What will you do differently this year?


WARNING: This post contains physics.

I love the last two weeks of the year, because it feels like the calendar equivalent of the space after the comma in a sentence; it’s not what comes before and it’s not what comes after, but instead is somewhere in between. It’s the breath before the conversation continues.

Once the year begins, the time for reflection can end and we get sucked into our normal life. The moment passes, and it can be difficult (though not impossible) to have that time for reflection.

So on the eve of this new year, I will ask you a simple question. What will you do differently this year?

Actions not outcomes

Notice the construction of the question. I am not asking you to envision an outcome. Instead I want you to state an action, something you can perform. And the reasoning is because an action is something you can do immediately. Just by doing it, you are succeeding. An outcome, by contrast, not only feels a bit too resolution-like for me (and we all know how those go) but also is less direct.

This isn’t to say that I don’t want you to have goals and work towards them (and backwards from them), but just that right now, in this reflective time of year, it feels more right to talk actions and not outcomes.

Let’s talk about the gas pedal

A good analogy is a car’s gas pedal. The gas pedal is officially called an “accelerator”, and as you all recall from your high school physics classes, acceleration is directly related to force applied. You push the gas pedal, you apply a force, and acceleration happens, which (also remembering now) creates a positive change in velocity.

F = m × a

Imagine if the pedal determined velocity instead. Push down, and you’d speed instantaneously. Leave off on the pedal a bit, and you’d slow down instantaneously. Take your foot off the pedal, and you would just stop. It doesn’t work like that, and not just because it would be ridiculous. The velocity is the outcome; the force applied is the direct action.

This is what would likely happen with a velocity pedal.
This is what would likely happen with a velocity pedal.

Two suggestions

So here are two suggestions to think of right now:

  • Say yes to something that you used to say no to. Whether this is a possibility of change, an invitation that you always turned down, or another possibility that is lingering on your horizon, think of one of these in your life. What would happen if you changed the answer this time around? What else might happen?
  • Say no to something that you used to say yes to. This is actually more similar to the above than you might think. Saying no doesn’t turn off a possibility, but instead leaves you with room to say yes to something else. It’s okay to stop doing something. It’s not a failure.

Now answer this quickly, without thinking too hard: What immediately came to mind when reading the above? Hold onto it! Don’t let it get away from you. Keep it in your mind.

Here we go

This year, I’m planning some changes, both for this site, and for my life in general. But one of the ways I’m doing things differently has to do with this time of year. In years past, during this time of the year I’ve usually gone away, going by myself, working on Susannah Conway’s excellent “Unraveling the Year Ahead” workbook (which I highly recommend, by the way). But this year, neither of those were true. Starting the year off differently feels good.

Unless your life is perfect, changing something will cause other aspects of your life to change. And even if you’re perfectly content, the feeling can be fleeting. We move forward, because we that is the only way we can keep growing.

But there is plenty of time to talk about velocity. Let’s focus on the force for a bit.

No, not that Force. Photo courtesy of dualdflipflop
No, not that Force.
Photo courtesy of dualdflipflop


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