New Year’s is a time for cached thoughts. When people ask about resolutions, my first thoughts are “Should I be not eating something? Or doing cardio?” We tend to run down the list of cliche resolutions and decide which we should take on. The standard resolutions may not be particularly well-tailored to you, but it’s about as hard to ignore the defaults as to not think of an elephant.
So, I have a wacky workaround. Instead of thinking of disciplines to take on (we tend to grade New Year’s Resolutions as virtuous in proportion to how unpleasant they are), I imagine filling out a DnD character sheet for myself next year. After a whole year of taking on quests and gaining XP (experience points), I am presumably more awesome/adept/virtuous. So, I just need to think about what I’m most interested in levelling up. Here are some questions that I find helpful to meditate on, and which are off-the-wall enough that I don’t fall into cached thoughts ruts:
- What existing skills will I level up in?
- What cross-class new skills do I want to study?
- What new feats will I be able to do?
- What new objects will I have acquired and put in my bag of holding?
- What songs do I expect to have sung of my adventures?
- What big boss villains will I now have the fortitude to take on?
- At the end of the year, what will I have added to my character’s backstory?
I’m still working out answers to some of these (ASL and martial arts are definitely under the leveling up skills category, whereas spiritual development and any prospects for romance both fall under backstory, with an option on epic songs). Mostly, I find it helpful to reframe and think about what I actually want to achieve before I start assigning myself tasks. And thinking about which goals change my character sheet/my operating instructions, helps me refocus on things that feel a little more foundational than daily push-ups.
Once I set goals, then I can start thinking about what tasks I need to set myself to achieve them. And here are some tools I find helpful for that kind of thing:
- Freemind – Freemind is free software for making diagrams. It makes it a lot easier for me to go from a big goal to subgoals and finally down to tasks I can schedule. Having to write things out makes it easier to see how big a project actually is, so you allot time accordingly. (This is how I realized I needed to change Halloween costumes this year).
- Remember the Milk – Once you’re up to breaking down a project into specific tasks, I find RTM really helpful for assigning tasks to specific days. That way, I can be organized (or at least a little more organized) about how much I’m taking on. Plus, I can set tripwires to go off way in the future, so I got pinged last week to schedule a Twelfth Night party, because I set the reminder in October when I thought of it. Otherwise I end up trying to remember too many goals/tasks day to day.
- Beeminder – For some, more quantifiable goals, Beeminder is really useful. Beeminder makes it easy to graph progress (how many pushups have you done?) or set caps on activities (how late am I going to bed?). Your mileage may vary, but graphs make progress feel so concrete and delightful that I get motivated to do extra push-ups, so I can up the slope.
I am terrible at accepting thanks from people.
My default response when casually thanked for something (holding an elevator, picking up a dropped book) is “No worries!” Which I might not have worried about, except, when a friend thanked me for coming to his concert and I quickly moved to deflect, “Don’t be silly, it’s a pleasure for me to hear you sing” etc, he said, “I know you don’t let people thank you, but thank you anyway.”
And, observing my reactions, my friend seems to be right. I usually deflect thanks or compliments (“You have a lovely voice” “Actually, I can’t hold close harmonies” etc). Part of the problem, is I feel like a cheat if someone is praising me for adequacy. I also hate being in debt to anyone, so I assume people feel uncomfortable when they thank me, and it’s simpler to remove the need for thanks.
But what I’m actually doing is stomping all over their moment of taking pleasure in something and expressing gratitude. The trouble is, this is a hard habit to beemind away, so, if you know me in real life, and you catch me out doing this (even at the “No worries!” level), can you please give me a sharp ding about the ear? This way I can be a little better on Humility and Graciousness attributes on my 2014 character sheet, even if I may have to add “slightly bruised” to the appearance write-up.