It’s that time again. Time to list your reforms for the new year. You’re going to get healthier, thinner, smarter, more well-traveled, more compassionate, more attractive, and you’re going to increase your net worth…right? Yes, I used to criticize the annual reformers and their wishlists of proposed personal improvements composed just because the chronological odometer flips over another digit. I was way too cool for that mindless tradition.
My alternative? I just didn’t plan for any reformation…yeah, safe call, huh?
Of course, it’s easier to criticize the hopeful than to set yourself up for failure and criticism. Why do we criticize? Because we’ve all seen (and have been) people who wish for life changes but never seem to take the first step to make that happen. And even if they, we, do take the first step true reform requires long term commitment. What is the magic bullet to long term commitment? Wait for it…hell, who knows?!
Yes, I have achieved true life-changing reform. Fourteen years ago, practically to the day, I smoked my last cigarette after 25 years of intense tobacco dedication. I smoked cigarettes with an unrivaled passion. It was the first thing I did in the morning (before rising) and the last thing I did at night. Each cigarette measured the passing of time, a pause, a musical rest on the “staff” of life. It was the end of a meal, a mental break to solve an analytical problem, a temporary escape from a social event. It was a culture. It tied me to others who felt a bit out of the mainstream, and dammit I liked that. But it was going to kill me and I knew it.
One night I was at the computer fully engulfed in the soothing, noxious, toxic cloud of tobacco smoke, as usual. My wife entered the room, in a recently-induced state of tobacco withdrawal excitability, and justifiably announced concern that her success at smoking cessation was adversely affected by my continued dedication to the object of her recent disdain (yeah, the original transcript of that conversation required way fewer words). My response? “Ok, I’ll quit!”
The next day I smoked my butt off. I set a goal to quit on the day after; so I stayed up until 3 AM and smoked with abandon while researching smoking cessation techniques. At the end of the evening, I destroyed every cigarette left, threw them in the trash can, and dumped the trash can in the dumpster. Then I dumped all the ashtrays and put them in the dishwasher. That was fourteen years ago. I haven’t had a puff since.
What’s the secret to true life-changing reformation? It’s one big decision followed by a million tiny actions (or inactions if you’re quitting a bad habit).
What’s my resolution for this year? Quite simply this…consume less, produce more.
What are your plans for the new year?