According to some statistics I didn't fake myself, about 70% of all people abandon their New Year's resolutions already by the end of January. Which by my calculations, is today. It makes sense. Most of our resolutions are either unattainable or too generic. Things like "work out a lot, be healthy" or other vaguely ambitious goals are just too easy to break as they aren't specific enough.
I tried New Year's resolutions myself and always failed horribly. I think the problem was that I focused too much on certain things I WANT to do, but then life just happened and boom the year was over.
If that resonates at all, I might have something for you.
I now write an ANTI to-do list, which is kind of like a resolutions list, but more focused on things I want to cut out of my life. It's like calling myself out and building a system around my current state, rather than around some imaginary future version of me.
When I cut out the things I don't want, it makes room for the things I do want.
It also feels easier for me to focus on specific habits, patterns or thoughts, rather than having a foggy goal like "be healthy." For example, it feels more actionable to cut alcohol or sugar from my diet than to broadly "eat well." It's more specific, and it focuses on the negative part of my life I want to get rid of. In turn, I'm more healthy automatically.
Some of these points are more actionable, and some are just little learnings and reminders I want to focus on more in 2024.
I grew up in a fairly poor family and that's in my head all the time, even though I have more now. When I spend money on a nice camera or something else, I always start regretting it, even if I know I can afford it. I try to be extra careful because I fear being on welfare again.
I know it's a good thing to be careful with money, but this specific pattern of mine is bad because I'm internally punishing myself for no reason. I've worked for what I have now and I know what I can afford. To enjoy and make the most of life, I put certain rules in place for myself, and one of them is: Money spent on equipment that helps me create or experiences such as travel is NEVER wasted money. Another exception might be stuff I could consider as assets, or things that help me live a healthier life (such as sports equipment).
You might ask: Is your camera worth all that money? Yes, without question. It might be more expensive, but it helps me to create something meaningful to me. It may be not an asset in itself (as it will lose value over time) but the value I gain from using it for my work makes up for it 100x.
The same goes for travel or paying for experiences that will be with me for my entire life. But otherwise, I try to not waste money on useless stuff, things that just sit around and look nice. Less stuff, more creating.
This is a hard one. I wouldn't call myself jealous, but sometimes when I'm uninspired or unproductive I get jealous and angry at other people who have it figured out more than I do. The thing is, jealousy rarely makes you better or brings anything positive. Both professionally and especially privately, jealousy is the thing that ruins relationships.
It shouldn't hold me back from admiration for what other people do, but jealousy has absolutely no place in my life. I think there is a thin line between admiration and jealousy. It's easy to tip from one into the other without noticing it.
And as I'm writing this in 2024, I feel the need to put even more emphasis on this particular point because jealousy has never been easier in a world in which we're bombarded with the accomplishments of other people. We're constantly comparing ourselves online, if we like it or not. It takes a strong mindset and a degree of self-reflection and self awareness to understand how it happens and how we can avoid it.
As the cheesy saying goes: Compare yourself only with who you were yesterday.
And the other cheesy saying: Comparison is the thief of joy.
"You’re offended when you fear that it might be true." -@naval
Yes, some things in life are serious and not everything is always fun. But taking life too seriously and searching for negativity in everything isn't making my life better. And I'm saying this more for myself than anyone else, because you have all the right (and opportunities) to take as much as you want seriously.
But for me, seeing the world through such a dark and heavy filter doesn't do myself any favors. It sucks being angry, grumpy and miserable all the time. And quite frankly, there are millions of things today to be upset about. The list is endless and if you look at common discourse online, you know negativity is at the center of everything.
Even if things suck big time, I usually try to make fun and focus on the good things. Every time I get worked up about something, I try to stop and ask myself what concrete thing I can do about it myself right now. If I can think of something, I do it. If I can't, I try to focus on other productive thoughts. It's a simple choice that makes my life so much better. I choose not tp settle for the glass-half-full life.
As Marcus Aurelius already said: “You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
I know nothing. The moment you meet someone for the first time you know NOTHING about that person. Nothing about their past, their struggles or their childhood. We're horrible at mind-reading and assuming what the other person thinks or means, yet we still keep doing it. We like to put people into categories because it's easier for us to make sense of the world that way. It's biology and simple survival mechanics. Even if we think we're the smartest person in the world, making broad assumptions is usually the most unproductive way of thinking.
It doesn't mean there are no evil people in this world, and surely some people just want to see the world burn. But I strongly believe in always giving the benefit of the doubt. That means I try NOT to jump to conclusions and always give people a chance to clarify their behavior, even if other people have already made up their minds. Just reading the news, most people read only a headline online and let it decide what they believe for them.
We live in a world where we value feelings over facts, and while this seems very human, it's also extremely dangerous and may be counterproductive in many cases.
The older I get, the less I pretend to know things I don't actually know at all.
It's just impossible. I choose to get rid of one-sided relationships and toxic people in my life. I give them one or two chances and then I leave. I've spent years trying to be friends with certain people or wondered about "why don't they like me" until I found out this isn't about me, but about them. I don't run after people for too long. I move on and invest in the people who make my life better.
I learned that the older you get and the more "successful" or happy you are, the more people will hate you for that. Some people dislike happy people because they're jealous and miserable themselves. I'm sometimes that person myself. And that's okay, it's not my problem. Move on.
In Adlerian psychology (written by Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychotherapist) there's this concept of "The delegation of tasks" in which he describes how you can identify "life tasks" and assign them to either yourself or someone else. One of the ways to achieve happiness is understanding what is your task and what is someone else's task. If someone doesn't like you, it's simple: Whose task is this to figure out? In many cases, it's the other person's problem/task, not yours.
By removing unhealthy relationships from my life, I have more time and energy to focus on positive, healthy relationships. I understand there's a learning in hardships, but you don't have to fall in love with the endless hardship of a toxic relationship. Knowing where the line is... that's difficult, but once you do, everything changes for you.
I love making excuses because I'm a master procrastinator. The reasons I make excuses is due to many reasons, but mainly because of FOMO (Fear of Missing out) or because I'm just bad at taking risks that aren't necessarily calculated risks.
And that applies to a lot of things. Shutting down a project that's going nowhere, quitting your job or not leaving your hometown you hate so much. One of the tricks that helps me is usually to ask one simple question: "Will I regret quitting my job and taking this risk when I'm 60 years old?" Usually the answer is no. I might regret it in the short term, but in the long-term I'd probably regret more staying at my shitty full-time job than quitting it.
Adding perspective to my decision always helps me make a decision. It's hard to get our of our own heads sometimes, until you get that birds eye perspective.
I'm getting better at this myself. I used to always blame other people. I didn't tell them in their face, but I did it silently. I'd blame my boss for not promoting me, I'd blame my friends for not reaching out, I'd blame other people for making me feel miserable.
But in reality, it was rarely their fault. Blaming others is easy and if I think hard enough about it, I can ALWAYS find a reason to blame other people if I don't get what I want. It's easy to play the victim, I did it countless times myself. It's classic child mentality – if you don't get what you want, start crying and screaming loudly. Make sure your parents look like fucking idiots in the toy store for not getting you that Lego castle you believe you deserve so deeply.
In recent years, I learned that every time I silently blamed someone else, I could've just easily looked at myself and fixed it right there. The reason I didn't get a raise at my job was because I never asked. It goes back to Nr.4 in this list. It's easy to make assumptions, jump to conclusions and then blame someone else. It's also damn convenient.
I learned that if I feel something is unfair, I can openly and respectfully talk about it. Some things I fixed within hours where I was silently being grumpy about it for over a year.
Giving less fucks doesn't mean not caring about something. It means managing your household of energy to stay a relatively happy and useful human being. It means knowing that you have a limited amount of energy available, and how to dispense that energy.
The world will push and pull you in a thousand directions everyday. Other people will tell you what's important right now in your life, if you don't decide for yourself. By the end of the day, you'll be drained entirely without having achieved anything.
I try to care less and focus more on using my energy wisely. To give less fucks about things I can't control. Focus on the things I can control. I may not be able to control the waves, but I can be the captain of my own boat. Or give even less fucks, and ride a surfboard.
Here's a quote that's fitting (I know I've shared it before):
I try to remind myself of this every single day. It's important to have strong opinions and educate yourself as much as possible. But it is as important to not make your opinions a fact that you can't stand up for. People who know me know that I have strong opinions, but they also know that the moment they give a good counter-argument, I'm the first one to give up my opinions and change my mind. It's not always like this, but I try.
I believe very strongly in this attitude. Have opinions, share them, make yourself heard. But be open to challenge your own viewpoints. Strong opinions, loosely held. It means that you have to remove the ego. Some of the biggest thinkers and wisest people in history have followed this principle.
This quote by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon brings it to the point:
“Be stubborn on vision, flexible on details."
I possibly got this from my hippie mother, but it feels even more relevant today in the age of.... the internet?
I try my best to not think in consensus terms. I try my best to avoid aligning my thinking with any one person or any one group. In my eyes, it's lazy thinking. I'm not sure if it has always been like this, or if the internet has just exposed this behavior, but I notice that many people think very simply based on their group attachment. They select 5-10 stickers or badges, put them on their chest and speak in slogans for the rest of their life.
Very few people really have their own opinion. Very often, their opinion is just the opinion of someone else. Perfectly prepared, warmed up and served medium well.
I'm not above this, and I'd argue not many people are. All our opinions are shaped by other peoples' opinion. It's how this all works. The question is just, how many opinions do I require to shape mine?
Did I just take a ready-made opinion based on zero insight or experience? Or did I come up with my own unique point of view made of dozens, of not hundred of references combined with my own experience and lens on life? That's a question I ask myself. I want to be confident to have my own opinion. It doesn't need to be the popular opinion, it doesn't need to be the trendy one either... but I want it to be mine in a way in which I can articulate the WHY — Especially to myself.
I wish you all a wonderful new year! If you enjoyed this article, feel free to forward it to your friends, that's what it is made for.