Better Life

Do Better

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It’s not a resolution, it’s your future.

Like many people, I make the same resolution every New Year’s Day. Unlike many people, I manage to keep my resolution; rather than letting it wither away like the uneaten kale found decaying in refrigerators abound come mid-February.

What is this Möbius strip of a pledge? This Schrödinger’s cat of a paradox, simultaneously accomplished and not accomplished? This puzzling resolution I renew year after year, not because of repeated failure, but because of repeated success?

It boils down to two simple words: Do Better.

Every January I make this same vow to myself for the year to come, and in my annual accounting of personal performance metrics over the year past, I’ve seen the positive impact.

While results may vary from minor improvements, walking around the office a few times a day to break from perpetual desk-sitting—to major accomplishments, purging the basement of 17 years of junk; I never feel as though I’ve failed to meet my goals. Because I’ve done better . . . at something.

So as each new January rolls around, I consider the areas of my life that could stand a bit of polish and resolve to betterment over the next dozen months.

Are you looking to lose weight in 2016? Pledging to visit the gym five days a week and drop 20 pounds by bikini season is great. But if your routine ends up being more like two gym visits a week, and June find you tipping the scale a mere 10 pounds lighter, your mission is a failure. Sure, it’s hard. But it’s the consequence of concrete goal-setting. Say you instead pledged to do better in the diet and exercise department. You increased your physical activity and ate a little smarter. Now that 10-pound drop is a badge of success, and a source of inspiration for an even greater improvement next time around.

Do you find yourself adrift in a nebula of clutter, and are vowing to get organized during the coming year? Fantastic! What if you manage to clear off the kitchen table, maybe organize your receipts, but find yourself missing social engagements because you still haven’t figure out how to work invitations and jotted-down appointments into a reliable scheduling system? You’d probably consider the mission a bust, you may even give up on the organization all together. But if you’d simply promised yourself improvement, that clean table and well-maintained file of receipts becomes a sign of progress. The prospect of applying the same discipline to your calendar woes becomes tangible, and when that calendar winds down to its final page, you’ll be able to look back and bask in your triumphs.

Though, the sense of accomplishment isn’t the only dividend to be collected at year’s end.

Sure, it felt great to rid my dank cavern of accumulated detritus from days gone by during the course of that tidying-up-my-basement errand. But the process also unearthed a perfectly good 1960s kitchen table, a shelving unit, a serviceable 23-inch tube television, and neon beer sign. Put them all together, toss in an old desk chair and—voila my resolution brought me a whole new creative workspace, which also felt pretty damn great. Bonus: that new space is helping do better during “me time” by improving my productivity.

Now let me be perfectly clear. I do not begrudge, those who set ambitious, concrete goals and then go on to smash them. I admire you all. But I’ve found those folks to be among a special, elusive breed. For the rest of us, a slow-and-steady approach to goals gives us the chance to savor our small successes, and consider those things we’ve yet to achieve not as out-of-reach failures, but as milestones to conquer as we continue on a better path.