone, and good luck on your resolutions!