We’re two weeks into 2018.
How many new year resolutions have been broken and revitalised already? How many are still going strong?
That doesn’t matter too much. We all hear the same advice – make it a habit. Shoot for sustainable change rather than drastic alterations to our lifestyle. If you slip up once, get back on track as quickly as possible.
I agree with all of this advice because it’s helpful. However, it doesn’t address the main problem I find with New Year Resolutions.
They’re often boring and create too much pressure for perfection.
Who cares about being healthy when Pringles are £1? or exercise when it’s raining and windy?
2018 isn’t special. Neither will 2019 be. There is nothing grand about the change of year. We all know this, yet depend on it anyway even if we decide not to formally create any resolutions.
Why is this a misleading mindset?
Let’s take a quick look at the term “resolution”:
The firm decision to do or not to do something
“I’m going to exercise more”
“I’m going to eat less junk”
“I’m going to call my parents once a week”
Whatever the form, the underlying philosophy is that “this is the time I finally make a change!” When we make resolutions, we often treat them as though we should make a specific change and if we fail, we are failures. That isn’t true – it’s a misleading train of thought.
Experiments and Projects
I returned to an idea I probably heard from the likes of Tim Ferriss and that is the two week experiment and six month project.
Experiments are an opportunity to try something new or do something slightly differently. They view failure as a possibility rather than something which must be avoided at all costs.
With New Year Resolutions, we always have the possiblity that we’ll fail but it’s as though we choose to ignore it because we believe we can will ourselves to success (it’s not that easy).
Two weeks is a short enough timeframe for our efforts not to feel unproductive and damaging. If we choose to jump ship early, we haven’t sunk too much time into it. If we enjoy it, we can simply carry on and maybe we’ll stick with it long enough.
It’s also a short enough timeframe for it to stay exciting, I’ve found. It’s like we get to become a slightly different person for a short time! Given how easy it is to get stuck in mundane routines, small changes can be wonderful.
The six month project allows for an overarching theme to come from the experiments.
A six month project: Learn data visualisation.
Two-week experiment no.1: Only utilise data on a sport you know nothing about when creating visualisations.
Two-week experiment no.2: Produce a new visualisation every two days.
Two-week experiement no.3: Work on a detailed visualisation that utilises a new skill and produce a story at the end of the two weeks.
You get the idea?
A current example of mine is the following.
Six month project: Lose weight.
Two-week experiment no.1: Have a vegan meal a day
It’s been going very well actually. They’re fun and a helpful break from the bad and good habits that I’ve maintained for a while.
Try the following:
- Write down a goal you’ve wanted to achieve.
- Think: six months has passed – what do I want it to look like? That is your new project.
- Experiment: what’s an interesting way to make progress on your project? What haven’t you tried before? What has been unsuccessful in the past and how might you make a change to it?
Now, be reasonable. I don’t recommend you try fasting for two weeks or skydiving without a parachute to aid weightloss.
What might you experiment with next?