I strongly prefer “guiding principles”, as oppose to resolutions, goals, or whatever else. I’m not oppose to all the aforementioned, but have found their utility in my life diminishing over time. I think that’s a good sign, frankly. There are only so many quantum leaps left. Massive actions just don’t seem to work a lot of the time, and often people take quantum leaps in a direction they have not even started travelling yet. in 2018 for me, it’s going to be a yes or a no (on or off) in certain categories, many more of them being no this year, OR it will be a guiding principle. So, here are my guiding principles that I want to start bleeding into my life over the coming year:
1. Be 10% Better
There are many categories in my life in which I want massive improvement. Not to say that they’re piss poor, but I want to be phenomenal at them some day. I also fully realize that simultaneously improving at everything is a particularly lackluster goal, as there will invariably be tradeoffs if you attempt to double down in the form of categorical massive action. I have had years where some goals had zero progress made on them, purely because the resources required (mostly time and intention) were stolen by other goals. Hence, I have multiple habit areas in my life in which I will attempt to be 10% better, loosely defined, over the coming year. The odds of success is in each of them much higher this way. If there were only one goal for this year, it would be to arrive at the end of 2018, judging myself 10% better in a few key habits (both observable and internal).
2. The Routine is the Result, Repeatedly
In my previous years, my routines and habits were assessed purely on one parameter: would it get me closer to my goals?
Now, as I move toward a life of categorically less, intentionally leaving productivity as an afterthought, the routine will be the goal. How well can I stick to the routine? How committed am I to doing those things repeatedly that I know I should do?
It’s not to say that I have no deadlines or goals; everyone does. I have simply found myself lacking in previous years in my approach to these goals, often living reactively, rather than repeatedly. In the pursuit to be 10% better at a lot of things, I have plenty of time to get there. So why not settle in, enjoy the process, and build a routine that is rewarding in itself?
Note, for the excuse ridden, such as myself, routine typically accomplishes more than massive action ever does. One of the reasons being that it invites the acts of starting and continuing, because we understand that the ability to finish the task is built in to our routine.
3. Never Empty, Never Full
I have stroooong built in tendencies. I think most people would call the conglomerate of characteristics which I tend to embody “Type A”. Here’s the tendencies that I have spent years perpetuating, for no other reason than their indulgences in pride:
- Always more
- Always better
- As hard as possible
- As heavy as possible
- Ride till you die
- Efficient use of time
- Efficient use of energy
- Leave it all on the floor
- Try your hardest
- A bunch of other steaming philosophical piles of poo I somehow managed to embody.
What’s really messed up, is that we used to have this “saying” in our household (Amanda and I, that is; my parents are not quite the type). We felt that this “saying” was a guiding principle in our life at one point. And from the outside, you’d believe it. I was that guy who was a Dean’s list student, president of this and that club, volunteered for 2 jobs at my church, showed up early, left late, stacked the chairs, and drove people home, just to go straight to another job and do the same. My wife was the same. During university, I had 4 jobs and she had 3. During chiro school we doubled down by adding clubs, admin job, volunteer jobs, missions trips, job shadowing, seminars, and every single thing we could.
And the saying goes like this:
“All the things”
How messed up is that? Whenever we would be assessing if we even had the capacity to add something more to our plate, all it would take was a stern spousal look in the eye during a brief moment of silence, accompanied by the phrase “All the things” followed by a smile, and it was game over. Once that phrase was in the mix, it was our marital version of “we are capable of doing everything and anything, all of the time, for always, starting now, so why not add this one too?” It was essentially our version of a dare you were indeed allowed to back out of, but we never would. All the things? FML. No wonder my heart almost exploded after doing that for 15 years.
Anywaaaaaaaay. Here’s the principle: I will seldom, if ever, let myself become empty. No more running on fumes in any way. That dial is never hitting E. The flip side of the same coin is this: I am never letting my schedule be full, no matter what. There will be room for badassity. There will be wiggle room. There is indeed a time to overextend…and that time is not now. Never letting the resources run empty, never letting the schedule run full. Never empty, never full. This is my new “All the things”.
4. Go First
I learned this from Gabby Reece. Sometimes you hear someone else talk about a principle and think to yourself, “Yup, I should have been doing that all along”. That was me with Go First.
Essentially, all I am going to do is attempt to be the first to speak, first to make eye contact, first to say hello, first to say what I think, first to say what we’re all thinking, and first to label and stop negativity. For one thing, I think this prevents negative nancies from setting the tone of a conversation or environment. Second, it is very good at reducing other peoples’ anxiety around me…
Since highschool, people have told me that I make them uncomfortable, mostly due to my silence. Strangely, I don’t mind this. (Also strangely, some people are more comfortable around me than most other people.) I have been working year over year to make that less so, but my learned preferences and intentional sense of ideals often alienate people. I understand that. Hence, I plan to go first and let other people react to my interjection in our environment, rather than allowing them to react with an uneasy feeling around me, which usually results in stuttering, awkwardness, and — most annoyingly– verbal diarrhea.
5. Rephrase to the Internal
I have many reasons for this one, but I’ll just explain what it is, and I am sure you’ll see how it could be beneficial on the self development front, mostly due to the pure introspective honesty of it all.
I will attempt to reduce, by at least 10% (wink wink), my commentary on how my outside world affects me on a moment to moment basis. Instead, I will attempt to mentally and verbally rephrase to internal realities about myself. I will be taking ultimate responsibility, even in situations whereby the external environment is neither malicious nor benevolent. For example
“This weight is too heavy for 5 reps” –> “I can’t do 5 reps with ths weight”
“This weight is too light” –> “I can do more than this”
“The roads look pretty rough out there” –> “I hope I can handle the roads as they are today”
“This steak is overdone” –> “I prefer my steak a bit more rare than this”
“Wow, it’s nice out today” –> “Man, I really love this kind of weather”
“This app has helped me meditate more regularly” –> “I find I can meditate more easily when I use this app”
“The fridge is empty; we need groceries” –> “I have yet again neglected to get groceries on schedule”
“This food is delicious” –> “Gosh I’m a good cook today”
“That was such a good book” –> “I really enjoyed that book”
It may seem a bit backwards in certain ways to intentionally rephrase many things through a seemingly selfish lense. But I assure you, it is not. The attempt here is to take ultimate responsibility for my emotional landscape and even stronger responsibility for the realities of the world around me. In order to do so, I need to train my psyche to do it in all situations, even scenarios whereby my input into the environment is completely and utterly unimpactful. I am not expecting to change the weather. I am expecting to control how my world interacts with the weather.
I originally had 12 of these principles, but decided that most of the remaining few would fit under the above categories quite nicely; they were just specific applications. What are your 2018 principles? Where are things going for you?
My 2018 in a nutshell: Make lemonade and use lemons to my advantage. Heal. Get back on the platform…eventually. Walk on the wild side now and then. Simplify & expand.