Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2018.
It’s that time, so I wanted to talk about resolutions. We’ve all seen them in action. Most of us have tried our hands at them and probably failed. The last resolution I made was back some 30 years ago. I swore never to make another new year’s resolution. The sad fact is, they simply don’t work, though it could be argued my final one is still going strong. Resolutions are a good idea, but they tend to lack followthrough. It’s human nature to fight against commitment, especially if it’s something we think we need to do rather than something we want to do. And by want, I mean that we actually enjoy doing it. That’s the trick. For something — anything — of this nature to work, resolutions must give way to goals, and goals must give way to lifestyle. Without breaking unwanted habits and incorporating new habits into one’s lifestyle, the rebound train is always on track. It’s inevitable because it’s designed to be temporary. It’s why diets fail and gym memberships go by the wayside.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. As this blog posts, I’ll turn 44 tomorrow. Where I’m at in life isn’t much different than how it was in my late 20s, which is just freakishly stupid to me given that I’m not exactly content with my situation. The only real difference is that my car isn’t quite as good now, and my living conditions are slightly better, so that’s not saying much. But these are only material points based on circumstance. The job isn’t getting any better, the neighbors certainly aren’t getting any better, and thus quality of life on the whole simply isn’t getting better. With every passing year, most people become more desensitized to their surroundings, and the world is accordingly becoming louder, more obnoxious. The more things grind on, the more things wear thin for me as any extended torture would. As Bilbo would say, I feel like butter scraped across too much bread. Such is the long term effects of constant sensory bombardment and the stress it exacerbates.
While writing up my review of 2017, my thoughts kept turning to the idea of how I could make this year better. Eventually you just get sick and tired of constantly being sick and tired. And I’m certainly angry about constantly being angry. Funny how that works. I’ve spent a lot of time the past 20 years or so accumulating knowledge about personal development and attempting to understand how to incorporate that knowledge. There are a great many things I understand on the intellectual level. The emotional level, however, where all change must happen, is stunted by the constant barrage of outside influence. Sensory Processing Disorder is a bitch and her puppies. If you deal with SPD, you’re probably nodding your head right now. I can’t allow that to be an excuse anymore. As years go by, SPD gets worse. My tolerance to stimuli is much lower now than it was in my more resilient teens. City life has created a cumulative effect that, come hell or high water, I absolutely must overcome if I am ever to know real peace or happiness. I can’t change how the stimuli affects me, and I can’t put an end to that stimuli, but I can certainly improve how I defend against it, and I can improve how quickly my mind and body recover after such assaults.
Today I draw my line in the sand. 2018 is the year I reclaim my life.
This isn’t about resolutions. Those never work out, as we know. It’s about lifestyle, and more importantly, it’s about quality of life. To that end, I’ve been putting together all of that extant information, optimizing my technological inventory and practical defenses, and asking the hard questions about what I really want most out of life. I’ve been stuck in neutral for too long. Something’s gotta give.
Over the Christmas holiday, my time in the country afforded me the peace and quiet to concentrate so I could expand upon the idea of improving my life. I’m back out in the country this week with a singular goal in mind: creating and enacting an action plan. They say it takes 21 days to change a habit or create a new one. The United States Marine Corps certainly believes it. They create a Marine in 21 days, so it’s proof positive it can be done. While I respect what they do, I’m not looking for anything quite so drastic. I’m keeping my day job for the time being and have no desire to become a steely-eyed killing machine. It’s just not for me. But the point here is it can be done, and many of the ideas they use can be incorporated. That being the case, I set myself on a path of personal development to make all manner of large changes and minor course corrections, all with the eye on the prize of “better” quality of life, however I want to define that.
I figure it like this. There are 12 months in the year. At the beginning of each month, I can commit to adding something of value to my world, and by month’s end it’ll simply be a part of my lifestyle. This could be a physical habit, learning a new skill… anything goes, so long as it adds to my overall quality of life.
Related to that, my entertainments are going to be catered along the same lines. There’s nothing wrong with reading a book or watching a movie or whatever simply for the sake of enjoyment. I’m taking this one further. If I consume something for enjoyment, I want it to be of a higher quality so as to improve my quality of life on some level. If it’s not for enjoyment, then it needs to directly add to my knowledge base so as to be practically applied to increasing my quality of life. No fluff, at least not for a while. The good news is, that’s actually pretty easy for me to do. I don’t read much cookie-cutter fiction anymore, and when I do it tends to offer me something more on account because of the type of fiction I consume. Likewise, I read a lot of nonfiction. I just need to select some with practical, applicable benefits. The mind is basically an organic computer, and any programmer can tell you: garbage in / garbage out. Naturally, the same holds true in reverse. It’s all about the quality of input.
So let’s talk about what I’m reading right now, because that’s the most obvious kind of mental input there is. Aside from Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, both of which add literary value and positive inspiration to my life each and every week (and make for great buddy reading), my other current reads are directly catered to the ideas I’ve outlined above.
Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins
The Law of Success: From the Master Mind to the Golden Rule (in Sixteen Lessons) by Napoleon Hill
The Story of Civilization, Volume 5: The Renaissance by Will Durant
The Algorithm of Power by Pedro Barrento
The first two of these books are just what they say: money and success. How to transform your life to get them, how to use them properly (without them owning you in return), and how to maximize your resources as a direct result to improve your quality of life as well as that of those around you. It’s not enough to read books like this. I must apply them at every level. Sure, I could crash course these in 21 days, but that defeats the point. I’m choosing to focus on them for as long as it takes to implement them. What have I learned so far? Compound interest. Why work harder when your money can work for you? It’s such a simple idea. Einstein called it humanity’s greatest invention. ‘Nuff said.
The history tome speaks for itself, and the Renaissance is full of all manner of inspiration when it comes to success and creativity. The Algorithm of Power is higher-level sci-fi. While decidedly dystopian in nature (which I tend to limit in my world due to depression), this one makes me actively contemplate the world around me with an eye towards cautionary avoidance of the themes in play. You know, what old school sci-fi used to be good at. And, of course, I’m still chewing slowly through Shakespeare’s complete works.
Did I say no fluff? That’s right, I said no fluff! I didn’t say anything about pulp, which offers me so much joy when written properly by someone who knows how. Bonus points when that someone brings me characters that form the backbone of my pulp experience. Enter Will Murray, who writes for Doc Savage under Lester Dent’s old pen name of Kenneth Robeson. It was just a matter of time before we got a sequel to Murray’s Doc Savage team-up with The Shadow. Thanks to a heads up from my fellow pulp-loving buddy alexsilverthorn, I have that sequel waiting in the wings for me as a reward for when I finish tackling the harder stuff. And I found another crossover pulp novel from the same author featuring two other characters I admire. Clearly, Kong needed a greater challenge than Doc. Pitting him against Tarzan is such a natural choice, it just had to be!
See how that works? I get my life on track, and then I get rewarded with an awesome pulp hero fix while DC’s once-classic favorites flounder around in the wreckage behind me that they’ve wrought. This example will be the model of how this year works: implementation, forward momentum, reward, catharsis in awesomeness. Seriously, did anyone assume that I wasn’t going to have fun on this journey?
Now if only Murray would start cranking out a series dedicated to The Shadow. I’m all over that if it ever happens.
So, going back to the idea of monthly habits and implementations, because clearly reading isn’t really something I plan month to month outside of buddy reads… I really have no idea what later months will bring. I’ll figure that out as I go. For this first month, the idea is all about meditation as a regular, consistent practice. Meditation has a positive, measurable cumulative effect on the brain and body. I have a library of nature sounds, guided meditations, Western and Eastern chants, etc. Seeing as how I spend most of my life in headphones anyway, I might as well create a soundscape that shapes my brainwaves towards health and all manner of other benefits. I have no excuses, really. I have the tools, I have the means, I have the time, and I have the desire. I just need to actually use these things in concert with one another.
My intent is to use active, guided meditation in the evenings in order to center and de-stress after whatever the day has brought me. Half an hour before bedtime to start should have the side effect of helping me to sleep better. Always a plus for an insomniac. In the mornings over coffee, while I blog, or read, or whatever, I can use the other soundscapes to set a peaceful, positive tone for the new day before the outside world intrudes upon it. If I’m correct, not only will this make me calmer and clearer, I should be able to focus better and learn faster as a direct result, which means I can better implement the stuff I’m learning about money and success. In short, I learn about personal finance, and I start generating some harmony in my world. It’s a win-win, which should provide a rock solid foundation from which to build upon the rest of this year and beyond. Should make it easier to figure out where to build in subsequent months too.
If I’m right, the whole of it should give me plenty to blog about too. After all, writing about something is an age-old means of reinforcing new concepts in the mind and helping to sort out anything that might not make sense. Another win-win.
As I say, I’m out in the country the rest of this week laying the foundations of all of this, and then it’s back to the city grind next week.
How’s your new year looking?