The New Year’s resolution is such an interesting, inspirational concept. The fact that we’ve institutionalized a specific time of year to be introspective and reflect on how we lived our last 12 months of life is a pretty incredible thing — definitely an institution to respect and make a priority as we ring in 2013. Identifying which things in our lives were good and which things could have been improved should be top-of-mind when the clock strikes its respective 12:00 AM across the globe on January 1st, 2013 and signifies the start of a brand new year. I’ve always felt that a “resolution” may not be the most effective use of the insights we glean from reflecting on our last year. I’ve always felt pressure to do more things, or different things, or change my life trajectory in a significant way with each list of resolutions I’ve written. In 2012, it was “learn a new language,” in 2011 was “read at least 30 books,” and 2010 was “get a job that doesn’t suck.” I’ve always felt compelled to make a firm decision to either do a new thing or break some terrible old habit. To wit:
To be fair, this word does not necessarily mean to make a decision about doing a new action, but I feel as a global society we pressure ourselves to acquire as many valuable skills (whether for work, life, or otherwise) as we possibly can. Alternative learning concepts are booming in the web-space and continue to gather supporting communities and huge traction all over the world (check out these examples: Skillshare, Udemy, CodeAcademy). Achievement and success are universally desirable; we all want to live up to our own expectations. We’ve got one life, right? Because of this, we’ve attached a connotation of “new and different’ to the word resolution. Unfortunately, 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Human brains have trouble processing just one major life change, and who really only has one New Year’s resolution? Because the area of our brain devoted to willpower is also responsible for several other key functions (like, you know, short-term memory and making sure you don’t say something dumb to your inlaws), asking it to be responsible for the 18 new things we want to learn on January 1st is a bit too much for our poor prefrontal cortex. I pose to you this question. Why must we “do or do not?” Why not try to improve upon the foundations of what we built last year? Why not “develop” instead of “resolve?” Or, resolve ourselves to develop? I propose a permanent, from-now-until-the-world-actually-ends, New Year’s resolution: continual self-development of skills. Improve your foundation and focus on things you are good at instead of trying to do new stuff every year. Bang away for 10,000 hours learning how to code if you love computer science. Spend time developing your personal brand online by actually writing and posting to your blog. Research, practice, fail fast, and try again. Become a subject matter expert on something you are passionate about and want to be good at — focus your limited available time and energy on becoming amazing at 3 things you love instead of competent at 10 things that seem like “good ideas at the time.” Does this mean you should never learn anything new or pick up a new skill? Absolutely not! But there are reasons that passions last a life time. Devote time to focus on those, instead of learning to pole vault (even though admittedly pole vaulting is pretty cool) this year. Become inspired by the idiosyncrasies of your favorite sport or understand the subtle differences between micro-genres in your favorite area of study. I guarantee there will be more return on your investment and you will live a fuller, more passion-driven life. Tell us what you are planning to improve for yourself in the comments and thank you so much for joining us on this journey into 2013!