Let's tell the truth about New Year's resolutions -- practically no one makes them anymore, if they ever did.
In theory, it sounds great. A new year, a new beginning. We resolve to do things better, differently, faster, or whatever. It lasts for…well…a week or three. And then it’s back to business as usual.
I had an aerobics teacher in the 90s and we used to call January 20th "Reality Day," because by then, all the New Year's resolutions people who started showing up at the gym January 2nd were long gone.
Why don't we make resolutions anymore? Maybe because we're cynical about ourselves. Maybe we don't believe in the possibility of progress or improvement. Or maybe we're so consumed with social media and socializing this time of year that we never get around to sitting down and thinking through who we really want to be.
So I'd like to propose one New Year's resolution that you're welcome to borrow and make your own. It's this:
Most of us drift through life. We take the job of least resistance, and we don't look too hard for another job or career because, well, we have one.
A bell goes off in our heads sometime in our mid to late 20s or early 30s at the latest and we ask ourselves why we aren't married, so we get married.
One of my buddies once asked his ex-wife why she married one particular guy instead of the others that she had been dating. She explained, "I just got tired of telling my story."
We settle into patterns, maybe not terrible patterns, but probably not great ones, with our spouses or partners, our kids, our parents, our co-workers. In other words, when it comes to the highway of life, we basically coast.
But the problem with coasting is that you can only coast in one direction - downhill. Or to use the term I started with earlier, we drift.
So if 2019 becomes the year when drifting becomes a thing of the past, the question is simple - how do you stop drifting?
The real issue is how to recognize when you are in a state of drift.
If you're thinking the same thoughts that you thought last year and the year before and the year before that, you're drifting.
If you're having the same frustrating, unavailing conversations with loved ones, never resolving anything and just sort of agreeing to disagree, that's drift.
If you're eating the way you always ate and gradually gaining weight, that's drift.
If you're sick of your job, your boss, your coworkers, your paycheck, or anything else about your professional life, no matter how much you're getting paid or no matter how prestigious the job may be, you're just a high-level drifter.
So how do you stop?
All change in life takes six months and 20 minutes.
Six months of drift and inaction, followed by 20 minutes of thinking things through, and making a commitment of doing things differently.
Everybody knows how to lose weight. Eat less, eat better, move more. But how many of us commit to doing it?
Everybody knows that even in a tight job economy like this, there are great jobs to be had. Good people are hard to find. But how many of us commit to saying, “I'm going to do something different with my career, and I'm going to start now?”
In our relationships at home, at work, and everywhere else, it's easiest to do the polite thing and not say what needs to be said. But maybe you're just one uncomfortable conversation away from having a relationship that's 10 times better than the way it is now.
I'm not suggesting you have to change everything, or even that you have to change anything. Maybe your life is terrific just the way it is.
If so, you're either in a very small minority, or you're in really deep denial.
The easiest way to a better life is to commit to yourself that this year, you will not allow yourself to drift. Not personally, not professionally, not physically, not in any way.
Make that your watchword. Don't drift. Put it on a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, so it's the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. Make it your mantra. If you're so inclined, put it on a tattoo.
Better still, get it tattooed on your brain. If you make your life a no tolerance zone for drift, there's only one other alternative – your life gets better, one proactive choice at a time.
Drifting creates momentum, and taking your life seriously also creates momentum, but of an entirely different sort. If you've been coasting downhill for a while, it may take a little bit of practice before you get out of the habit of allowing things to drift further still. But the satisfaction that comes from improved relationships, improved career prospects, improved self-image, and improved well, everything, creates its own momentum.
You were not created to drift, and you have the resources to take the reins.
If that's your mental resolution for 2019, you're going to have one hell of a year.