New Year to Not Do List

Isn’t what we don’t do as important as what we do?

We’re used to making New Year resolutions—lists of things we wish to do.

But this year, which looks like an uncertain one for many of us, having a list of things to not do could be useful too.

So, what are some of the things I’d add to my not do list this year?

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Not try to convince anyone that they are wrong and I am right using rational arguments. It never works.

Not blame myself or others for things that go wrong when there is no ill will involved.

Not overthink my time away and make myself sad in the process.

Not want things that I love or care about to stay forever the same, or put another way, not to forget that everything changes, that chaos and decay are always at work on the backstage of our lives.

Not hold on to a fixed self or identity—allow life and experiences to influence me for the better.

Not buy things I don’t really need.

Not be indifferent to global warming and what is happening to the environment—don’t treat global working as if it’s other people’s problem and do nothing about it.

Not to live in my head all the time while my body goes through life like an automaton.

Not to keep myself to myself all the time even if my nature tends to be solitary and withdrawn.

Not read only books that I like and that support the ideas and beliefs I already have.

Not feel discontented about where I am and long to be in some other place.

Not go to bed too late if I can help it.

Not wake up too late if I can help it.

Not live only for myself and forget about others, about their problems and their struggles and their needs.

Not feel bad if it will not be possible to travel or to explore new places because of the coronavirus or of some other developments.

Not fail to appreciate the good things that I already have.

Not see without seeing, eat without tasting, drink without enjoying every mouthful of tea or water.

Not expect unreasonable things of myself or too much from others—not think that more is necessarily better.

Not forget that things have not come out of anywhere, that everything has a history, and respecting that history even if it conflicts with my current views of it.

Not get bogged down in the theory of things.

Not argue with my mother too much, not even when I feel in my heart that she is wrong; not be short-tempered with her.

Not keep my problems entirely to myself if a good pair of ears are willing to listen to them.

Not forget to breathe and to take joy in it.

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As you can see, there are lots of things I’d like to not do this year.

Will I manage to not do them all?

Most likely not.

I’ll probably fail at not doing some of them. But that’s okay.

Life is work in progress, always work in progress.

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What about you?

What’s something you wouldn’t want to do this year?

A New Year (Less Strange Perhaps)

new year fireworks painting

It was a strange year, wasn’t it?

Many things may have happened to you–a few too many.

Or maybe nothing happened to you–you’ve postponed your plans, canceled your trips, put your dreams on hold.

Maybe your life has really come to a halt this way.

Still, was it a bad year if you’re here reading this?

It’s a rainy Christmas day here–not a snowflake in sight.

But I can’t feel down about it.

This Christmas, in addition to the usual presents, Santa also brought people around the world some of the first COVID-19 vaccines.

Not just vaccines, but the hope of life resumed.

When people put their minds together, the results can be amazing.

We may be a destructive, selfish, complicated species–but we’re great at working together when we have to.

For me personally this year hasn’t been too bad.

I made friends in unexpected places and became in many ways a better version of myself than I have been before.

I’ve become more social too–without even leaving my house.

Who would have thought I needed a pandemic for that to happen?

I like to think I finally learned to stop blaming others or myself for things that go wrong.

Because sometimes things go wrong and it’s not anyone’s fault.

Chaos and disorder are built into the fabric of life, it permeates every design and structure, natural or man-made.

Accepting our ignorance and smallness, isn’t that the first step to growing stronger?

Many people will probably have a long list of New Year resolutions this year.

Many people will hope that with the vaccine out there, life will become maskless sometime next year.

Maybe that will happen. Or maybe it will take longer than that.

Maybe there will be other waves, other strains, other mishaps.

After all, the state of the environment is probably an ever bigger issue that this virus.

Like Shakespeare wrote a long, long time ago, “The worst is not so long as you can say ‘This is the worst.'”

Will you still be making a list of resolutions this year?

I will.

I may not wish to travel just yet, but there are so many other things we can do today without even leaving our homes.

That’s what’s great about out day and each.

We each live in a small kingdom of information and easy communication–a friend is only an email or phone call away.

It may not be the same as face to face interaction, but it’s so much better than previous generations had during pandemics.

We can wish for a better year for sure, and maybe we will get it.

Many of you deserve it.

But even better perhaps, let’s wish for a better version of ourselves.

I’ll sure try to use what I have the best way I can and in a way that’s good for others too.

Will it be a happy new year?

It remains to be seen.

But it will be a new year, and that means the opportunity to create new plans, build new dreams, nurture new hopes–in short, create a better version of ourselves, any way we can.


Image (c) The Painted Clock Painting Classes

Why Do Most New Year Resolutions Fail

New Year Resolutions Photo Annie Spratt

Around 88% of people who set New Year resolutions fail, at least according to this study.

I don’t know about you, but I’m careful with my resolutions this year. I know from experience that I tend to “over-resolve.”

Why do so many New Year resolutions fail? Here’s what I think.

1.     Not setting small, measurable goals and deadlines

Being practical about our resolutions helps a great deal. We’re more likely to make it when we know exactly what we want to do and have a deadline to strive against.

Many people don’t manage to lose weight not because they can’t, but because they resolve to “lose weight this year.” Those who make progress are more specific. They resolve to “lose x pounds by [enter date].”

This thing about weight loss is of course only an example. It’s definitely not on my to-do list—I could do with a few extra pounds!

2.     Hoping to put an end to a bad habit through sheer willpower

Willpower is important, but often, it’s not enough to break the habit loop, which is a strong neurological pattern.

The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace the habit routine while keeping the cue that triggers the habit and the reward that follows it.

For more on this, I recommend the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

3.     Wishing for things that won’t make us happy anyway

Let’s face it—we often have the wrong notions about happiness.

We long for things that can only make us happy in the short term, or that else prove to be a complete disappointment.

When we add these as resolutions to our list, it’s probably good for us that they don’t come true.

4.     Not understanding ourselves

You imagine an ideal version of yourself, and you hold on to that fantasy and adapt your goals and resolutions to match it—we’ve all done this at some point.

Because we don’t know ourselves, we set unrealistic goals that are either beyond our abilities or that don’t motivate us to achieve them.

How do we know ourselves? It doesn’t have to take a lifetime, does it?

I think there’s an inner compass in me that guides my steps. When it leads me into error, I feel it’s because I have to make that error to move on with my life.

I see this compass as a kind of distillation of my knowledge, experience, and sense of self. We all have it from an early age, but we lose track of it when we focus too much on what we think we want or what other people or society expects from us.

5.     Assuming we have total control over our lives

I’ve only been around for twenty-something years, but I’ve seen people who live healthy get sick and people who live unhealthily bury them.

Life is unexpected through its complexity and our cognitive biases—we tend to see only the benefits of doing something (i.e. what’s in it for us), without factoring it the potential for disappointment, sorrow, loss, or accident.

We also like to think that self-development, positive thinking, etc. can keep us in control of our bodies and minds. But that’s true only up to a certain point.

There’s something in our lives which we can never control—to call it simply chance would be perhaps an oversimplification. Even if we call it God and agree that in the end, in another life, all will be well, that element is present in this life and we are vulnerable before it.

6.     Comparing ourselves to others, not to ourselves

If you were the only person on Earth, would you still set the same New Year resolutions?

Maybe you’d drop some resolutions and alter others. Maybe you wouldn’t want to be the best at something or move into a certain role at work anymore.

But Vincent, what about resolutions such as being kind to others or donating to charity?

How can these be resolutions? You could call these reminders, but I think that if you must resolve to be kind, you must be a wicked person indeed.

Kindness, charity, understanding and the like, these come naturally when we live well, in keeping with our nature and abilities.

“I Want” Versus “I Need To”

I believe we all have true resolutions, those that we feel a strong inner need to complete. And then we also have plenty of “I want’s” that pose as resolutions, and which are the result of social pressure, faulty ways of thinking, and other causes.

True resolutions are best spread out—we know deep down what they are, and we need to keep on working at accomplishing them. We may not check them off our list within the span of a year, but it’s great to renew them every year—to remind ourselves about them and to return to them with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

As to most other resolutions, well, if they are not right for us or necessary, I guess we can safely fail them, right?