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Some people think New Year’s resolutions are dumb, for several reasons. For instance, if it’s so important to make some kind of life change, why haven’t you done it already? Why wait to quit smoking in January instead of doing it, say, in October? And everyone knows that most resolutions are abandoned by February anyhow. Any regular health club member is familiar with the pattern: the place will be packed for the first couple weeks of the year…but stick it out, because all those people will stop coming in just a few weeks.
I hear you. If you don’t intend to hold to your resolutions — if you’ve been telling yourself to get in shape for 17 Januarys in a row and you’re still spending every evening on the couch eating ice cream — then it’s probably time to acknowledge that resolutions are not working for you.
But people are different. Me? I’m a goal-setter. I like to decide to do something and then, you know, do it. Crazy how that works.
I decided I wanted to be a published writer in 1994, and sold my first magazine article in 1995. I decided I wanted to write a novel in 1997 and had finished it by 1999. Actually getting a book published had been a life goal since my first college journalism classes in 1994, and somehow my determination and dogged pursuit of that milestone finally paid off in 2003 with Things You Should Know by Now.
Resolutions are, for me, just a formal kind of goal-setting. I like to sit down at the start of the year and decide what new things I’m going to try over the next 12 months. What can I do better? What can I aim for? I’ve found it’s best to set specific and attainable goals, too. “Get fit” is a dumb resolution because how will you know when you’ve met it? A better idea is a goal like “be able to run two miles without stopping/vomiting/dying.” Specificity is good.
(Vomiting is not good.)
I absolutely DON’T want to be the kind of guy who has been living the same life year-in and year-out, with nothing new — no changes, no personal growth, no new experiences. That’s boring and unhealthy and uninteresting.
So I make resolutions every year. I set goals. And then I pursue them. Here are my goals/resolutions for 2010:
1. Finish two books before September. I’m under contract to complete two new books by January of 2011. I hate to procrastinate, so my goal is to finish them by September. I’m not going to say much about them here because 1) they are different than anything else I’ve done, and for an entirely different audience. And: 2) they may end up being written under a pseudonym. Intrigued? Good.
2. Develop and fully outline a good plot for a novel. More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that I need to be writing fiction. Coming up with fictional concepts — big ideas — aren’t my weakness; plotting is. I won’t write a novel until the plot is solid, so that’s the first step. I intend to take that step this year.
3. Participate in three sprint triathlons, and improve on my times. Last year I competed in three races. The first was new, and the second and third were repeats. In both of those I improved by a pretty substantial margin. I’m thinking this year I can still improve, but probably not by quite as much. By the way, these will all be local: the Chick-Fil-A Sprint Tri in June, the Amarillo Town Club Tri in July, and the Tri to Make a Difference in September.
4. Participate in three new running events. I’m going to train for and run at least three longer-distance events this year: the Oklahoma City Memorial Half-Marathon (April 26), the Palo Duro Hot Dog 15k (July 10), and the 20k portion of the Palo Duro Canyon Trail Run (October 16).
5. Improve my posture. I’ve noticed lately that I’m a total sloucher — both at work in my office chair and while standing. No one’s yelling at me to “Stand up straight!” anymore, but I saw myself in the mirror the other day in my usual, most comfortable stance, and my back was all bent and my gut sticking out. I looked like an old man. A dorky old man. And if there’s anything that’s important to me, it’s not looking dorky or old. (My male-patterned baldness just laughed at me.) A further benefit of good posture is a healthier, stronger, and more injury-resistant lower back. So even though this isn’t a measurable goal — I’m thinking slouch 3 degrees less is kind of a stupid thing to put on paper — I’m going to focus on sitting and standing straight this year. If you see me, and I’m getting slouchy, you have my permission to correct me.
6. Read 12 books. A repeat from last year, but still a good goal, even though part of me sees that number and sniffs derisively at such a puny total. A measly dozen books?!? Back before I started writing so much I’d read at least a book a week — a pace I sustained for several years. Those were the days, kids.
7. Run a 6:15 mile. Another 2009 repeat. But I’ve just convinced myself to list this one every year until I do it.
8. Be intentional about speaking engagements. Also a repeat, but one I’m much more committed to. Here’s the thing: I love to speak to groups, and I’m fairly good at it. (At least, my mom thinks so!) But the Pocket Guide books don’t lend themselves real well to speaking engagements. No one’s planning a conference and thinking “We really need to bring in someone to speak, sarcastically, about the afterlife.” As fun as the books are to write and (hopefully) read, the Pocket Guides aren’t conference material. But my new book, O Me of Little Faith, is about doubt — something tons of young adults deal with (if silently) — and is the kind of speaking topic that might have better resonance with college students and churches, etc. Which is why I’m taking steps to secure an agent and start booking some dates. Which reminds me…if you have any connections to a university or a college ministry or a church group, and need someone to address the topic of doubt — how to deal with it, how to embrace it, and what it can mean for your faith — then shoot me an email.
Those are my resolutions for 2010. What are yours?