It might seem like I’m a bit too late in publishing a post about resolutions but I think this is absolutely the right now. This is because the real effect/outcome of a resolution can only be evaluated after enough time has elapsed since its proclamation. Half a year is good enough time I think.
Since lack of anticipation bombed my camping trip(long story), I decided to spend this fine day in a coffee shop and pen down my thoughts on the past six months.
This year, like others, started on a joyous note and, like other years before this, I took out my notepad and wrote down the resolutions. I’d managed to keep the cynic in me in quiet regarding the outcome of this exercise. We’ve all done this, we all do this and we all know where it goes. Even then I was determined to give it one more shot. At the end of ten minutes, the my resolutions where in front of me. Thinking what should be different this year and what life-and-world-altering changes I’m going to make seemed like the hard part. But I did come up with a list and it was pretty straightforward. I’ll get to it later in the post. The remainder of Day 1 of the new year went by recovering from hangover. Due to travel commitments, I couldn’t get to that list for next four days. Then I did. Then my heart sank. I had not started on even a single thing on the list. This was going south faster that I’d imagined. I usually manage to keep up the good work for a month before finding reasonable excuses to not do something. But this was just four days. The next weekend got me thinking and I was back in my apartment with a notepad and pen. This time, I didn’t want to write or redo my resolutions, I just wanted to think about what taking a resolution actually meant. The dictionary says: “resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something”. Simple enough statement, we can all admit. The interesting part of that simple definition is that it doesn’t really talk about how to “implement” that decision. For example, one can decide to run more but “how” does that running schedule actually fit in the daily routine? Its easy to jot down a resolution to hike every month but quite impossible to do if the body is not in shape. What I’m getting to is that we decide what to do as a part of our resolutions but don’t put in enough thought to figure out how that decision will actually be implemented. I was now close to coming up with a theory on why my resolutions never lasted for long. Even when they did, I was more busy juggling through different activities than actually enjoying any of them. In fact, enjoying was the last thought on my mind. The predominant emotion was one of getting-it-done-and-over-with. This time I wanted to actually enjoy what I was doing and not suffer mental and/or physical agony of doing something just for the sake of keeping up with a list. The moment of realization was the very next one - I shouldn’t treat the resolutions as absolute. What that means is if I’m not able to keep up with a particular task for a week, I shouldn’t beat myself up. Instead, I should evaluate what went wrong and fix it the next week. The reasons for it going wrong can be many. Maybe I set too strict a schedule, maybe I didn’t manage the timings well or anything else. As long as I’m coming back to the drawing board and fixing the root cause of deviation, I should be good. There was no harm in trying this out. At most, I would fail at something I’m failing at since as long as I can remember. Even then, this failure would be different. The final conclusion was that I’d make a list of things I want to do and then set an initial expectation. Say 80% completion target. If that works, I’d crank it up a notch or stay put depending on how other targets are working out. Almost six months are over since that day and I have enough data to comment on what worked, and what didn’t. With that, I’ll move on to evaluate and rank (out of 5) where I stand viz-a-viz my decisions.
Exercise (4⁄5): This has to be the most common new years resolution for our species. And for the first time ever, I feel I’m doing great in this area. It started from couple of yoga sessions a week and then I added some weight training in between. I love doing yoga as its a great way to just block all thoughts and come to stage of emptiness of mind. It helps me mentally unwind and I didn’t want to stop this just because I wanted to do more cardio or weights. So now I work out in one form or the other 5 days a week and have never felt happier and comfortable doing so. Sometimes I miss a few days but as long as I can keep up a relatively high percentage, I don’t panic or worse, give up. This is really important as it makes sure I don’t stress out if for a week or two I’ve missed the mark.
Eating Healthy (4⁄5): I have to admit now that this was way more difficult to achieve than the first one. Eating healthy is not what you do, its who you are. This is a lifestyle and personality change. The temptation to break away from this are infinite and as humans, there are few reasons to not binge eat once a week, or five times a week for that matter. Its because of friends sometimes, family or office colleagues other times. Sometimes its a weekend, or holiday or just feeling of getting bored. Its so easy to give in and get that beer, burger, friend chicken bucket or a brownie. The first month felt like cold turkey. I tried salads or less carb stuff and sometimes had to flush it down my throat with water. I realized soon that its not going to work this way. I love food too much to starve myself. Decided to use technology to solve this issue. “You cannot improve what you cannot measure” is a famous quote by Lord Kelvin. Got myself a Fitbit and downloaded the app called MyFitnessPal. Calorie management was a breeze after this. As of now, I’ve tracked my diet continuously for past 97 days in a row. Since I know my exact calorie intake and burn, its now just a matter of keeping the equation balanced.
Travel (3⁄5): I traveled a lot last year. It was less than what I’d aimed for but still it was ok. I don’t count my trips home as ‘travel’ unless I do something new there, even if means going half way across the globe and spending two weeks there. So I had to change my definition of travel to remove the ‘distance’ criteria from it and add ‘places’ in its stead. I’m ranking this slightly low because I’ve not been to as many places as I anticipated and also because there are no big plans in horizon. Even if I manage to hit all the hiking goals I have for this summer, I’ll be quite satisfied. Will work on improving this through the rest of the year.
Read (2⁄5): This one is ranked two although its still an improvement over last year. I’ve managed to complete a few books this year and granted they were no small work of literature, I still wanted to hit a higher number. This requires effort to do some reading every day instead of devouring the whole thing in a 14 hour flight. Since I’ve not managed to do this consistently, I’ll give this a low rank.
Side Projects (2⁄5): I used to have some side projects in pipeline. This is a good way to learn something new and spend a weekend on during inclement weather. I do keep a list of stuff I want to work on but who doesn’t. The trick to actually do them instead of sitting on the list. I slipped up on this one because of genuine lack of bandwidth. Anyway, I like doing this so the aim to get started with at least one project and devote some time to it consistently.
Write (2⁄5): More than workout or dietary habits, I wanted to keep up with writing this year. As is probably evident, I haven’t done much of it. Be it technical posts, that are relatively easy to churn out, travelogues or monologues like this, I haven’t been able to get many published. The last time I sat down to write something, I managed to spend three days fixing the blogging platform I was using, just because it was fun and didn’t take me out of my comfort zone. Of all things mentioned above, I think writing to publish is the most difficult for me to get to. I suppose that’s the main reason I shy away from it too much. Anyway, the excuses won’t stop me from rating this a measly two. Just a sign that I should improve.
I think the most important takeaway for me in past six months was that I was almost never frustrated if I didn’t make progress on any one of these list items. If I was falling behind reading, I would do as much reading as possible while traveling instead of watching movies. If I was eating too much one week, I would regulate the diet the subsequent week. If I felt like I’m not traveling to much, I’d randomly pick a few coffee shops and spend the day visiting them and catching up on reading or writing. The only common thing was that I was enjoying myself all the time. I suppose that was the key. To have fun and not stress out. I’d say, the process is working out till now and as long as I’m making incremental progress, I should be in a pretty good shape by end of this year.