Groundhog Day Resolutions 2009: Kickoff!

This is the third year I’m doing my New Year’s Resolutions on Groundhog Day, a switcheroo that gives me a whole month to get the year rolling while celebrating one of my favorite holidays. With each year I’ve changed the ritual, but the fundmentals have remained the same:

  • Make resolutions on 2/2
  • Check progress on 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, and so on until 12/12
  • Enjoy the holiday craziness until next Groundhog Day

Last year I threw in an extra break around 6/6 because the weather was too nice to think about stuffy old resolutions, and I made 7/7 a day of rededication to figure out if my goals had changed. 7/7 also happens to be Tanabata, the Japanese Star Festival, which is a good day to make wishes that will affect the rest of the year. However, I didn’t make much progress. This year I hope will be different because I have a much stronger sense of my destination than before.

Last Year’s Debacle

Last year’s run of Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDRs), however, didn’t go as planned. I encountered month after month of failed progress. This got to be pretty damn depressing, but I had an epiphany on 11/11 regarding a master resolution that is at the root of it all. 2008, in hindsight, was a year of coming to terms with what it is that I want to do, and how I want to do it. Without that context, my resolutions rang hollow and were not compelling.

This year, I can say that there’s one thing that I do automatically, and that’s seek the essence of my experiences so I can distill and communicate what I’ve learned to people who are on similar journeys. That is my master function. It’s only after years of paying attention to what I was doing when I was slacking off that this became clear.

This Year’s Debacle-in-the-Making

The master function begets a master goal, which is to embrace my newfound nature and realign my activities to make it a reality. That means getting away from previous labels like “designer” and “writer”, which were comforting in 2008 but not action-oriented. That means looking for role models and situations where I can credibly apply the master function (and therefore, not starve) in a down economy. I am lucky to have a role model in the form of the late Douglas Adams, who I knew of previously as the famed author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As a child I imprinted on the BBC radio dramatization rather strongly, and one of my earliest personal vows was that I would work very hard to make random yet compellingly-authentic associations between very different things, which I perceived as being at the root of the humor. But it was only when I listened to the audio book of the post-humously published Salmon of Doubt that I gained a full appreciation for what Adams had achieved: a self-funding vehicle to have new experiences and write about them in the context of having an enjoyable time with his friends, which were comprised of scientists, writers, researchers, technologists, and other genuinely interesting people doing odd things.

It’s a rather daunting and perhaps even sacrilegious to want to walk in the man’s giant literary steps, but is it any different to be a child dreaming of being an astronaut like Neil Armstrong? An F1 driver like Michael Schumacher? Magic Johnson? Gary Gygax? Stan Lee? Steven Spielberg? Nicholai Tesla? Buckminster Fuller? Kim Possible? Well, the difference is that I am an adult and should know better…the estimated success-to-effort ratio is so low, probabalistically speaking, that to have these kind of dreams at my advancing age is officially a waste of time. At my age I should be thinking of guaranteed payoffs and compounding interest on treasury bills, planning for a respectable retirement…

But it would be terrible to not actually try to walk the path and see where it goes. And so, I dedicate 2009 to finding out just how deep the rabbit hole can go.

Things to Come

I’m going to save the actual Groundhog Day Resolutions for a later post because I’m trying to keep the writing shorter, but here is an outline:

  • The details of my resolutions are related to growing into a larger kind of life. I will have to pick the salient details that contribute to success in this kind of life so I can create a Concrete Goals Tracker template that can track incremental progress. This should be an improvement over last year’s process.

  • In my recent musings I’ve been pondering “fears” that have held me back; these might more accurately be called trepidations and negative associations that cause me to not even consider certain endeavors. I’ve also been cataloging energizing activities that I move toward naturally, with the attendent catalysts that inspire and demotivators that drain my momentum on any given day. Identifying the individual sources of energy and friction will be important so I can be mindful of both pitfalls and opportunities to make the process go smoothly.

  • Likewise, I will need to ensure that I am in the right environment that is conducive to making the kinds of changes I want, and that I also have the right tools to harness energies and defuse depression bombs.

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p>There’s an underlying pattern here that is common to any navigational challenge in unfamiliar waters:

  • Having a clear idea of where you want to go, and a means to recognize when you’ve gotten there.
  • Being able to continuously read the environment so you can anticipate what might be coming, and being mentally prepared to handle it.
  • Acquiring the experience and knowledge that helps speed the process along.
  • Knowing when you’ve got to change your plans for something better.

I don’t have the complete picture yet, but part of the excitement/trepidation is not knowing what that will be until I get there. Nevertheless, I’ll see what I can do in the coming days.