January 1, 2011 – The Obligatory “Kick Off the Year Right” Post
Today is a funny kind of day, if you ask me… which I am going to assume that you did by virtue of reading this post. Yeah, I am taking more than a little bit of license with that assumption, but seriously… I am whoop-ass incarnate and can pull that kind of thing off. Or at least that’s what I tell myself from time to time.
Anyhoo, the last few days are the time of year when people all around the world taking time to look back on the previous year and look ahead with a bit of hope towards the new year, most often in the form of making resolutions, goals and promises about all of the glorious things they want to do differently. The very notion of only reflecting and goal-setting once a year is anathema to a lot of people, but I don’t tend to get quite so fired up about the process.
First, I think it’s good almost any time we stop to think things over, so if there is a time of year where people decide to stop (even for a moment), I can get behind that. Second, I think all of us are very influenced by the calendar anyway, whether in our work lives (where goals, deadlines and all sort of shenanigans are completely calendar-driven) or in our personal lives as well (bills come monthly, taxes are done once a year, etc.). A continuation of that calendar-affected behavior seems fairly normal to me. That being said… if you just pick a single day to think things over and never consider it again during the year or don’t tweak your goals to accommodate changes in life, well then that’s just plain silly.
Plus, I actually like doing some resolutions. For reasons I have never been able to fully fathom, I tend to do well sticking to them, even when I don’t keep them in my face all year long. Weird, I know.
This year I am approaching it a little differently by thinking about overarching themes for the year and then building more specific goals and actions to go along with those themes. My big themes are as follows:
- Happiness (yes, I know… can I be any more broad???)
- Inner calm
- Belief in the power of action
Happiness is really a big piece of what drives the other 3 themes, but my focus there is about doing what I can to find my own sense of happiness (i.e. from within as opposed to externally-driven) and doing my best to spread happiness to those closest to me. This notion of my liberally sowing happiness akin to a self-help Johnny Appleseed is really about something I’ve noticed about myself that, truthfully, I really don’t like. What is that? Mostly the notion that I will tend to have less patience and be less polite (at times, mind you) to my own family than I would be to someone who is either a stranger or fairly removed from me. That’s gotta stop… now. And yes, this photo on the right is a perfect example of pure happiness… well, that and complete idiocy on my part.
In terms of actions I plan on taking this year to get at some of these items above? I am still working out a more concrete list, but a few of them are:
- Reading more, watching TV less
- Fighting and fighting hard against anything that even has a whiff of procrastination about it
- Keeping up with my blogging/writing. As a more concrete goal, I want to get an article published over at EliteFTS (if I can figure out something to write they would actually want to print).
- For my training/lifting – not placing any kind of self-limitations on what is truly possible.
There are more specifics here, but I am going to avoid going into inordinate amounts of detail to bore you to utter tears… umm, that’s if I haven’t done so already. I am one wordy sonofagun. Stunner, I know.
If you are performing your own goal-setting right now, I’ve been fortunate enough to either run across some nice links or even have a semi-original thought of my own to assist you through the process:
- If you are looking to get in better shape or lose weight, DO NOT just join a gym if you do not belong already. Seriously. I am fortunate enough to lift in my own home gym as well as at a private training gym, but I’ve spent an enormous amount of time in commercial gyms and joining in early January is a huge mistake. Why? First, you will be lucky enough to join hordes of others doing the same thing, so the gym will be crowded beyond belief. Super fun! Second, I can remember being in the gym during this sad time of year, looking around and thinking with a sigh, “Man… 90% of these people will not be here in a month.” And that’s just the truth.So what to do instead? Find a smaller private place with a qualified training (preferably one with a NSCA certification, especially the CSCS cert). Will it be more expensive to follow this route? Hell yes. Will you actually have a really good shot of meeting your goal? Umm, hell yes again… and isn’t that the point of having the goal in the first place? I might even make an entire post about this later in the week to really hammer this one home.
- If you are in charge of managing, leading or supervisor other people, read this great post by Bob Sutton, Stanford professor and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and The No Asshole Rule. It’s a short and excellent piece about what good bosses think. My favorite is #1 – “I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.” Pure truth.
- Look back before looking forward. Felicia Day (the pipe dream of comic book and gaming geeks across the globe) put up a great post about… GASP!… learning from what 2010 taught her versus focusing too much on what she plans on doing in 2011. And she learned a few nuggets that you can apply to just about anything in your own life. Nice huh? Plus it’s fun to read the comments from all the dudes have a full on nerdgasm from looking at her photo.
So to 2011, I give you my warmest welcome. My arms, heart and mind are all open… now it’s just up to me to make it special. God help me, I will.
What Price Greatness?
You have probably had a conversation with someone at one time or another where the other person talked about wanting to achieve some kind of greatness. I know I have. My first thought when someone says that to me is “Do you really understand what it costs to achieve real greatness?” I’m not honestly sure most people do or if they did, they would still feel the same way about making a run at the mythical brass ring.
There have been a few high profile cases recently of the potential costs of going for greatness. First, there was the leave of absence (which was later borderline retracted) by University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer. Meyer is a tremendously successful and incredibly driven coach who has brought success to Bowling Green and then Utah and then finally Florida where he won 2 National Championships. However, as Coach Meyer has himself admitted, all of that stress and constant pressure did take its toll on him to the point of suffering chest pains and passing out. So, he first announced taking an indefinite leave of absence… but now it sounds like he will be back in time for next season. Hmm.
The more recent news (and really huge news here in Connecticut) is University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun taking a leave of absence for undisclosed health reasons. This has not been the first time something health-related has affected Calhoun, a three time cancer survivor. I’m a UConn basketball fan and season ticket holder, so I have come to expect at least one time per season, a game where Coach Calhoun bows out part way through the game with some vaguely understood form of illness. In fact, ESPN has a listing of all the health-related issues that have come up for him over the last 2 years and it’s not short. Not good times, eh?
Or how about Michael Jordan? He’s the best basketball player I have seen in my lifetime and is generally accepted as the best, period. But you know what else? He has quite the reputation for being a complete jerk because of his hyper-competitiveness. How competitive? I remember a former college teammate of Jordan’s, Matt Doherty, telling of a story where Michael came over to his house during college. Doherty caught Jordan cheating in a game of Monopoly against Doherty’s mother. Let that sort of marinade for a while in the ol’ gray matter. I can wait… good and soaked in now? OK, on we go.
So back to my original premise – at what price greatness? When does it become too much of a single-minded piece of your life that can wreck anything else that gets in its way? This reminds me a bit of my piece on how everyone wants happiness, but does 1,001 things that move them further away from it, like a high-powered businessman who earns great money for his family’s future… but he’s never home.
I’m not one to discount greatness at all and feel that those who shoot for that pinnacle of pure excellence in their chosen fields are really a beacon of inspiration for others. Heck, in my own way I want to achieve a form of greatness, but in a much different regard: I want to a great life which is balanced in terms of personal and professional, as well as in mind, body and spirit. That balance is what I want greatness in and, at least in my mind, that is something much healthier to strive for.
So feel free to shoot for greatness with every fiber of your being… just be sure you know what exactly you are getting in that pursuit. It can be pricey.
The most interesting New Year’s resolution of all
The L.A. Times (those nutty left-wing liberal media, Birkenstock wearing, hemp loving, peace and granola eating kooks that they are) had a crazy notion yesterday in the Booster Shots section of their Web site: using 2010 to focus on being… get ready for it… happy. Yup, good ol’ happiness.
During my drive into work this morning, I was thinking this one over. My morning drive used to be music or sports talk radio to speed myself along during the drive. However, over the last month or two of work, I have instituted the “quiet drive” where I don’t put on any music and just use those 20 minutes or so to think.
My thought from this morning was pretty simple: I truly believe that the overarching goal of almost any human being is to seek out happiness. That’s it. Numero uno. The trick is what approach we each take to get there because obviously, not everyone is happy in this world.
So if you work from my assumption that everyone has happiness as their #1 goal in life (whether consciously or unconsciously), why are so many people missing that target? Are you just out of your mind Kuzia?
The answer to the second question is a clear and emphatic, yes I am. For the first question, I think it’s because the paths we each choose to attain happiness either cause us an undue amount of distraction from our final goal or they put off present-state happiness for the magical goal of happiness on the horizon.
Think of a high-powered business executive or doctor or lawyer. Why do they spend 60, 70 and 80 hours a week in their jobs with all of the stress and pressure? It could be because they love what they do, but that’s not going to be everyone (and I would assert not even the majority). So if it’s not for love of the job, it’s for what the job would enable them to do. The money that allows them to put their kids through private schools or college or save for retirement. Each of those goals would be some form of happiness. “If my child goes to a great college, then that’s going to make me happy.” OK, they might not think of it in such direct terms, but you get the idea. It’s always a question of sacrifice for some longer term goal on the idea that the present anguish will yield results that will make those sacrifices worth it.
But does that really happen? Is it really worth it if you are plugging away for years in something you don’t enjoy? If you are doing all of this to provide for something for your family (big house, nice vacation, expensive college, etc.) but you are miserable to be around all the time, is that really helping your family out?
Or on the distraction notion. This is one I know I fall into all the time. You want to achieve X goal and think you are doing the right things to get there… except you are busy all the time and get pulled into focusing on a lot of separate things in life which may or may not be important. Then you lift your head up 6 months later, see you are no closer to your happiness goal, make a few snazzy lists and then put your head down again and go through the same cycle.
All of this would seem to suggest that happiness as a goal is a goofy pursuit… that it’s either far too nebulous or achieving it is more a matter of luck. Poppycock. It’s neither of those things.
Happiness is a worthwhile goal, but you need to do more to be happy in the present moment (God forbid) while you are pursuing your goals for long-term happiness. Believe me – I am not at all the kind of guy who does not see the value in near-term sacrifice for long-term gain. That’s a big part of my life… but does that really and truly mean you have to be in a murky gray sky limbo until you reach that horizon place? And even worse, think about how any horizon is… it’s never a reachable spot. Run at it as hard as you want… it always stays the same distance away.
OK, not a perfect analogy if you have a goal as a fixed thing, but you see my point. It’s really easy to keep putting off any kind of present joy for a never-ending series of horizon happiness points. And I should know… I do it too.