I personally have never made a New Year’s resolution, though I have toyed with the idea an occasion or two. Over time, I slowly came to the understanding of why that was the case.
I have achieved many accomplishments. I’ve been fortunate enough to run a marathon, skydive, climb mountains, travel the world, earn five degrees, pursue numerous other endeavors, live half of my life in Hawaii, and more recently write an epic fantasy novel.
Despite my seemingly intriguing resume, my life is far from perfect and how things look on paper seldom tells the whole story. While I have followed through on many of my dreams and goals, I suffer from the original sin of being human. Namely, I often defer to self-gratification, laziness, and procrastination as opposed to pursuing nobler pursuits and making more efficacious use of my time. Despite that shared liability, I was afforded the opportunity of having access to a strong support system with people who believed in me. That has given me a slight edge by instilling in me optimism and determination; traits that are often in short supply.
Growing up, I was raised in a broken home. I went from living in a rundown trailer park in Kentucky to an urban ghetto in North Carolina. I’ve been threatened at gunpoint, beaten up, and spent many days avoiding the frequent gunfire that littered my neighborhood. Each day, I would not only have to worry about whether I was in the line of fire of competing drug dealers but also when I was going to eat my next meal, as pictures of my younger malnourished self can attest to.
Living in an environment populated with pervasive crime, drug use, and with people who have given up on all hope was challenging to say the least. The general area where I grew up was not kind to many passers by, as demonstrated by the murder of Michael Jordan’s father. When even the local Domino’s Pizza wouldn’t deliver to your neighborhood because of their drivers continuously getting robbed, you knew you were living in a bad neighborhood.
Fortunately, I did have people that I could turn to for advice. I did have examples of success and role models that I could strive to emulate. I had dreams and goals that many did not. When I was having a difficult time, my escape was reading The Chronicles of Narnia, watching episodes of the original Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, and every single episode of Star Trek The Next Generation.
Yes, I was that skinny; nerdy kid that many people chided and laughed at. I did my best to take it in stride. Instead of turning to crack cocaine that was being sold in the stairwell where I walked through every day on my way to school or to the 40’s and Boone’s Farm that were consumed in massive quantities on my street corner, I opted to look inward and imagine the possible as well as the seemingly impossible .
When attempting to tackle fears and challenges or pursue dreams and goals, many people often have the wrong approach.
In the end, it’s not about whether you win or lose. It’s not even about how you play the game. What it’s really about is whether or not you choose to play the game at all. Making a New Year’s resolution implicitly tells your subconscious mind that you have failed at it before and will likely fail again. Going through the motions of making the resolution provides a sense of accomplishment that will soon be replaced with a sense of failure once you realize the reason you put off doing it in the first place was because it seemed too daunting and had an unrealistic likelihood of being achieved. This only serves to reinforce the already existing subconscious belief held before once it fails.
Instead of making a resolution, a better approach is to make a list of goals and dreams, or a single goal or dream, accompanied with small steps that can be taken to eventually realize those outcomes. I recommend making that list today, or any day except New Years. More importantly, one must insure that a short-term failure or departure from those steps does not mean the goal is not achievable. Sometimes timelines are missed, sometimes steps are skipped, but the critical thing to remember is that one must get in the regular habit of making small actions towards a specific goal. In addition, one must persuade oneself that the goal is achievable in spite of the opinions of others or even one’s own previously held belief. While it’s certainly true that not every goal or dream will be achieved, it’s also true that none of them will be achieved if every February you wait until next January to make your next resolution that your subconscious mind believes is already destined to fail.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd