There’s a (in)famous expression that states that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. That expression describes, in a nutshell, this time of year when many people take an almost masochistic pleasure in making grandiose and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. Ever notice that a lot of people treat the New Year almost like it’s foreign country? As if the New Year is a shiny, happy continent that they plan to wake up in on January 1, ten pounds lighter, with more discipline, better job-hunting skills, and endless patience with their partner? All the aspects of their life that currently make them want to vomit and cry and crawl back under the covers, ding, the crystal ball will drop in Times Square and suddenly they’ll be that idealized morning person who jumps out of bed at 5am, and runs ten miles in the frigid cold, laughing all the way, ho ho ho.
Hence, the insanity. I don’t mean to be the fly in the sex lube of your masturbatory fantasies, but if keeping these resolutions and changing your life was that easy breezy…well, wouldn’t you already have done it? Wouldn’t we all be living lives, glowing like Photoshop, instead of judging each other on social media, and making “jokes” about how empty we are inside?
So hey, this year, instead of setting yourself up to fail with a list of resolutions meant to impress other people, or resolutions that ignore your own emotional needs, why not take a step back and figure out how you can start today creating a tomorrow you genuinely enjoy? Here’s four steps to getting out of your way and achieving your 2014 resolutions:
Do NOT ask if you’re sure this [fill in the blank] can work.
Whatever it is you’re passionate about, just do it. I say this because the only sure things in this world are death and taxes. There’s no guarantee that anything in this crazy, fun, heartbreaking, cruel, hilarious, despicable, wonderful world will work the way you want it.
On the other hand, I can guarantee that if you talk yourself out of achieving your dreams, and living your passion, what will 100% happen is that you’ll be left with the husk of a life that makes you want to kill yourself. So, don’t waste time asking if what you want can work because the realistic answer will either be “No,” or “Hell, no!” But guess what: those people living lives that inspire you? They didn’t ask, they just did. They were knocked down a thousand times and they got up a thousand and one times. There’s only one question you should ask yourself: How hungry are you?
2. Believe that your goals are worth it.
You are going to have to believe in the depths of your soul that your goals are worth it because society will constantly make you feel insignificant and powerless. Because your friends will roll their eyes at you. Because your parents won’t understand. Because even you will think you’re crazy. And so you are. You’re changing your life and it’s a frightening yet wonderful process. But if you don’t believe in it, you won’t be able to summon the minute-by-minute energy and determination necessary. The people mocking you never believed their own goals were worth it. They made their choice, now you make yours.
Whatever your resolution is, whether it’s learning a new language, moving to Cameroon or falling in love, commit. Commit. To. The. Process. Nothing happens just once except in bad movies. In life, you will have to apply for many, many jobs to find the right match between your abilities and their needs. You’ll have to be open to dating many people as you mature, and develop, so you can meet the right guy/girl at the right time for both of you. You have to commit to the process which is a nice way of saying commit to yourself, you are worth it! You’ll have to network for years to be able to recognize the people and opportunities who can change your life. So commit to the process, and give it your all.
4. Understand that mistakes are normal.
When I was very small, about 6 and learning how to horseback ride, I was cantering for the first time, and my horse threw me. I was riding a full-grown and rather grumpy horse, not a pony, so when he threw me, it was no joke. My mother, watching her only offspring perhaps go to the white light, wasn’t super thrilled, but she kept her mouth shut when my trainer screamed at me to get back on the horse. This was 1979, a simpler time, and my trainer was old school in the way that the Nazis were “old school,” so I was far more terrified of my trainer than any horse. The horse, after all, could only crush me.
As I picked myself up and ran to the horse, and got back in the saddle, I had my trainer’s pep talk (“Get the fuck back on that goddamn horse Carlota, you little snot, and keep riding now—NOW—goddammit, or I’ll really give you something to cry about!”) ringing merrily in my ears. I’m grateful for that moment since it was a formative one, teaching me, in my gut, that mistakes are part of life, that failure is normal, and if you want to go all the way in this world, get used to making some big mistakes. Unfortunately, many people are absolutely paralyzed by the idea of making mistakes. These people have a continual soundtrack going in their brain telling them they’re stupid, fat, hideous, ugly, moronic, and that they’ll never amount to anything. So when they make even a minor mistake, the worst parts of their personality are almost vindicated. These people are doomed.
Whatever it is you want to do, no matter how big or small, if you don’t accept the fact that you’ll make countless mistakes and, crucially, start learning from them, forget it.
Read the biography of anyone you admire and see how many horrible mistakes they made, and then see how many times they shrugged it off and kept going. That’s why you know their name, and you’re reading their bio: they believed in themselves and their ideas. And these people didn’t make resolutions, they created lives they loved. I hope you do, too. If not, guess what: tomorrow’s another day. Resolve to forgive yourself and keep trying.