It’s a new year, time to start breaking resolutions, or not

It’s a new year and if you’re like most resolution-setters you’ve got some lofty set of goals that will survive perhaps to February 22nd and then be broken. But what if that didn’t have to happen? What if we could use our app wizardry and mastery of process flow in understanding failure and factor that in?

TL;DR – Paul uses comic book, train, and file transfer protocol metaphors to give unsolicited sketchy advice on self improvement, asks you for your advice in the comments.

What if instead of fighting old habits and falling into the same traps people fall into, you changed the goals/rewards/punishment system? What if as opposed to one goal for the year you broke this down like a file in bittorrent into a whole slew of little goals, each with its own hash mark/completion? What if you moved the goals when you didn’t complete them as opposed to failing yourself?

Oh, I’m not particularly interested in New Year’s resolutions as a note, this just seemed like a good time to post it as I’ve been working on this for a couple of years trying to relive my cognitive psychology major days and achieve some goals now that the little baby lumps can walk.

Identify the goal (resolution)

Your first thing is figuring out what you want. Most popular outcomes for a new year seem to involve purchasing a gym membership and quickly becoming disenchanted with waiting to get on an elliptical or sit in a pool of someone else’s sweat.

Oh hey, you’re at the gym – was the goal to become healthy or lose weight? If it’s either, pick some metrics eg: I want to lose 20 pounds, I want to be able to jog, I just want to walk up a flight of stairs and be able to talk to someone afterward.

If it’s educational, identify the desired outcome (eg: learn to code so you can understand how a cross site scripting bug and an XML caused Paul to scream at support and shut down the forums).

Identify specifics: not “get fit” – make it reasonable such as the ability to pick up three children and walk, or kayaking until a 5yo full of cake passes out.

She is alive.

Write all of this down, don’t keep it in your head. Put it where you can access it at all times. Put all the little steps in and don’t be afraid if you accomplish a step and then backslide. The step is there, you stepped on it once, step on it again, mark it undone and work at it again.

Identify the enemy to your goals

For me, the greatest enemy to my goals tends to be complete lack of time, lack of energy (sleep issues,) and a complete lack of places to go (or interest,) when I do have time.

So yeah, I am mostly the enemy of my goals. I’m quite capable of reasonably telling myself that I am either capable or not capable of something. What I’m not particularly good at is cheerleading myself on and I have an amazing ability to lose interest in something if it happens to involve self improvement.

I also have the fat retaining ability of a ziplock bag hanging underneath an overflowing drip pan on a propane grill. That doesn’t help.

I am the night, I am vengeance, I am chunky, own it.

Your enemy may be Batman, in which case you should just give up because you’re not going to beat him. You might break the bat, but he’ll be back.

Oh yeah, also remember depression is not boo hoo I’m sad, it’s “meh, what’s another day? What can I really accomplish? maybe I’ll watch another episode of The Great British Bake Off on Netflix. Maybe I’ll refresh Facebook for the umpteenth time.” etc. Depression is inaction, failure, overwhelming. You might have it and it might be easily fixable.

No plan survives contact with the enemy

The problem with setting one goal is that you’re going to miss it at some point. We generally do resolutions all or nothing, train barreling down a track. One derailment and fuck it, it’s Batman.

Breaking down a goal into many many different things means when you hit a speedbump, it’s just that.

If your goal is to read more and you hit a crappy book, the solution is not to plow through in pain in order to meet your goal (looking at you Wheel of Time books 5-11,) it’s time to modify that “read more.” into “read more Batman” or something. Keep the goal, modify the sections.

Linearity barely works in file transfers

Linearity is going from A to Z one letter at a time. Good for reading, good for some people who SQUIRREL! what… oh here we go… stacking everything dependant on a previous result will derail you.

Back in the day we had XModem and ZModem. With XModem if something went wrong, chances were you didn’t get your file (goal.) With ZModem we had a significantly better transfer, but still you could lose your file because so much depended on maintaining a connection, or the BBS staying up (that’s old for “server” kids,) or your parents not picking up the phone in the other room and yelling that they needed it.

While things got better with the Internet, larger file sizes tended to come with more broken downloads. I don’t know how many 2gb files crapped out at 1.8gb or so. Did I let that stop me from getting a new ROM for my phone? Actually yes. Crappy hosting derailed me a few times.

So let’s look at the goal in terms of Bittorrent. I’ve taken this file (goal,) and there are several places that have all or part of it (gyms, parks, cleaning up your overgrown backyard, etc). The goal doesn’t have to be completed in only one place.

An example of that might be going to the gym for some exercise, running in a park, strength training at a hoarder’s house carrying bags of 1980’s newspapers out, etc. Basically making your goal achievable in multiple locations.

A file/goal that can only be achieved in one server/location is an easy to derail. Plan your goals with multiple input/output streams.

Maybe stop cheering for them?

For some people cheerleading is the fastest way to demoralize them. This, in protocol terms, is a situation in which the transfer has stalled, a corrupt block hit, and a person who only wants the best for you cheering you on as you hit that bad block over and over again.

Rather than focusing on the corrupt block until the number of retries is expended, realize it’s corrupt / unachievable at the moment and set goals to achieve it in another fashion.

But yeah, cheering someone on who’s banging their head against the wall doesn’t help. Suggesting they move five steps to the right and open the door helps.

Hit another server/peer, change block size, rerequest blocks around the bad one from the servers you can reach. OK Team, the wall’s too high, let’s work on a shorter one right now until you can blow through it and then we’ll come back to this! I know you can do it… eventually!

Rewards

I can’t have X until Y happens… oh, that linearity thing again. That working for you? Eyes on the prize work when you get derailed?

But obviously you don’t want to reward without result. So what do you do? Good question, I don’t have an answer. Maybe you do.

Stop reading, start quitting

Stopping something is potentially harder than starting something. There’s an area of the brain that basically is you on autocomplete. When you’re stressed you go back to habits that brought you out of stress at one point before.

There’s a saying I’ve heard if you want to like a food you need to eat it a few times in good situation. You’re not going to pick up a love of brussel sprouts at your best friend’s funeral, and you’re not going to like a cosmetic change to a launcher that you didn’t need to update but you did anyway.

The idea is when you want that bad habit, attempt to replace it. When you want to bitch about changes to your favorite app because it’s not responding the way it used to, maybe look at it and see why they’re doing it. I mean sometimes they’re dumbasses, but usually there’s a reason.

A bad habit like smoking is a stress-induced reward on autocomplete, try and change it to brussel sprouts at your worst enemy’s funeral.


Find yours

Find your motivation, be real with it, define your goals where you can read them, see them, and smell them, break them into little parts that can be accomplished, and work toward them. Personally I’m all for a Google Docs page I can keep handy, but that’s me.

Plan for failure in the micro, you will get a corrupted block, but you’ll get the corrected one at some point.

Are you Batman? Probably not. That’s ok.

Oh yeah, get some apps to metric stuff

I like Google Fit, it’s free. I used to also use Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal.

What’s your method?

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts