My guess is if the Buddha did New Years’ Resolutions, the Four Noble Truths would’ve looked like this:
1. In life there is time-wasting
2. The origin of time-wasting is unconsciousness
3. To stop being unconscious you must know what you want and what you don’t want (duh!)
4. To know what you want and what you don’t want, walk the noble twelvefold path:
- Focus on the main thing. If you don’t really know what the main thing is, first identify what you don’t want. From there, finding what you do want is a mere hop over the brain synapses. But be sure it’s the real goal. For instance, publishing a book to be read by a hundred thousand people isn’t the goal: affecting them is. Differentiate and conquer.
- Know and use your resources. They’re everything from inquisitively helpful friends to inquisitively helpful coaches (in case you have more cash than friends) to books like Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More (in case you lack both)—and that’s just to get started. Whenever there’s a stuck point, ask, “What resources could I call upon to bypass this?”
- Know why you want it. Regularly connecting emotionally with the reasons for doing something keeps it from fading into the background of distractions. If I want to build the 7 best pearl-studded catamarans in the world with a pink monkey logo, I need to review from time to time: how the hell does that reflect who I am? Does that kind of stuff really make me better? Why in the world does it fulfill a sense of purpose? What could it possibly do for others as well as for me?
- Sleep well. If you don’t have high energy, guess what? Vegging out in front of the tube is going to win out every time you think of picking up your goal. Foremost in maintaining high energy is the sleep habit. Night owls, don’t shoot me—I’m just the messenger. But Ayurvedic medicine (and now endocrinology) says that when we sleep is just as important of how long we sleep. The when is from before 10 p.m. to before 6 a.m. The how long varies from person to person and maybe from season to season. 7.5 hours is about the right time for some; others range from 5 to 9 hours. Experiment till you awaken feeling rested and refreshed daily.
- Exercise regularly. I know I’m sounding like your mom (assuming she exercises—mine didn’t!) but this is the second part of maintaining high energy. Keep it simple: exercise is whatever you enjoy doing (‘cause otherwise your motivation will vanish) on a regular enough basis that makes your body feel good.
- Be aware of how you sit and how breathe. Why is this important? Because as any yoga teacher (me) will tell you, if you sit for a long time slouching and breathing shallow, the high-energy benefits of good sleep and good exercise disappear quickly. If you can’t remember to do it, get a kitchen timer (or one of those programs that freeze your computer at a set time) and take a five minute break every 15 minutes. Yes, your productivity will go down the drain, but your productivity elsewhere will skyrocket. Folding that laundry? 5 minutes. Emptying the dishwasher? 5 minutes. Taking out the recycling? 5 minutes. Think of the possibilities!
- Develop a drinking habit. No, no—not that kind of drinking habit. I mean the studies that say drink 8 glasses of water a day—you know, the ones everybody quotes and nobody follows? Forget about them. Drink a gallon of water a day (that’s about 4 liters for you metrically inclined), and watch your skin glow, your lips never dry out, and your innards work with the regularity of a Swiss watch. How can you possibly down a gallon a day? 1 quart (liter) upon waking up, 1 quart (liter) straddling breakfast, 1 quart (liter) sipped throughout the morning, 1 quart (liter) sipped throughout the afternoon. Stop then, otherwise you’ll be up all night emulating mythological figures in European water fountains.
- Eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates. Preferably prepared by you, so you know all the ingredients and make them good. If you prepare everything ahead of time, when you’re hungry you can reach for something pre-made, tasty and nutritious. If this sounds like blah blah blah, think of the freedom it gives you to focus on your goal. (Unless your goal is eating better. Don’t eat twice in that case.)
- Make your surroundings beautiful. We’re not talking Feng Shui here. Just harmonious, which means your main goal won’t get diluted by the stacks of crap all over the place, or the further crap you packed away in overstuffed closets. Think of it this way: if you run the hundred-yard dash against people running the hundred-yard hurdles, don’t you think you’ve got quite the advantage? Simplicity, harmony, beauty are the means to remove the hurdles on the way to the finish line of The Important.
- Make sure you do things regularly that make you happy. What do you do to keep yourself happy? Hike an urban
Grand Canyon? Partake in ballet in your gym socks? Be a mystery shopper at toy stores? Groom camels? Sweat between the linens? Engage in recreational baptism? Welcome neural make-believe? Stare at book-bound pictures? Surround yourself with shouting kids in exciting, gaudy places? Whatever it takes, your emotional environment is like a garden that needs frequent watering, ‘cause if you ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Which begs two corollaries: 1. Fill your life with people who make you happy. And 2. Get rid of those who don’t make you happy. There. That was easy.
- Have daily time for introspection. God knows we wouldn’t want to call it meditation, right? Because you “don’t know” how to meditate, or it doesn’t sound “fun.” So call it reflecting, or journaling, or being still. Most people are wiser than we give them credit for. Here’s our chance to tap into that wisdom (20-30 minutes a day) that will pay handsome dividends in the achieving our goals department.
- Draw up a list of your distractions. It doesn’t matter if I pick the right goal, exercise and sleep well and do all the things that make me happy: if my life is buried under internet, environmental or consumerist distractions I’m not going to accomplish diddly-squat. A brutally honest list of my time leaks helps me become conscious of the shape of my time-wasting. That list would have to include all those so-called news items begging to be clicked on when I check my email, or all the crap I bought on- and offline only to realize I didn’t need it, or whatever other garden-variety addictions sap my time. And let’s not even get started about social media. Hey, click on the “recommend this” so your Facebook friends can read it. :-)
All right, so maybe the Buddha wouldn’t have said any of the above things (he’s more of a “Do a little and accomplish a lot; do nothing and accomplish everything” kind of guy), but while we’re on our way to those lofty heights, why not use something as ridiculous as new years’ resolutions (or our current forgetfulness of them) to get us farther along our path?