Last night, as the clock struck 12, the world celebrated. We broke open the champagne, hugged our neighbors, and shouted in the new year. We stayed up, partied more than we should, headed to bed, and woke up late, perhaps with a hangover.
Is that any way to start a year?
Some may be looking back in relief that the past year is gone. Over. Finished.
Did we hate it that much?
2022 Is So 2022
I could probably find a lot of reasons to dislike last year, but there is much to celebrate too. Each year provides lessons, chances to experience new things, meet new people, and even experience new pain or problems. I embrace it all, even the bad.
This day, today, will be the final day on earth for some people. And if they knew that, they would look back on the last year of their life with complete joy in spite of the bad.
How would life be if we appreciated every day, even the bad ones?
So many of you have awakened, turned immediately to social media or your e-mail, and your pattern of life is about to repeat for another year.
What are you going to do differently this year?
What do you want to change?
What bad habits do you want to shed?
What resolutions do you want to make, then break?
Tomorrow health clubs will be inundated with new members who have vowed to change their lives, dump their fat, increase their muscle mass…
And those same people will show up a few times, then disappear, but keep their memberships alive.
Most Resolutions Are Stupid
Rarely do I make new year’s resolutions, because I rarely keep them. But if I make a resolution, I try to turn it into a real goal, with an exact outcome tied to a date. Because intent without action is folly. And action without a way to know you’ve achieved your goal is silly. Goals need to be time-bound and exact, and the steps defined.
Is this another year of dumped resolutions? For most of us, they will disappear within hours.
It’s Not Too Late
In business, I make a point to set my goals for the next year back in September. And I look at them every week and measure them against how I’m doing. Because if you don’t look at them, you’ll forget them. If you don’t define the steps, and time them with goals, the steps won’t get done and the goal will be overwhelming and too hard to do.
The best time to set goals for a new year is in the months before the new year, so that you hit the ground running with a plan.
The second best time to define them is today.
Get off the couch, put down your phone, get a pad of real paper (not your notes app), and start dreaming. Spend HOURS thinking.
Answer these questions.
What do I really love about my life that I want to see continue?
What do I really not love about my life that I want to discontinue?
If you focus on what you DON’T want, you work toward eliminating the things that don’t bring you joy.
If your job makes the “don’t want” list, then you have a choice. Change it, or live with it.
I have too many “lifer” friends in great jobs making great money, but they’re miserable. And they say, “I don’t want to spend one more day at this job, but I’ve only got to hang in there for another 10 years,” or “another five years.”
One guy I knew told me that.
I said, “What if you die between now and then? Will you be OK with that?”
He said no. But he relied on the money, and felt like he would be fine.
Did I mention that he died before he retired?
The other day I mentioned on my daily YouTube show that I had a near-death experience when my kids were about 3.
Everything changed from that moment forward. It was too close for comfort.
So, at the advice of my friend Roy, I made my don’t list, and my want list, and I defined what I wanted my life to look like. I defined what I did not want to do, and I defined cool things I wanted to do every year.
Then, when I looked at my list, my inner reptilian brain told me, “There is no way you can do these things.” And I got discouraged, till I decided to find a way and ignore the inner voice.
Everything on the list came true.
I shed all the bad stuff, and I managed to do the things we “couldn’t afford.” I found a way.
I had to be creative.
As life goes on, your list changes. Covid woke lots of us up, and now very few people want to go back to work in an office and deal with hours of commuting time. Some went back, others said, “never again” and quit their jobs or insisted on remote working.
You and I won’t escape death. It is lurking around every corner and will grab us the second it can. We are not assured of anything more than the breath we just took.
Every day is a gift. Every breath is a blessing, and as I said recently, if you’re breathing, God has a purpose for you.
You could take today to watch football or eat excessively. Or you could take one day of your entire life and focus on planning the life you want.
After that, it’s up to you to be disciplined enough to make it happen.
It starts with a dream list and a “don’t want” list, prioritizing the lists, picking the things that are most important, and leaving the others for a future year (rarely do we get it all done at once). Then you figure out the steps, the way to buy your freedom, and you chip away at it a little every day.
Nothing good is ever instant.
Regular people like me and you, who have no special advantages, do have dreams, and we end up changing the world, building skyscrapers, inventing things that are impossible.
Don’t judge your lists. Get it all down, even the wild, insane stuff you don’t want anyone to see.
Then, find a way.
You can thank me later, once you’ve built your skyscraper.
Happy New Year.
In 2022 I set a silly goal. I wanted to hit 100,000 followers on YouTube for my Art School Live show. I tracked my progress every week or so, and by the fall, I was starting to believe it was not going to happen. But I caught myself, and I told myself that if it was a goal, I had to accomplish it by the deadline. The closer I got, the more deliberate and intentional I became, increasing my creativity. And, on December 21, at 10:50 am, I hit the goal.
I have lots of big goals that I’ll never share (though sharing goals is a good way to put yourself out there and get committed). This YouTube goal was a little ego, but it was more about increasing my reach so I can help more people learn art, knowing that the minute I hit 100,000, YouTube would push my stuff to more people.
I think it’s important to set goals and never let yourself off the hook. You have to be determined, even to the last minute, to find a way.
Back in August I wanted to exceed the previous year’s attendance to one of our online conferences. But Covid was mostly over and people were back at work, and experts told me attendance would shrink. I was determined, but even a few weeks before, it was not looking strong. Yet determination and constant checking of progress paid off. And we exceeded the previous year’s numbers.
The same is true for Watercolor Live, our Worldwide Watercolor Summit with the finest masters on earth. As of December it was looking like it might be smaller, but because of our determination, it’s going to be the biggest online art conference in the world one more year. (You can still sign up at www.watercolorlive.com.)
People will tell you your goals are impossible. People will roadblock your success. People will be negative, not supportive. They will tell you your ideas are foolish. Don’t listen to them. Follow your heart, be determined and deliberate, and never ever give up. Never ever.