My Resolution: Fewer Resolutions

Day 120 of my Lifestyle Challenge

I’ve been doing this lifestyle challenge now for four months, and I’ve learned a lot about what motivates me from the process. Last month I had a row entitled, “Bed before 10 pm.” I almost never put a blue cross in that row. Rather than beating myself up about this, or forcing myself to comply with the chart, I got curious about what was happening.

What I learned about myself is that, at this particular time in my life, I don’t really care about going to bed at a certain time. A couple of months ago, I was all about getting up at 4 am. I did that for a two months, and it was great. It didn’t work with my relationship with my wife, so I stopped. Now my sleep goal is to sleep at least eight hours per night. That’s a minimal requirement that I have discovered is important for my physiological and psychological health and wellbeing.

You may already know this: there are two major types of goal on the lifestyle challenge chart. The first type of goal is the kind that is marked with a blue cross. This kind of goal has a specific quantity that should be achieved to get crossed off, such as 60+ minutes of meditation. The other kind of goal is one that is measured in a specific unit, such as the number of minutes spent on self-directed learning.

For the past couple of months, I have tried using the second type, the measurement, for alcohol consumption. I was recording the number of standard drinks I would have each day. The purpose was to minimize my alcohol consumption, and I found that it didn’t work very well. A big part of what makes the chart motivating is to see it getting filled up with blue crosses, or to see numbers going up, such as the number of seconds spent in a cold shower.

Alcohol consumption is a measurement that I’m trying to reduce, not increase, but what I was writing on the chart was a measurement of what I didn’t want. That’s actually anti-motivating. For this month, I have a row that records whether zero alcohol was consumed on a given day. I used this approach for stopping eating refined sugar. It’s motivating to see, “Oh, I’ve achieved this for four days in a row now. Can I do five days?” or “Oh, I did four days in a row, but then I missed a day. Can I get another streak going? Can I make the row more consistently blue-crossed?” I think this is going to work more effectively for alcohol. Stay tuned.

I have a general theme this month, which is to resolve to do less, but to do those things that I have resolved to do more consistently. As with the two examples I gave you above, I have whittled down the items on the list to a bare minimum that I need to consistently perform in order to bootstrap my wellbeing, and to ensure continued healthy growth. When I created the list for this month, I went through the list from last month, and I assessed how I felt about each item, how motivated I felt to consistently perform that action, and about what I imagined, or knew, that consistent performance of that item would do for me.

Right now, I have basic items for:

  • sleep (8+ hours),
  • meditation (60+ minutes),
  • relationship (“Being with Cindy” for 30+ minutes),
  • creativity (“Morning Pages” for one side of letter-sized paper),
  • strategic review (“Review Goals” for 10+ minutes),
  • physical training (for 30+ minutes),
  • nutrition (“Bulletproof Diet” and “Zero Alcohol”),
  • tactical review (of various kinds for 30+ minutes),
  • learning (“Self-Directed Learning” in minutes), and
  • social time (by first name)

There is very little reason for me to miss any of these items except for tactical review, which I don’t need to do every day, or social time, which is not practical every day. I feel highly motivated and able to consistently complete all of these items every day. The crossing-off of items, or the recording of generally increasing scores, has an intrinsically motivating effect, and the chart enables me to repeatedly benefit from that effect as I look back at the previous days, and also the charts for previous months.

New Years Day is no different than any other day for me. It’s another day and another column of resolutions. Each month I review and revise my resolutions for the upcoming month. My resolution for January 2017 is to resolve to do less.

Join me on this lifestyle challenge: sign up for a free chart template and detailed instructions.

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives |

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