Fuck New Year’s Resolutions.
This past December, were you still implementing some resolution you’d made twelve months before? Possibly! (If so … go YOU.) But more likely, not.
By now, you probably know that changes in our life become most natural and consistent when they become routine and habitual. They say three weeks makes a habit; I love that and believe it’s usually true.
As we begin this year, I encourage you to FOCUS ON FIVE. Complete the sentence “2018 is about …” five times. This forces you to prioritize a group of things, and leave other distractions to the side. Then, as you identify what you’re focusing on, specify the standard of your focus with a yes/no, black/white bright line. You either did it, or you didn’t. Something like “work out more” isn’t enough; you have to establish what your standard is, as low or as high as seems reasonable to you. It is better to keep your standards low and nail them most of the time, than to create a high standard you can nail one week and fail come mid-January.
And never forget:
Consider a variety of goals in three categories:
- Professional … all things related to your chosen craft.
- Interpersonal … your relationships with friends, family, teachers and peers.
- Self … work on your physical and mental health.
For me, my Focus on Five this year is:
- 2018 is about Writing. (At least 25 hours a week.) (Professional.)
- 2018 is about Working on friendships. (Making a point to see my closest group of friends more, and nurturing new relationships.) (Interpersonal.)
- 2018 is about my Health. (Disciplining myself with a new drinking plan … two nights of no drinking, three nights of two drinks, and two nights of four drinks.) (Self.)
- 2018 is about my Daily Rituals. (I have a separate post on this, but this year I’m trying to really nail this five days a week.) (Self.)
- 2018 is about Balance. (Making sure everything and everyone in my life is getting equal time.) (Interpersonal.)
The idea is that these focuses will create new patterns in your life, preparing 2019 to be about something else — without losing any of the patterns and work you’ll do in 2018. For example, in 2017, I upped my gym-time and I’ve maintained that successfully. Now, taking two days in a row off from the gym feels really lazy to me, and my body craves it! Also, a few years back Matt and I decided to cut out soda and only drink seltzer water when we craved a carbonated beverage. That led to buying a soda stream and now, even at the movies, four out of five times we opt for the clear stuff than the brown stuff.
And if we slip up, that’s okay. We wake up tomorrow, and we try again. Clarifying for ourselves what is enough for us and what is not enough for us is both subjective to every person and essential to reach a feeling of joy. For one person, getting to one audition a week is a major accomplishment, and for another, going less than four times feels really disappointing.
It’s important — especially for artists — to establish standards which are ENTIRELY in our control. This is key. Something like, “Be on Broadway” is not really in your control; it’s in the casting director’s (and even then, not really even theirs). It’s an impossible goal to truly work towards, with so many factors out of your own field of vision. However, “Go on three auditions a week, and at least four Broadway auditions a month” is totally in your control. Notice, I didn’t say “Get seen at …” The goal is only “to go.” And when you realize next month might be slower with first class production calls, you might double up this month to ensure you maintain your own personal standard.
Lastly, by focusing on these, it determines other things to be a distraction. When I’m struck with the thought, “Oh… I should travel more.” That’s not what this year is about (maybe 2019??). If I think, “Should I take this master class gig?” and it would take away from my writing time, that’s not what this year is about. If I’m offered the opportunity for a last-minute lunch with a friend who’s found themselves nearby my apartment, well … as much as I hate spontaneity, this year IS about seeing friends. “Okay sure, I can hang!”
We only have so much time on this earth. It may feel like 2018 is another year, but the truth is, this year could be our last year (cue a Trump tweet). It could also be the beginning of the next stage of your life when huge personal changes, for better or worse, could creep up at any time. Don’t let these things catch us shirking our most fundamental duty: making the most of living.
One of my favorite areas of philosophical adage involves the idea of life or happiness as a “practice.” Truly, everything we do is a practice, whether we are succeeding at the height of our careers, or feeling dark and like we’ve failed. By focusing on just five things this year, we have plenty to practice, but not so much we have set ourselves up for failure.
So forget about that weight you want to LOSE … and focus on the habits you want to GAIN. Just five will do.