2017 was a pretty big year for me: A wedding, a degree, a new country, a new job, then a new continent… Looking back on all the changes, I was moderately successful with my major 2017 New Year’s resolutions (such as “working out which country to move to”), but wholeheartedly unsuccessful with pretty much all the minor ones. Overall, my strike rate was less than half.
I take my annual resolutions seriously. 2010 was hit-or-miss, but the “hundred push-ups” challenge was a highlight.I improved substantially to knock off a handy seven out of nine resolutions in 2011, though I failed dismally at both musical items. 2012 was a good year, though I failed at kicking my nail-biting habit (and it’s been re-added to the list every year since). I signed myself up to give an amateur variety show performance early on in 2014 as part of a self-commitment device to learn magic tricks, which was surprisingly fun. 2015 finally saw me complete my 2012 (and 2013, and 2014…) resolution of a successful yoga course, largely thanks to a reader’s handy tip about switching to Ashtanga. And I finally published my book. I forgot to blog about my 2016 record, which probably means I did pretty badly. And last year, as I mentioned, was a mid-range effort at best. I did manage to tick off “Visit two new countries” for the seventh year in a row, but that one’s off the menu from now on, unfortunately.
But I’m back, and ready to hit 2018 with renewed vigour. Living in Australia is quite conducive to getting off on the right foot, because (a) it’s holidays, so people have more time to get started, and (b) it’s not freezing cold, which means I’m not tempted to just stay inside and hibernate until Easter.
I don’t think it’s too crazy to take resolutions seriously. Did you know that almost half of all Americans make them? And that 46% of people who make common New Year’s resolutions (e.g. weight loss, exercise programs, quitting smoking) were likely to succeed, over ten times as much as those who decided to make life changes at other times of the year? Me either – I just ripped it from Wikipedia. Maybe you should read it more often. Mark that down as your number “one”.
Sometimes, people ask me (usually rhetorically…) how I manage to keep at the resolutions throughout the year. The key is to make sure they’re specific, realistic and measurable. Not “I want get fit”, but “I will take eight weeks of gym classes in a row.” Not “I want to improve my chess”, but “I will dedicate at least 15 minutes a day to serious chess study.” Not “I will learn how to cook”, but “I will invite my friends to a Thai dinner party two months in advance, before I take a cooking course.” That’s another point: You’ve got to trap yourself into commitment. Like signing up for a variety show without having an act.
Or publishing them on a blog.
This year, I’ve got a few more resolutions on the list than normal, thanks to the Bullwinkle New Year’s Eve gathering. We played a quirky little party game in which we each had to write anonymous resolutions for the other guests – so I’ve got a couple of extras that I normally wouldn’t have added. The more the merrier.
Here’s the list, in no particular order:
- Publish a paper in an A* economics journal
- Travel to at least one new country or Tasmania*
- Learn to play a full guitar song that includes a small solo
- Join a sports team that plays weekly, for at least twelve weeks
- Learn the King’s Indian and play it at least three times in rated games
- Be able to give an impromptu 5-minute speech on a common theme in German
- Buy property
- Learn to love a plant
- Perform at least 10 volunteer-based days
- Take a 10+ hour programming course
- Write at least two policy articles for non-academic audiences
- Learn to sing any well-known Broadway musical song in pitch.
Some will be, obviously, easier than others. You’ll notice only one chess resolution. I used to have various ratings goals – “Get to 2550 was the unattainable ambitious one and “Stay above 2500” was my regular bread-and-butter – but I’ve given this away now. Ratings are nice measures and rating goals can be useful, if used in the right way. But for me, they turned out to be (a) motivation to play and learn too conservatively, and (b) depressing. As I wrote in my last post, I want to start enjoying chess again. It’s been literally in my life for decades, and yet I’ve never allowed myself to dabble in a sneaky after-work glass of King’s Indian.
Not all of them will make perfect sense. But seeing as I’m writing them only for my own ledger and commitment, too bad. Just remember to ask me about them periodically.