I re-read my entire notebook for this year. I suppose I should call it a journal or a diary, but it’s less about logging my life and more about logging my notes. Semantics aside, I highly recommend keeping a journal. As Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Re-reading the notebook, which began in mid-December of 2007, allowed me to enter a state of hyper-self-awareness. I know who I am, and I know where I’ve been.
It was interesting seeing how I was an emotional wreck during April and then pulled myself out of it through asserting my agency, or focusing on what I could control.
The main theme of 2008 was “positivity.” I forced myself to focus on the positive rather than the negative. If I wanted to improve myself, I had to focus on what I did well, rather than what I did wrong. In addition, if problems arose, I had to force myself to ask, “What’s the solution?” Besides “positivity,” the other key phrase I kept seeing pop up was “solution-oriented.” Because of my focus on these related concepts, I believe I am now a better person than I was at the beginning of 2008. In fact, reading through the entries, the me of January 2008 seems like a completely different person. This is akin to reading weblog entries from several years ago; my mind used to work in a completely different fashion. My worldview at the end of the year is way different. I suppose this isn’t unsurprising for a 21 year old to change like that, but I like this version of myself way better.
I know that being an optimist does not come naturally to me. I was not born an optimist, and I was rather pessimistic at the beginning of 2007 (worried about war with Iran). I thought it would be a bad year. I was more positive at the beginning of 2008, but now the habit of positivity has been strengthened.
I learned something about “habit.” I used to throw the word around, but I didn’t really know what it meant. A habit is something that requires active management. It’s not that I have this permanent habit of positivity. I have to recommit to being a positive, solution-oriented person each and every day.
One of my resolutions was to read at least 50 books on the year. I accomplished that. I’ll give you all the list later. I’m proud of the reading that I’ve done, mostly because I’ve learned a lot from the books I’ve read. They’ve helped improve my life and my life-philosophy.
I wanted to accomplish a lot for 2008, whatever that means. I wanted concrete achievements. I once again slipped with The Chalkboard Manifesto. I mean, I updated way more consistently and started the blog, but I don’t have any profits or merchandise. It’s disappointing, but I won’t dwell on it.
Honestly, I’d much rather have what I do now than a little extra cash or popularity. I don’t really know how to explain what this “it” is. It’s a whole different way of thinking. It’s my different patterns of thought. It’s my more confident demeanor. It’s my optimism. It’s my commitment to self-improvement. It took a year to build. It took a year of great gains and big back-slides. It took a year of tiny steps backward and tiny steps forward. The end result was a revolution.
I’ll be busy over the next few days, so I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to write what I want to do for 2009. So I’m just going to write what I can now.
For some reason, I like to name my years. I’m not quite sure when this started. Some years it’s more helpful than others. For 2009, I’m christening it the Year of Discipline. I will develop an evolving list of “Iron Laws,” which I will follow in order to make myself a more virtuous person. My conception of “virtue” extends beyond ethics. I’m going to make myself a more excellent human being. I am committed to being a better, more disciplined person by the end of the year.
I do have concerns about being too robotic. But this year, I want to make a point to take myself a little more seriously than normal. A little less of the absurd attitude. In writing, it’s better to learn and master the rules before you begin breaking them. With ethical precepts, you should first have a good moral compass before you break with certain ethical commands for a greater good. This year I err on the side of discipline rather than freedom.
The initial list will be called the “Iron Laws.” This is meant to evoke an image of them being unyielding and rigid. I’m kind of following Gracian’s idea to “let your own dictates be stricter than the precepts of any law” (aphorism 6). I’ll take this metaphor a little futher. The laws are more like swords than chains. As I smash these laws up against reality, they will chip and some will break. So although there will be discipline, I’ll still be testing and these “laws” will evolve through time — hey, kind of like real laws. The point, at first, is just to get a list started. You can’t edit what you don’t have written down, after all.
I’m also considering a list of “exercises.” I want to improve my writing and speech-making. I’ll have to commit to daily/weekly activities in order to get the necessary practice time.
I also have two resolutions which I shall not share with anyone, at this point in time.
Today is not the revolution. In fact, I won’t be able to point to a bloody day of revolution. It’ll be like 2008 with the leaps forward and backward slides. But by the end of the year, I will be a completely different person than the one who is currently writing this entry. I will be more disciplined and more virtuous, while retaining my positivity.