I also spent the entire New Year’s weekend here in Buffalo, as my wife took our 3 kids to Albany and Long Island to visit her family. It wasn’t something I was happy about, as I love spending time with my family, but it was the right decision for a number of reasons.
After a very fun few days with friends, I decided to not spend the weekend being down. I wanted to keep the momentum going and start the new year on a good note. So I made a list of all the things I’ve put off around the house, all the errands I needed to run, and just started. Between Friday and Monday I checked off 25 items off my list. I finished all but one thing I set out to do and that project was a large one I probably could have spent the entire weekend doing. It felt so good.
Not only that, I did things for myself: I went shopping and bought myself a new pair of jeans (I ripped a hole in my favorite pair while working) and a new pair of Van’s to wear to work. I also went to a New Year’s Eve party at WNYBAC in downtown Buffalo, by myself no less. (I don’t think I’ve gone anywhere social without Melisa in a very long time, if ever.) I even had some down time and watched a whole season of Breaking Bad. (Amazing series, by the way.)
In the end, all of this gave me an enormous boost of confidence. I was even happy. (Even as my marriage was on the rocks and my kids on the other side of the state.) It made me realize that, as I looked back at the last 6 days, I haven’t focused on my happiness in a long time. I lived for a long time looking to things (computers, video games, TV, and other distractions) and other people to make me happy. I put very little effort into making myself happy.
I already mentioned that I am forgoing your standard resolutions this year and replacing it with a love list. I am going to focus on this list of things I love and want to start this year, because the act of starting is often the hardest part of actually doing anything. For example, running isn’t hard after a few times out, but getting your shoes on and going outside is infinitely more difficult. Once you start, the running part is easy.
All of it begins with the first item on my love list: Be on top of my priorities & make sure I fund them. No procrastination. The first step to happiness: be mindful of your priorities (the people, activities, and things you are passionate about) and make sure you give them the attention and energy they deserve. To make those small, daily decisions that push those things forward. That’s the one habit I want to build in 2012. If I can do that, I’ll accomplish a lot. There’s no excuse for not doing that, if you really truly care.
In addition to not funding my happiness, the thing I’ve been good at my whole life is procrastinating and taking the easy way out. And those habits play a part in your happiness. Merlin Mann summed it up well on a recent Back to Work podcast:
The more you procrastinate, the worse you feel. And we procrastinate when we feel bad. So we procrastinate more and it becomes a feedback loop. — Merlin Mann So true. My behavior and attitude has played a large part in my happiness over the years. I haven’t been sad, per se, but not happy and full of life. A comfortable feeling, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when you become complacent and stop growing you get stuck. And that’s where I’ve been.
I can do better. I’ve always felt like I could do anything I put my mind to, but somewhere along the way I got stuck. Now I am growing, looking inside myself, and changing my attitude toward everything important to me. It’s time to make those small efforts to move my happiness forward every day. So far it’s been great. It’s intoxicating even. Even as I went back to work on Tuesday, I’ve been productive (18 to-dos checked off in two days) and work hard every day to move something on my love list forward. Nine days and counting. Each day great.
To end 2011, I re-connected with some amazing old friends. We went bowling, out to eat a bunch of times, did some drinking, and just talked a lot. It was awesome. I had so much fun.
So, my advice for the new year?
Start more of what you love. Just start. Make those daily decisions that push those things forward and don’t make excuses. Don’t focus on the result, because each day you make those decisions, you are building the habit that will make success possible. Focusing on the result will only get you discouraged. That’s why most resolutions fail.
Just start. Every single day.