Making New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

I’m sitting here working on New Year’s resolutions, as I often do when I have a low-key New Year’s Eve. Yes, I actually write them down. And I look at the ones from last year to see if things turned out anywhere near what I had planned.

They never do.

But there is one thing I’ve gotten really good at over the past couple of years: recognizing that modest accomplishment is still accomplishment.

Starting two years ago, I stopped writing down typical resolutions such as “lose weight” or “save more money”. Instead, I pick a half dozen or so areas of my life I want to work on and set myself a scale of Good, Better and Outstanding for each.

Good is something that has a solid chance of happening if I show up and put in basic effort. So: read one or two works of (non-professional) nonfiction, read one or two classics, drop and keep off 10 pounds, take a course in some programming language or tech I haven’t had time for yet, get involved in a social activity outside my routine.

Better is a step up: three or four books, 15 pounds, three tech courses, two or three social activities — things that will take effort but are realistic.

Then there’s Outstanding, when everything goes right. These take effort, too, but often a share of luck is involved as well. You can aim for those things you hope for, possibly unrealistically so. This is the stuff of those great New Year’s resolutions that all too often fail.

How has the sliding scale worked out for me? Pretty well.

I no longer feel bad that I didn’t get around to reading a half dozen nonfiction books in a year, recognizing that a couple of those I did read, at 800+ pages each, weren’t trifling efforts. Yes, I tanked completely on one resolution for this year, but I also exceeded my best expectations on another.

All in all, 2018 was not my best or happiest year, and I’m looking forward to saying good riddance. But I’ve reached the end of it recognizing the things that went right, and instead of feeling disappointed in myself I’m ready to jump into 2019. All my Goods, Betters and Outstandings are sketched out on notepaper in front of me.

Happy New Year!