Resolve to Plan

New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Discipline is hard. People yield to temptations. Resolving in abstractions—get fit, watch less TV, be a better person, etc.—is a terrible idea.

Changing specific habits, by contrast, can work. (Interestingly, evidence of habit or routine practice is usually admissible in courts to prove that a person has acted in conformity therewith.1 This is not true of character evidence and traits.2 There’s always a sense in which habit is more concrete than character.)

But even that is tricky. Most of us are aware of our shortcomings and flaws before we decide to change them. Where did they come from? Why did they persist for so long?

This is why I make plans instead of resolutions. My flaws are probably with me for good. I’m too argumentative. I’m horrible at staying in touch with old friends. There are plenty more. For the most part, though, I already behave like I want to. Being fit is important to me, so I’m fit. Eating clean is important to me, so I do. Work-family harmony is important to me, so I try to attain it. But I haven’t yet achieved much of what I want to achieve… not even close.

Whether one should publicly share his plans is an open question. Patri suggests this can be counterproductive. Others agree. Then again, Wiseman found that public accountability helps, which is the standard intuition. We’ll call it a wash. Since my bias is to share, here are some of my plans for 2013:

  • Keep working on my startup and do what I can to make it a great business.
  • Take a certain side project of mine from concept to fruition. Details forthcoming. But it will basically consume all free time until sometime in Q2.
  • Follow Balaji’s CS184: Startup Engineering MOOC and learn some of these engineering skills. (Judicata is sponsoring a prize for best law app.)
  • Run a sub 5-minute mile. (I’d guess that I’m around 5:30 right now.)
  • Do a sub 4-minute Fran. (My PR is 4:30. Here is what Fran looks like in 2:29).

I hope everybody reading has a great year. Go and do awesome things!

  1. See, e.g., Fed. R. Evid. 406

  2. See, e.g., Fed. R. Evid. 404