Thoughts about Last Year
We have, once again, come to the end of a year. You’ll have to make your own determination as to whether 2021 has been any better than 2020, I suppose, but I think we can all agree to wishing for 2022 to be better. Nevertheless, I have had some good times. In the past year I went on a monthly hike for landscape photography, which was one of the goals I set for myself and became the basis of a new YouTube channel. I also read a book nearly every month, another goal, and even got to do a bit of local travel which I had listed as my “impossible goal” last year.
As we head in to the new year, I thought I would briefly highlight some of my favorite books, podcasts, YouTube channels, and musicians from the past year, and then share a bit about how I plan the new year and some tips for keeping your own New Year’s Resolutions.
The best books I read in 2021
- Why We’re Polarized, Ezra Klein. Written by Ezra Klein, a journalist, political analyst, and cofounder of Vox, this book is very helpful in understanding our current political landscape on America.
- The Algebra of Happiness, Scott Galloway. Scott Galloway is a podcast host, entrepreneur, and NYU professor, and this book is derived from his most popular brand strategy lecture, in which he discusses life strategy.
- Unoffendable, Brant Hansen. In this book Christian radio host and author Brant Hansen overturns the concept of righteous anger and proposes that not only does God want us to let go of our anger but also how much better our life will be when we do so.
Honorable mentions go to The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, which is a slow read but well worth the time, and White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity by Robert P. Jones, which I haven’t yet finished.
My favorite podcasts from 2021
- The Lana Blakely Podcast. This is the only podcast I have consistently listened to every episode of since it’s inception a few months ago. There is no particular topic to the podcast, instead stemming from the often deep thoughts of YouTuber Lana Blakely.
- The Weeds. This in-depth policy and politics podcast from Vox is my go to to keep me awake on late night drives home. Maybe I’m a bit of a nerd.
- Pivot. In this podcast from New York Magazine and the Vox Media Podcast Network, Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway share their thoughts on current events in tech, business, and politics.
Who I’ve been watching on YouTube
- Becki and Chris. I discovered this gem of a channel this year and have been loving their videos from filmmaking to travel. Even if you’re not a creator yourself, you should check out their Heading East travel series.
- Lizzie Peirce. Photographer and filmmaker Lizzie Peirce regularly releases videos on a variety of topics relevant to other creators: photoshoots, reviews, travel, and more.
- Peter McKinnon. A third photographer and filmmaker who really needs no introduction, Peter McKinnon has 5.6 million followers on YouTube, and while I’ve followed him for some time, I have particularly enjoyed his videos this year.
I realized while writing this that all my favorite YouTubers from the past year have a similar genre and aesthetic and are all from Canada…
Can I give an honorable mention to my own channel? I spent a lot of time playing back my videos to edit them, so much so that I can’t think of anyone else with educational content I’ve consistently watched.
Who I’ve been listening to
- Taylor Swift
- Imagine Dragons
- Billie Eilish
Honorable mentions go to Bastille, who are still my fav, and Blü Eyes, an incredible indie artist I discovered this year TikTok
Turning To the New Year
Statistics surrounding New Year’s resolutions vary greatly, but I think it’s safe to say most of us at the turn of the year are setting some sort of goal. Even if you don’t make any formal plans, there’s just something about the turn of the year that symbolizes new beginnings and prompts thoughts of how next year will be different. Sure, January 1 is just one day after December 31—it doesn’t even line up with the winter solstice, when the earth is tilted farthest from the sun, for complicated reasons involving competing holidays and Janus the god of doorways—but it feels significant.
Gods and doorways aside, I, like many people, tend to set some goals for the new year. Originally this meant selecting some resolutions that sounded nice, maybe writing them in a notebook, and broadly failing to complete any of them. But over the last two years the process has been a bit more complex and is, therefore, perhaps worth sharing.
Now, I want to be clear from the start that this methodology is not my own design. As I have previously mentioned, I began in 2020 using a worksheet created by Denys Zhadanov, the Vice President of Readdle, along with a team of volunteers, who were themselves inspired by the work of others, and as I am writing this that worksheet is still available for free from myway2020.com. Last year I converted that worksheet into a Notion template, which I have further improved the layout of for use this year. Thus it is only standing on the shoulders of giants that I am writing to you today.
The first step of effectively making plans for the next year is to evaluate the past year. Take time to question how you did in various aspects of your life and recall the moments you enjoyed the most. Think about how you succeeded and how you failed. What little things you enjoyed regularly and people you had good times with. Not only are these insights very therapeutic (and challenging at times) but they also are extremely valuable in creating New Year’s Resolutions. It’s only after I’ve evaluated last year that I begin to think about next, and when I reach that point creating goals for the entire year seems much less daunting. Some might be to continue something from last year, some to increase something I liked, and others to eliminate a bad habit.
I dare say a lot of resolutions fail because the person who made it just wasn’t that passionate about it. But if you’ve ever been asked what you’re passionate about and drawn a blank, you’ll understand just how difficult it is to really know your own passions. Chances are, though, that you’re already doing things you love, at least sometimes, or at the very least you know which current things you hate. Some of your goals for next year might be to try something entirely new, and that’s great, but you may find it’s not for you, so committing regularly engaging in this new activity might be doomed to failure from the start.
Effective goals aren’t necessarily about a complete change of lifestyle. Most of us don’t need a drastic overhaul. Instead, think about how you can fine tune the life you have to be just a bit better. If you really enjoyed something this year, plan on doing that type of thing again or more, and similarly plan to eliminate things you don’t like where you can.
If you do feel a need to completely change your lifestyle, remember to start slow and plan attainable goals to complete throughout the year, rather than changing everything on day one. Too much at once will likely be overwhelming and frustrating. Instead have a fresh small goal every two weeks or month that gets you where you want to be by the end.
How to Keep Your Goals
Historically I’m been quite bad at forming new habits, but I have learned several techniques I find helpful in actually keeping my goals long term.
1. Make them yours
Make sure that all the goals you set for the new year are things that you really want or need to do. There are countless things that society will tell us we should be doing in our lives, and it’s super easy to set goals for ourselves and then measure ourselves against things that we don’t really want.
For example, your coworker has a nicer car than you. You’re fine with your current car, but you set a goal of getting a new one. What you actually want, though, is something else, and that’s what you put your money towards. Then you feel bad about not saving more and driving your old car. Does anyone around you actually care that don’t have a fancy car? Probably not. Do you really want a fancy car (at least in this example)? No. So then why is that a goal?
2. Ensure they are attainable
It can fine and even good to set yourself one or two impossible goals for the year. Maybe you’ll be surprised and be able to accomplish them, maybe they’ll become goals for next year, or maybe you just laugh them off later. But don’t make all or even most of your goals impossible.
Balance your ideals with reality. Going to the gym every day might sound nice, but is that realistic? Probably not. Instead aim for something you’re likely to be able to achieve. You probably want to push yourself a little bit, but not to the point that you give up and certainly not to the point that you feel bad for not accomplishing something that you physically couldn’t have.
3. Start small and set specific steps
A huge failing of traditional New Year’s Resolutions is that they all begin in full force on January 1st. You hang the new calendar and boom: eating healthy, gym four days a week, meditating half an hour a day, reading a book each month, catching up with old friends, learning a language, and so on.
Humans aren’t really designed to start one new habit all at once, let alone several. But the year is 12 months long—365 days—so why do we pin it all on that single moment in time after we’ve stayed up late partying? In fact, January 1st maybe don’t start a single new goal. Get some sleep.
Don’t make your goals all being suddenly all at once, because that’s doomed from the start. Begin with a small portion of the goal, a first step, and ease in to it. Put some less urgent ones on the calendar to start on a few months.
5. Time for all your goals
A day has 24 hours. For most people 8 of those are spent sleeping and another 8 working. Of the remaining 8, some goes to necessary things like eating. There’s a decent chunk of time left, sure, but we do have to be wise about how we spend it and not overbook ourselves.
Think about the amount of time your goals are going to take, not just individually but also as a whole. Do you actually have time in your days for them? Are there things you want to stop doing to make the time available or do you need to eliminate a few goals?
Similarly to my last tip, this is all about making sure your goals are possible. If you’re trying to add hours of work to your week, as good as it may be, it’s just probably not going to be sustainable. You might be able to do it for a while, but then get burnt out, or you might just not be able to do it at all. Either way you end up worse off than when you started because you’re now tired and feeling bad about not accomplishing what you set out to.
6. Re-evaluate regularly
Once you have your goals in place, make sure that you schedule times in the future to revisit and re-evaluate them. A year is a long time. I’m pretty future oriented, but even I have difficulty making specific goals that far out.
Initially you’ll likely write goals with specific steps for the first few months of the year. As you do, create reminders to re-evaluate those goals once the specific steps have ended. At that point you can think about whether the goal is still a priority, since your situation might have changed, what new steps to take within that goal for the next few months are, and so forth.