Resolutions for Real

Monday, December 23, 2013
By Philip Hellyer

a stickfigure dude walking through a local minimum

It’s that season again. This time last year, Philip Hellyer urged us to get a jump on our resolutions. This year, we’re proud to have him officially part of the Beeminder team.

New Years Resolutions are ridiculous. Your current delusionally euphoric self dictates something for your future self to do. And then your life habits take over and you carry on doing what you’ve always done. After 9 days, typically, of enthusiasm, the slog sets in, life interferes, and the new habit folds its cards and sacrifices your brighter future. Seth Godin calls this the dip.

10,000 hours

Malcolm Gladwell famously observed that it takes ten thousand hours of deliberate practice to become an accomplished expert. Deliberate practice can be hard. But you’ve got to start somewhere. And then you’ve got to keep up the momentum. So if you’ve got a rough idea of what you want to be great at, start beeminding it.

1,000 days

We built this business on rock and roll. And on eating our own dogfood. In the last 1000 days, we have made exactly 1000 user-visible improvements to Beeminder. What do you want to improve, one day at a time?

1,000 nights

If you haven’t seen this awesome stream-of-consciousness from Ray Bradbury, I’ll wait here. He’s largely talking to authors, but the creation of ideas and interconnections and metaphors is one that applies to all of us. Both of his chief recommendations are things that you could beemind:

  • every week, write a short story
  • every night, read an essay, a poem, and a short story

1000 nights later, you’ll have the tools to be a decent writer. And 1000 nights is something that you can beemind.

100 hours

Malcolm Gladwell aimed us at ten thousand hours of building expertise. Matt Webb pointed out that 100 hours of deliberate practice doing one thing is enough to become pretty good.

“100 hours later, you will be miles better at this than the average human being.”

Pick a field. Pick the thing that you’ve always dreamed of. Spend 100 hours becoming competent. 100 hours later, you will be miles better at this than the average human being. Maybe not the stuff of your dreams, but no longer in the realm of “if only”.

And that’s the choice we all face: whether to spend another year wishing that we were really good at XYZ, or a year making steady progress toward actually being good at XYZ. (You’ll have to fill in the XYZ yourself.)

Even if you can only carve out 15 minutes each day (on average!), then by this time next year you’ll have that skill, that knowledge, that ability. And that’s something you can beemind.

10 minutes

That’s way longer than it would take to sign up to Beeminder (if you haven’t already!) and to create your first goal.

Ten minutes is all it takes to look over your goals, to see whether the current slope suits your intentions, to think about the value of that goal to you. [2] This is also a good time to recommit to your existing goals, and to give them new end dates if you plan to continue them for the coming year.

Losing Weight & Getting In Shape

It’s worth spending a moment thinking about losing weight, since January is the peak month for gym memberships. This is a long-haul life change. Whether you’re a habitual gym-goer and want to up your game, or you just want to make sure you use the membership, Beeminder can help.

The new thing for me this year is this: I realised that weight is the outcome of eating and exercise. [3] So don’t just create yourself a weight loss goal with the swimsuit season in mind. Make it more likely to become true by adding a goal about eating better, and a goal about exercising more.

Of course, you can hook your Fitbit or RunKeeper up to a Beeminder goal, to make it easier to track. And weighing in daily is easier if all you have to do is stand on the scale.

Beeminding Beyond The Dip

“There are some things that are worth the slog, that if you persist with them, your life will be meaningfully better.”

According to Seth Godin, every new project starts out exciting and fun and then it gets harder and less fun until it hits a low point (the dip) where it’s not fun at all. But then it gets better again. There are some things that are worth the slog, that if you persist with them, then your life will be meaningfully better. Ask yourself, “is this something that will respond to guts, persistence, and investment?” Beemind those things. Do you believe that your future self will be insanely better off if you actually do the thing more regularly? [1] Then not beeminding it is like throwing your future self under a bus.

Pick something that looks as though it might be important. Create a goal. You can always change your mind with a week’s notice. And, by the way, if it’s not important enough to beemind, don’t stress about it.

Thanks for beeminding important things, and have a great year.


 

Image credit: Seth Godin

Footnotes

[1] Actually, there are several goal types. The most common is Do More, but there’s also Do Less. And a Lose Weight goal type that handles fluctuating scale readings. And a variant of Do More that uses an odometer style of counting.

[2] Some of our beemindees have goals that directly contribute to their livelihood, to running their companies, or to getting a bonus. That makes it relatively easy for them to compare value. For their other goals, they have to go by feel, like the rest of us. The real value is in how much you accomplish.

[3] I know it sounds obvious: eat less, exercise more. We all know it. Hardly anyone does it consistently and sustainably. That’s exactly what Beeminder is for. To help us do the things that we know we should do, that we want to do, that we can do, but that we just won’t get around to prioritising. It’s not rocket science. But it is magic.


 

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