But there is a way to create our Future
Now I’ll be the first one to admit that I am not socially normal.
Do you, too, seem to be looking in on the collective behaviors of the humans like you are an alien?
That “abnormality” is fairly normal for academics in many fields, actually. We are observers, and got into academia because there was always something quirky about how we saw things.
So all that aside, yes, New Year’s resolutions, which are the latest craze right now for obvious reasons, do suck.
And I say that because they seem to highlight and make very real-seeming a sense of resistance, into which we are going to fling our willpower, backed by the auspicious powers of the sun-circling pattern of the earth.
Now I know our resistance can seem real, just as our belief in will-power can seem to be based on some power that we think we possess.
There is a lot of writing advice and coaching out there that makes resistance out to be a monstrous enemy that must be continually battled in a gray and gruesome life of toil where we are promised we will somehow be stronger, because it didn’t kill us.
Perhaps on another occasion I will go a little deeper into the over-belief in resistance-but for now I want to point out this other side of the illusion- about the one who makes “resolutions.”
When reality starts to poke holes in the one who is making all the decisions, the dream can crumble and that’s why so many so-called resolutions go nowhere. Then we can feel defeated and inadequate and self-judgmental and it’s even worse than when we started.
If we were simply the CEO’s of OurLife Inc., then we would just do only the things that helped and none that hurt and everything would be just ducky. We would chart the course, then sail it.
“Resolutions” seem to partake quite a bit in this personal CEO illusion. If you hold them lightly, and don’t give in to this delusion, of course it’s great to make some positive decisions and set some goals, for instance, for your writing.
But far better than goals and resolutions is cultivating a habit. If you cultivate a habit, then the results take care of themselves.
Why Habits are Better than Resolutions
Habits have distinct characteristics, two of which are very important.
One, they are practically possible and easily doable within normal everyday life. If cleaning your teeth was a two-hour daily process, we wouldn’t do it.
And two, if they are framed in attention, one could even say, ritualized, then they are easy to keep.
Then the great effects come, the momentum builds up, and they become second nature.
Developing an effective writing habit is a far more powerful thing than resolving to finish your dissertation or book or vowing to reach this or that goal, like losing weight or whatever it is.
Focus on the habit and you will get the results you want.
Be smart about where you are placing your attention and belief!
If you place it only on goals and results that the CEO of You is to achieve, you are depending on something that… well, hate to say it, is not real.
Whereas if you place your attention and belief in the relations of causes and effects of conditioning that are at work in this universe and your self as part of that universe, then you’ve got something real and powerful there.
Habitual conditioning is simply the laws of nature at work.
Here’s a great writing habit: wake up in the morning, drink 12 oz. of water, set a timer, and do 15 minutes of focused writing on something you really want to write, every day.
There’s enough ritual in that example, what with waking up and all, the water, and the timer that sets the beginning and end, that you may not need to add any more. But you can add a simple something to any habit you are trying to get framed and going.
I ring a bell before we write in my classes. Basketball players dribble or handle the ball in the exact same way before each free throw. Any little thing like that reinforces the habit and triggers it.
So what is a small, discreet habit that you could ritualize?
Put your attention and belief there.
Then tell your friends and family you have a New Year’s repetitive and ritualized behavior!
One of the main focuses of the our Academic Writing Bootcamp is generating a writing habit, and there are some great online tools at Academic Muse that will frame, reinforce, and develop the momentum of the habit. Everything else that we could ever want from our writing, or for our careers, can come from a writing habit.
Of course we have our eyes on results and goals and of course we want to take advantage of the New Year spirit to get us going on our writing. But what will really make that happen is the daily, or almost daily, writing habit.
It’s the cause of what is actually a side-effect: finishing our writing. Creations that we enjoy, and others do too.