The Year Manifesto
Or why making New Year Resolution is a pointless endeavour.
I’ve personally felt uncomfortable about the act of making New Year Resolution for a long time, but I could never successfully put my finger on why I had such feeling. My dilemma was resolved recently when I listened to CGP Grey’s and Myke Hurley’s latest Cortext podcast. As if I haven’t already admired Grey enough, he eloquently explained why making New Year Resolution is a massive waste of time. His explanation was so on point I had to give the episode a second listen and shamelessly stole the podcast’s ideas, paraphrased them in my own words and compiled them into this post.
“[New Year Resolutions] are trash!”
– Myke Hurley
One of the biggest mistakes I made every time I’m on holiday for Lunar New Year was occasionally going on social media, where I was immediately drowned in a sea of overtly enthusiastic statuses, comments and hashtags detailing what their resolutions for the year would be. This action wasted a substantial amount of time and energy that I could have otherwise spent on friends and family. As I moaned for my cognitive bandwidth being squandered on useless social content, I couldn’t have helped feeling a bit uneasy – the same type of feeling I had after reading a self-help book. Although I couldn’t put a finger on why I was feeling that, I could sense something extremely superficial and inefficient about those resolutions and the people who came up with them.
As Grey framed it beautifully, “The fundamental of life is that it is limited“. Resolutions are always about MORE. “I will go to the gym more”, “I will do more work”, “I will read more books”. The rose-tint glasses caused by the over-consumption of Bánh chưng makes people conveniently ignore the fact that their resources are unlikely to change substantially just because a new year arrives. In order to do more of one thing, they have to give up something else. Does anybody really think about the sacrifices they will have to make in order to achieve their resolutions? Are they willing to cut down on their Netflix time to read more, or avoid social gatherings to make time for the gym, or sleep less to manage their own business?
New Year Resolutions are no different from personal propaganda without proper planning to back them. They offer nothing but a quick dose of feel-good before fading away, which is not very different from cocaine (kids, DO NOT do drugs). Resolutions are destined to set people up for failures, and therefore, disappointment. One year is too long of a timeline for arbitrary targets. How many times have we seen a gym full of new members on the first few days of January, then most of them drop out by the end of the first quarter?
People make resolutions, fail, despise themselves for their inevitable failure for the rest of the year until it’s new year and they make new (or old) resolutions. It’s a vicious cycle that wastes a lot of time and mental energy.
There is an alternative for New Year Resolutions. In stead of making a list of things one has to get done in a year, people should decide on a general direction they want themselves to head into during the year. This is equivalent to the Art Direction for the painting of their lives, or the North star for their New Year journey, guiding their decision making process. Grey and Hurley called this concept “Yearly Theme”. I have to paraphrase things, so I call it New Year Manifesto.
So how does one work this Manifesto, you might ask. Obviously, you don’t meticulously list out all the KPIs you want to hit in the year, you just jot down ONE word. It could be a noun, an adjective, a verb, grammar doesn’t matter here. The word represents an aspect of life you want to improve during the year. The template is “The year of X”. In stead of “going to the gym three times a week”, make it “The year of Fitness”; instead of “reading 20 books this year”, make it “The year of Literature”; etc. This method lets you operate with a system running in the background, without putting too much pressure on yourself. You have a guidance so you don’t run around like a headless chicken, but at the same time you are not worn out by heartless numbers. You cannot be a failure because there’s no goal to hit. If, for some reason, you aren’t sufficiently satisfied with your performance regarding the Manifesto during the year, no need to stress, you can always carry it to the year after. The system is flexible because your mental health matters.
Since I’m already shamelessly copying Cortex’s content, I will adopt one of Grey’s past annual themes as my Manifesto for this year. The year of the Mouse for me will be The year of Less. One of my most pressing problems over the years is that I’ve spread myself too thin. I’ve spent my money, attention and most importantly, time, on so many different endeavors, few of which bear fruits. This has taken a toll on my physical and mental health, and I’ve decided that it’s time to change. This year I’ve decided that the major thing in my life that I will focus the entirety of my energy on is cutting out dead weights from it. When faced with choices, I will be leaning on the path of actions that involves me subtracting, rather than adding things to my plate.
Credit 1: >>> The original Cortex podcast episode from Grey and Hurley <<< Highly recommended.
Credit 2: As I was typing this article, The Machine Overlord himself has published >>> a video <<< just for this topic alone. For those who prefer shorter content and fun animation, this video is more consumable.