Hard things

January 21, 2019   

Hard things

With the new year comes new resolutions.

I had three last year: Get a new apartment, get a new job, and lose weight.

I’m typing this from my new, lovely (if a tad drafty) apartment. I’m less than a year into my new job and I just heard I’ve earned a promotion. I weighed in today at fully 45 pounds less than I weighed this time a year ago (a record low for me, and a stone’s throw from no longer being overweight).

My resolutions last year went well. That made me pretty intimidated for this year’s.

I’ve been chewing on goals for 2019 for weeks. They are mostly centered on technical expertise or domain knowledge - my field is pretty competitive, and I often feel behind. (I like to say I’m not even the best Zachary Lip* in this field.) About a week ago, I found myself thinking I could resolve my imposter syndrome if I just did something hard in this field.

did something hard

I paused.

My mind went back to this lovely diagram a friend shared for teacher’s language with small children. The relevant bit: Instead of saying something isn’t hard, remind the student they can do hard things.

If you asked me today about my goals from last year, I’d tell you they were easy. Of course I found a big, cheap apartment with a renovated kitchen - people move all the time. Yeah I found a great new job, but any change would have been good. I know I lost a lot of weight, but I had a lot of weight to lose.

I think if I set a goal for “doing hard things,” I’ll chalk up whatever I accomplish as actually easy; leaving my goal of tackling something hard incomplete. *Sure I got a boulder up the hill, but could I get a bigger one up it?*

Instead - and if you can’t tell by now, I think this part is the clever bit - I am setting my goals based on what I want to be easy next year. Let’s look at some examples. - Moving intimidated the hell out of me. I got through it, moved to a charming, unexplored part of my neighborhood, and walk about a mile more per day as a result. I’m not scared of moving again; though I wouldn’t call it easy, I could do it again without much worry.

  • Changing jobs scared me. I came to Chicago for my first job out of college. Leaving that job also meant leaving my social circle in the city. I pulled the plug anyway, and I’ve still kept in touch with plenty of former co-workers. My social life and work-life balance have never been better, so the transition was successful beyond just career progression.

  • Prior to last year, I viewed my weight as something I had little control over. I understood that counting calories worked in theory, but it sounded like too much work. I was wrong on both counts: It works in theory and practice, and it’s not much work at all (dare I say, it’s even a little fun).

Back to resolutions.

I think “What do you want to do this year?” is a quotidian question people don’t take seriously. I think a better question is “What’s something you think is hard now that you want to find easy by next year?” (At least, it’s better for me.)

I have some in mind - including writing more.

I’ll be back soon.



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