New Years’ Resolutions

This year I made a handful of resolutions. I made mine in February. I have a few guidelines I follow when I make mine:

  1. Make sure they are realistic. Nothing defeats more than setting goals you know you won’t reach.
  2. Make sure they are something you really want. So often I find myself making resolutions that seem like something I should want rather than what I actually want. In the end, I just won’t work for something I don’t actually want.
  3. They’re resolutions, man, make them at least a bit of a stretch.
  4. Don’t share them broadly. Why? Because I don’t like to. Most years, if you ask me if I’ve made any resolutions. I will say yes and share that I plan to “look better this year” but I’ll make sure that you know that I have no intentions of doing anything to make that a reality. I just plan to “look better, you know, by being better looking”. Generally, that halts the conversation appropriately.
That said, I will share the resolution from last year that has me thinking. Don’t judge me for my resolution. I know there are a lot of you who read a ton. I don’t read nearly as much as I should. I would like to read more. That’s not true. Truly, I would like to have the information from more books given to me without having spent all that time reading. I don’t find the great pleasure in reading that others find (much like I find little of the same delight others get in exercise). Worse yet, I buy a good number of books that I fully intend to read. I begin most of them, but finish very, very few. In fact, in 2011, I’m not sure I finished a single book.

That said, I made a simple resolution in 2012: “finish 6 books”. I went through my library and found 8 contenders. I wrote them down in Evernote. I decided to try to read one a month.

By July, I had completed 8 books. Now, I’ve completed 14 books. Some of them were ambitious including Tim Keller’s Bonhoeffer (a huge, but excellent book).

These results lead me to ask 2 important questions about New Years Resolutions:

  1. If I decide to set a new resolution to read books, should I base it on last year’s resolution or last year’s results? Should I resolve to read 8 books (an increase on the 6 I decided to read last year) or should I resolve to read more than last year at 15? Should I instead split the difference and resolve to read 12?
  2. I don’t like to fail. In fact I like to win. I’d prefer not to compete than to enter into a competition I know I’ll lose. With that in mind, I find myself trying to game the system. I have already set aside about 12 books that I’d like to complete next year. Is it cheating if I start to read them in 2012 and count them toward my 2013 resolutions?

So, what do you think ?