Last week I shared with you my low opinion of New Year’s resolutions. Today I’d like to suggest a better alternative: sprints.
No Wine For Me––It’s January
Every year I have Sober January––a month-long respite from the many late boozy nights of December.
In December, friends are in town, people are having parties, and the family stays up late, gathered around board games with whiskey & wine.
It’s fun, but exhausting. I start every year tired and a little bit pudgy from the extra liquid calories.
So every January I take thirty days off from booze and, if I’ve grown overly dependent on caffeine, coffee too.
It’s so easy it’s comical.
If I instead started the year with a vague resolution to drink less (or exercise more, or practice more), it would take a dozen little decisions each day. Should I have another drink? Should I go to the gym today or put it off until tomorrow? Should I keep practicing, or should I take a nap?
But with a black-and-white decision, I’m never depending on my willpower in the moment to make the right decision for me–it’s already been made.
I’ve used this strategy for practicing, exercising, and writing too.
This Is Only A Test
The fact that it’s only a thirty days takes away any scary edge such a commitment might have.
Never have a drink again? Never miss a workout or go a day without practicing ever again? Those are big decisions.
But running a 30 day experiment? That’s no big deal. After all, if it turns out that you HATE writing a few pages each day, or hitting the gym every morning, you can always go back to the way you were.
But Then Something Strange Happens
After you’ve spent a month doing your new thing, it begins to feel normal.
On February 1st I don’t go on some crazy bender to make up for lost time––my new normal is “not drinking,” and the siren song of drinking is muted.
After 30 days of waking up and spending an hour with the metronome, it’s become as much a part of my routine as brewing coffee or eating breakfast.
Evolve Into A Better You
No matter how much we might wish it to be true, most of our life changes don’t happen overnight.
We slowly evolve into fat, sedentary people over a period of years.
When we realize what we’ve done, we panic and try to bootcamp our way back into fitness. I’m never eating sweets ever again. I’m going to spend an hour in the gym every day from here on out.
But such plans fly directly against the way we’re built. You can’t get skinny in a week any more than you can get fat in a week.
You can’t get amazing at guitar with a few weeks of dedicated practice. And even if Bryan Sutton takes an entire month off of playing, he’ll still be worlds better than me.
Embrace The Adjacent Possible
The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself. –Steven Johnson
Allow me to suggest to you that the things you really want from life aren’t attainable with one big thrust of effort. You can cram for a test, but not for the life you want.
You need to be ratcheting toward your big goals, and sprints are a perfect tool for this.
After a month of two of embracing a new behavior, I find that I’ve subtly changed into the kind of person who ________ (practices every morning, never misses a workout, doesn’t eat sweets, etc).