Let me get it right out there.
I don’t believe in ‘resolutions’. New year? Old year? Battlefield? Deathbed? Congressional? Doesn’t matter. Resolutions are for suckers.
Why the attitude? Simple really. I believe that personal change is not only possible, but is perhaps one of the most powerful, meaningful pursuits a human being can embark upon. But real personal change is about action, not laundry lists, good intentions, or talk.
Want to change your life? Great. Shut up. Stop writing. Avoid the urge to tape motivational quotes to your PC or desk. Don’t tell your friends about your grand plans. Don’t google ‘self help’. Don’t join a support group. For God’s sake, don’t buy anything glossy at the newsstand that purports to help you figure out how to change. And never, ever, ever ask strangers on internet messageboards for advice. Unless it’s a really special, mystical place 🙂
My alternative plan?
Think. Think long and hard. Get the hell away from places where you currently expend energy (meaningfully or otherwise). Isolate yourself. Take a trip to somewhere, maybe no place particularly important where upon arrival you have nothing particularly important you have to do. On the way there, think. Think about the brief little flicker, the eye blink in human time that you’ll occupy this world. Think about how you’d most like to spend that time, and whether or not it matters to you what occurs during that shutter click of life’s camera. Ask yourself, are you about ‘the moments’ of that journey, or is it a ‘legacy’ you wish to leave behind which might require sacrificing the ‘now’ of countless daily moments? Maybe there is a right or wrong answer to that internal debate. I don’t personally believe so. It’s simply about your vision of what matters to you. What kind of trophies do you want on your life’s shelves at career’s end?
What does a meaningful life look like to you? Are you living it? If not, what’s gotten in the way? Have you committed crimes of prioritization, actively mucked it all up, or simply allowed entropy and passivity to slowly, quietly steal control of your daily life’s decisions and direction away from you?
I had to go to West Virginia a bit ago. I could’ve flown, should’ve flown, 99 times out of a hundred, I would’ve flown. But I decided instead to drive. Somewhere in the dark-as-hell of a bitterly cold 6 hour drive through the mountains, I caught a glimpse of truth. I lost sight of the road in patches of fog that I suddenly found myself driving mindlessly through at high speed. It occurred to me that night that this is what I had been doing with my life for about a decade. I didn’t know where the road of my life was leading, hell, sometimes couldn’t even see it through the fog, and hadn’t given it much thought in a long time. I hadn’t stopped to enjoy the journey or even observed life’s beauty as it rushed past me, and really had no idea if the place I was headed to meant anything to me. That night, I just stopped driving for a few minutes. I thought and then I decided.
I decided to change my life. I reject cynicism as its proponents will tell you in a hundred different ways that ‘people really don’t change’. Bull****. Average people don’t change. Frankly, it just requires too much work. You might have to swim against life’s currents, or harder yet, carve out a brand new fork to reroute the stream that’s been stupidly sweeping you along for weeks, months, or years. I refuse to be average, and I refuse to be an empty vessel mindlessly carried by a current not of my choosing.
I’m not Gandhi. I’m not the Dalai Lama. Hell, I’m not even Dr. Phil or Oprah. I don’t have anything dramatic or mind-alteringly insightful to say. I won’t be copyrighting my mental slogan or slapping it on t-shirts or coffee mugs. But I have learned some important things. I don’t claim to know a thing that would be useful to you. Don’t listen to a word I’m saying – it could well be crap when it comes to your life. I could get you killed, or at minimum, get your knees skinned up pretty badly on the bicycle ride of life. But I am excited. I’ve changed my life before. It felt good. Really good. I just started changing mine again. I’m 46, have been mired in an extra-sized pool of sludgy life crap for awhile now, and woke up one morning a month ago and said ‘it’s time to be me again’. Being me isn’t perfect. It probably wouldn’t even get you into a decent Law School. But it beats the hell out of the imitation of me I’ve been performing for about a decade now.
In the Marine Corps, you can solve any dilemma, attack any hill, defeat any enemy, emerge victorious in any struggle with one simple tool – the 5 paragraph order. SMEAC.
S – Situation
M – Mission
E – Execution
A – Administrative and Logistics
C – Command and Control
Ask any Vietnam Vet – the most crucial thing in any endeavor is picking the right mission. During the past month, I figured out I’d spent a decade immersed in hectic, chaotic, driven daily life. I’d acquiesced and relinquished my right (duty?) to determine my life’s mission. Oddly enough, when I did set about mentally writing the 5 paragraph order to reclaim and accomplish my life’s mission, it turns out it’s the same one I’ve had for most of my life. Because I dig you in a big way, I’ll share:
- Enjoy life.
- Grow stuff. Green feels good and producing it has to provide some good karma. The world can always use a little more green.
- Actively and aggressively love the lovable around me.
- Forgive the unlovable but don’t waste a second more than you have to on them.
- Be kind, always, and most of all to those that may not deserve it.
- Connect with friends and family and stay connected. It matters.
- Be physically strong and make getting there a part of my daily life so that I can be strong in other ways when I need to be. My body will never be a Temple – fahgetaboutit – you can’t have fun in one of those. But at least treat it like the lobby of a really nice hotel.
- Work hard, because that’s who I am and who my father and mother raised me to be.
- Remember that, for me anyway, work is not and never can be life.
- Worship the great one, the immortal Alfred E. who implored of the heavens, ‘What, me worry?’ and try to live those words. Life is far too brief for worry.
- Maybe most importantly, go outside weekly, look up at and hear the echoing refrain of boundless stars shouting down to us across eons that ‘very little in your tiny speck of a life matters, so we suggest you focus on that which does!’ Listen to them.
Those aren’t ‘resolutions’. I’ve always believed in them. I meant to always live them, I just got waylaid there for awhile. Now, the mission is reestablished. Maybe in a year or two, I’ll give you an after action report.
Wish me luck.