It’s fashionable to make New Year’s resolutions.
It’s fashionable to be a resolution cynic.
It’s fashionable to be outspoken about a resolution as a means to be held accountable.
It’s fashionable to be quiet with a resolution as a means to protect yourself from ridicule if you fail.
Yes, there are enough people out there for all four of those things to be “in.”
I am firmly on the side of resolutions and people who make them because I like being associated with people who want to improve. The most crushing realization or reality I could face, would be that I am operating as an iPhone 2. Or worse yet, a Blackberry. Meaning that I have done nothing in a decade to improve how I function. I am an outdated model, configured for an optimized existence in a time that passed long ago. If I was 70, then OK, well, yeah maybe, I’m not looking to scout a 15-mile hike to mountain goat territory in August. But I do hope I’m crushing it for a 70-year old when I am that age.
A few years ago, my buddy introduced me to the concept of focus words. I know it sounds like some hip, fashionable thing from a self-help book, but it also seemed like a good way to focus on not just a number of animals killed, fish caught, hours in the gym or whatever measurable thing that may or may not be successful. It was a way to look for opportunities for growth.
My word was prioritize.
I looked for ways across my schedule, job and hobbies to prioritize the right things and felt that I did a better job over all of attacking the year by being efficient with my time.
Even with all there is to do in Alaska, it can still be difficult to do. Not everything is in season, and oftentimes the weather doesn’t cooperate. The motivation to prioritize can also wane by the time it’s actually time to do the thing you’d like to prioritize. That can be the problem with setting a goal to say, camp 31 nights during the year or fish 100 days. Chances are neither will start until warmth and daylight return and who knows what you’ll think of that number by then. By the time the year ends, it might be hard to even recall a single time in which the word that was supposed to be the focus, received any.
You’re supposed to choose a new word every year, but this is my fourth year on the same word. So in that way, I haven’t made a resolution since then because it seems like I’m still trying to be a practitioner. That’s another subtle thing I’ve added to my jargon. Rather than attempt, and fail, at the quest for mastery, view everything through the eyes of a practitioner. There is always more to learn. There is always a new experience to have. There is always room to improve.
I like that a lot.
After watching a documentary on one of the elite of the elite alpinists Marc-Andre Leclerc, I was taken by the fact that he did what he did, to do what he did. He did it for himself. He didn’t self-promote. He wasn’t a production. He prioritized the experience in a way that almost doesn’t seem possible and it was refreshing.
The difference between ability to post and opportunity to share is subtle, but important. Intent. Priorities.
I am not sure I will ever have to have another resolution because so much stems from the simple need to prioritize what’s most important or what brings value. Plus, as I said, I have to remind myself constantly to differentiate between wants and needs, things to worry about and things to let go.
• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.