A year ago, I wrote a story about my new year’s resolutions for 2021. To be honest, I had completely forgotten about it until the woman who owns all my stuff reminded me last week that I had listed a number of goals in that piece, but being nicer to her and being more receptive to what she wants was not in the top 3.
Do better this year, she gently suggested, as only a spouse of over 40 years can.
“Yeah, what she said, but for me too,” said a certain brown and white dog who answers to the name “Wonderbeagle.”
So there will be no goals or resolutions this year. In fact, the point of any resolution I might have made this year would be to avoid all the numbers and measurements that seem to have dominated my life these last 65 years.
It starts the first time anyone plays sports, as it is drilled into you to always strive to do better than you did the last time. You measure how long, how fast, how much, etc. and then next time out, see how you fare in pursuit of a “personal best.” It then progresses to your business life, where you compare previous performance in other months, quarters and years to determine success. If you can’t measure it, you find yourself saying, you can’t manage it.
Then at one point later in life you find yourself walking around in a circle in your living room at 11 PM on a Thursday night. Why? Because you’re 113 steps shy of 10,000 steps and you just can’t let that happen. Doesn’t really matter that 6 laps around the coffee table on carpet in your bare feet doesn’t have much of an impact on your overall fitness. But by then you’ve become a slave to the numbers.
The obsession ends up extending far beyond exercise. I like to read, but found myself looking up all the titles I’d consumed for the year in December to see how many books I’d read in 2021. Did it matter? No. But other people were posting on social media how many books they’d read, how many miles they walked, etc. And if you’re a competitive person, you HAVE to keep up with all these people on social media. That you’ve never met. And never will. And don’t even know their real names.
Even when writing, those pesky numbers had an impact on me. There were times I’d write a story I really liked about life and perspective, then look up the numbers and see only 150 would have read it. Then I’d write something snarky about the Virginia Tech football coach and over 8,000 would have read it. What would I then do? Of course, write another story about Virginia Tech, even though I enjoy writing about life and perspective far more.
When you put it on paper, it seems stupid, changing your behavior or defining what you enjoy by numbers that don’t make a difference in your life in any way. When you say it out loud, it seems even worse.
So in 2022, I’m going to stop measuring, or at least not use the results of those measurements to define success. Since Christmas, I’ve stopped trying to hit a step number and instead exercise for as long as I can one day, then rest the next. I’ve stopped counting carbs and calories. I work out when I’m tired and I eat when I’m hungry. Surprisingly, I actually feel stronger and my weight seems to be going down.
I have 5 books lined up to read over the next week or two, and I’ll do so because I love a good story and hate the feeling of finishing one book and not knowing what I'll be reading next. I will write more stories about life, perspective, Maggie The Wonderbeagle, and things for this site I want to write about. If only 150 people read them, odds are they’re 150 people I know or have met, and if I make at least one person smile, I’ll consider it a great story. We had 36,000 new visitors one week last November, and while impressive, I can’t think of a single way it affected my life. The DM from someone saying they enjoyed my most recent story and it was something they needed to hear, conversely, did.
Old habits are hard to break, and wearing an Apple Watch is like strapping a nagging mother-in-law to your wrist (I particularly enjoy when it tells me the volume of my headphones is too high) so I’m not going to completely be able to avoid seeing data of today versus previous days.
But in 2022, I’m going to stop being a slave to the numbers and look at the big picture. Be healthy, take care of my family, be a good friend and make people smile are my goals.
Now if I can only get my shiny new Apple Watch to figure out a way to measure such things…
Hail Mary by Andy Weir
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Judges List by John Grisham
Taste, by Stanley Tucci