Friday, January 12, 2018

Do I Need to Make Resolutions?

Since the end of 2017, I've been thinking a lot about writing a resolutions post.  I've been reading everyone else's posts, in which they talk about their goals of saving X dollars or losing Y pounds, and I've been thinking I should do that too.  But as I read these posts and think about writing my own, I find myself paralyzed by the fact that I have no idea what to resolve.

My challenge with resolutions is twofold.  First, I am not a person to make a resolution for the sake of doing so.  If I commit to doing something, it has to be because I believe that doing so is going to make me happier or is somehow going to make me a better person/make the world a better place.  Second, I am really, really bad at keeping resolutions.  Like my recurrent resolution to exercise.  A look at my last post about exercise shows that it starts with a paragraph bemoaning my failures:

"Oh exercise, how I struggle with you.  With just a quick look through the blog, it's easy to find multiple posts in which I'm either committing to exercising more or lamenting the fact that I've failed at exercising more (see here, here, here, here, and here for just a few examples).  It's not a habit that comes easily to me."

I worry that committing to anything, especially exercise, will inevitably lead to me writing a follow up post in a month or two talking about how miserably I've failed at my commitment.  Which makes me ask the question, why do I feel like I need to write a resolution post?

While part of this feeling is just the feeling that I should be doing what everyone else is doing, I think another part of it is a desire to create some sort of...shape in my life.  I feel like I'm in a phase in life in which I go to work, pay off debt, save for retirement, learn a few more words of French, and keep repeating ad nauseam.  I'm 7-10 years away from hitting FIRE, and I will likely keep working even when I reach FIRE, so this is not going to be a short phase.  There is an incredible monotony to this stage, and I wonder if I could somehow break up the monotony with a resolution.  2018 will be the year that I become a true minimalist/ban all shopping/run a marathon...something other than just the year in which I keep going to work every day and slowly trudge forward with life.

Hmmm.  This post is turning out much darker than I had expected.  Maybe because I'm alone on a Friday night and it's -26C outside and I drank a glass of Malbec before I started writing?  Maybe because I got word that a longtime patient of mine died yesterday, and I can't quite believe that he's gone, so the sadness that I haven't yet allowed myself to feel is coming out in other ways?

There is part of me that is longing desperately for a solution to this.  To be able to say that I am going to do X in 2018 and everything is going to be perfect.  But maybe life doesn't work that way.  Maybe it's harder than we all like to pretend it is, and we can't solve everything with a resolutions post.

20 comments:

  1. We do a February challenge post instead. It helps that Feb is the shortest month!

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    1. I remember those posts! A single month is definitely more manageable. Maybe I'll try that instead.

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    2. I like the idea of a month long challenge. I may try that out. Although for exercise, I'd likely need to go to a weekly challenge. heh

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    3. A few years ago I did a challenge every month, and I kind of enjoyed it. I did pretty well with most of the challenges except for the exercise ones!

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  2. Reading this while watching The Human Comedy (old movie). Watch it this cold weekend if you get a chance.

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    1. I'll have to look it up. I've never heard of it before.

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  3. You make it sound like you see the next 10 years as time to kill before you start readying yourself for death. That is pretty bleak. Maybe people make resolutions so they don’t feel that way?

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    1. I'm actually looking forward to retired life, so worst case is that I'm viewing the next 10 years as time to kill before I start to do the fun stuff. Which isn't a great way to live, but I'm not sure that making resolutions is the way out.

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    2. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting, but you seem to be falling back into the trap of, "My life will be better when I finish this next part..." which you've been saying to yourself all through med school and residency. Life is probably going to feel the same once you get to retirement as well, albeit with different things that leave you feeling unsatisfied. Is there a way for you to work on enjoying the process? It might make you happier. This isn't unique to you. I also find the continuous self improvement and the constant striving to be a bit tiresome, but I also know that I'm happier overall when I experience a bit of pain from pushing myself too. Maybe you're not like that, maybe you are.

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    3. My comment was mostly in response to you describing retirement as "reading yourself to death", because I don't view retirement as a downhill slide towards death. I'm not sure how I will feel when I retire, but I won't miss the stress and anxiety of work. I am definitely working on making life better now, and things have gotten a lot better since I ditched the ex-girlfriend.

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    4. I didn’t think I said anything about reading....

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    5. Ha! Tired typo. "Readying" Although there is a good possibility that I will "read" myself to death in retirement.

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  4. I think a lot of folks see the monotony in their lives as something miserable. Some may find it comforting in a way, but it takes a real effort to change it. Maybe just do a few small, but different things. Nicoleandmaggie's idea is a good one and you've done a similar thing not long ago. Any changes take an effort, but if you want a change you'll do it. Btw, I don't do resolutions either.

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    1. Monotony is a challenge for me, as on the one hand, I am a creature of habit and dislike change, but on the other hand, I get bored with monotony! I'm trying to figure out how to enjoy the comfort/security of it while keeping life interesting.

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  5. I'm sorry about your patient... think it's pretty normal and healthy to be sad and need some time to grieve him.

    Also the constant push for 'self improvement' is just exhausting.
    If you do want to change something (not that you have to) why not make it something fun or silly that brings joy? I laughed so hard when a friend told me she was making the resolution to eat more eggs benedict that year but it was kind of the best.

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    1. Thanks. I was hoping he was going to pull through, but alas, not everyone does.

      Self improvement for the sake of self improvement is definitely exhausting. I've done a lot of good self improvement in the past few months though, and it's been really rewarding and has increased my happiness, but I think it has been good in this case because it has been things I really want to change. Maybe that's why I'm so ambivalent about resolutions this year; I'm already doing the things I know I need to do in my life. (I even went to the gym twice this weekend! Which I think means that I don't need to exercise again for at least six months.)

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  6. I'm not a resolution sort of woman, but I am an intention sort of woman. For most of the past 5 years my driving goal was to grow in empathy. For myself and others. This year, I'm not sure that is my goal. I'll still work on being the best version of myself both personally and professionally, but I think I need a different growth target for this period in my life.

    I'm with you on hating monotony. I definitely hate my main gig right now, but I need to show up and earn money and pay down debt. But it is definitely drudgery.

    I'm sorry about your patient. I do different work from you, but I think it will be hard the first time a person I've been helping for awhile passes away.

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    1. I like the idea of intentions too. My performance coach encouraged me to set daily intentions, and while I don't do it every day, I tend to do it on days when I'm struggling, and it can make the struggle easier to get through.

      Even though you don't have people dying all the time in your work, I'm sure you still see bad things happen. It's challenging to be empathetic sometimes!

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  7. Great question. I struggle with the urge to make resolutions too, and really liked author John Green's video suggesting to make a list of what to leave behind in the old year and what to take with you into the new one. It is harder, but more therapeutic. Even so, I did make a list, but called them goals to take the pressure off, and I started with little ones like wash the good knives and put them away when I'm finished with them, and compost more. Instead of exercise, my goal is to walk, move and stretch more. I haven't disappointed myself yet with this year's list. I really like ZJ's comment too, and might have to rename my list as intentions.

    Sorry about your patient. Doctors and nurses are angels on earth, and I don't know how you do it, but thank you.

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