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New year's resolutions: Things worth considering for next year

5 Post author: Elo 07 December 2015 12:09AM

The beginning of the new year is a natural Schelling Point and swiftly approaching. With that in mind I have created a handy go-to list of things worth considering for next year.

Alongside this process; another thing you might like to do is conduct a review of this year, confirming your progress on major goals; double checking that you are on track.  and conduct any last-minute summaries of potential failures or learning-cases.

This list is designed to be used for imagination, opportunity, and potential planning purposes.  If you find yourself having the feelings of (disappointment, failure, fear, regret, burdens, guilt and others) reconsider looking at this list and instead do something that will not lead to negative feelings about the future.  If you are not getting something positive out of doing this exercise, don't.  That's a silly idea.  I am banking on the fact that it will be more helpful than not; for most people.  If you are in the category of people that it does not help - I am sorry; I assume you know your priorities and are working on them as reasonably effectively as possible - good luck with that task.

This list is going to look a bit like my List of common human goals because it was written concurrenlty with the ideas listed there (and by the same person).

You might want a pen and paper; and 10 minutes to go through this list and consider what things you want to do over the next year that fall into these categories.  This time is not for you to plan out an entire year, but something of a chance to consider the playing field of "a year of time".  After you have a list of things you want to do; there are lots of things you can do with them.  i.e. time planning, research, goal factoring, task-generating.

without further ado; the list:

1. things I might want to study or learn next year

Often people like learning.  Are you thinking of higher level study?  Or keen to upskill?  Thinking of picking up a textbook (our list of best textbooks on every subject) on a topic.  Or joining a learning group for a skill

2. life goals I would like to have completed by next year

Do you already have a list of life goals?  Should you review them and do you want to particularly work on one over the next year?  Is something overdue?  Is there something you have been putting off starting?

3. health goals

Are there health targets that you let get away from you this year?  Are you looking to set future health targets?  Start new habits for the year?  beeminder suggests setting actionable goals as beeminding tasks, i.e. "eat carrots today" rather than targets "lose 1kg this month".

4. savings I want to achieve by next year.

Do you want to save money towards something?  You need a budget has a free course on getting ahead of the paycheck cycle, pocketbook can also help you manage your money.  The best advice seems to be to open a savings account and initiate automatic transactions each week of $n.  After several weeks (provided you don't pull money out) you will have accrued several*n dollars of savings.  (relevant to people who have a tendency to spend any money in their account at any given time.  It's a bit harder to spend money not in your spending-account) In any case; having savings and putting it towards owning a passive income stream is a good goal to have or consider getting in on.

This post may also be of use.

5. job/earning goals

Are you planning to get a new job?  Hoping to get a raise?  transfer to a new department?  work less hours?  work more hours?  land a few big gigs? While I can't tell you what is worthwhile; it's worth knowing that in the process of interviewing for a new job - you should ask for more pay.  for that 5-10 uncomfortable minutes of your life (asking for a raise) you have the potential to earn $5-10 thousand dollars more (or more) for the exact same work.

6. relationship goals + family goals

Married; Kids; Poly; single->not transition; break-up? Divorce? moving away from your parents?  Getting better Friends?  Thanking your current friends for being so awesome?  Doing something different to previously - now is the chance to give it a few minutes thought.  There's never a good time to stage a break-up but also living in a bad state of affairs is also not a good thing to prolong.  (Disclaimer: before quitting a relationship; first improve communication, if needed contact a professional counsellor)

About families and friends - A lot of people feel like their family holds a stronger bond than their friends by default.  For an excellent family that is supportive in your darkest hour that is an excellent situation to be in.  However for a burdensome family that drags you down; often it can be hard to get away.  In contrast to friends; where good ones can be better than family and bad ones can be walked away from.  Specifically what's worth considering is that friends OR family can be a result of how you choose to treat them.  in the sense that if you have a preference that your friends be stronger than the strongest family ties then you can carry that into reality and achieve friendships to the envy of most families, and the same goes for a strong supportive family.  Your choice of what shape of reality you want to make for yourself will influence (on some levels) what sort of mess you get yourself into, and what sort of support network you have around.  Make that consideration over the next year of what sort of friendships and families you want to make for yourself and keep for yourself.

7. lifestyle goals

Start exercising daily (do you even lift)? Quitting smoking?  Do you go clubbing too often?  maybe you want to get out more? Addicted to curry puffs?  Hate hanging out with that group of friends?  Don't like going to pub trivia but do it anyway?  Too many doughnuts?  Go hiking?  Thinking of trying out a new hobby? holding out for "the right time". take that leap, sign up for a class.  Now is the time to make lifestyle changes.  (fair warning: most new year's resolutions fail, look into SMART goals)

8. holiday goals/ travelling goals

looking at doing a month-long holiday?  Visiting someone in another place?  Maybe consider planning from now.  Studies have shown that anticipation and putting energy towards planning positive things leads to happiness (in the journey) the ability to look forward to your next holiday is going to have positive impacts on the way you live.

9. donations 

Have you had intention to make donations but haven't made the plunge?  Maybe put some thought into how much you might like to donate and when/where to?  Many LW'ers are also EA's and have interests in motivated and purposeful giving for maximising possible outcomes.  This could be an opportunity to join the group of EA's that are actively giving.

10. volunteering

Have you always wanted to volunteer but never looked into it?  Maybe next year is the year to try.  Put some research in and find a group in need of volunteers.  Volunteering has the potential to give you a lot of positive feelings as well as a sense of community; being part of something bigger, and more.

You could stop here but there are a few more.  Out of the more general List of common human goals comes the following list of other areas to consider.  They are shorter in description and left open to imagination than those above.

11. Revenge

Is next year your chance to exact revenge on your foes?

12. Virtual reality success

Is next year the chance to harvest your gemstones?

13. Addiction

Is next year the year to get addicted (to something healthy or good for you, like exercise), or un-addicted (to something unhealthy for you)?

14. Ambassador 

Are there things you want to do next year which will leave you as a representative of a group?  Is there a way to push that forward?  Or better prepare for that event?

15. Help others?

Do you know how you might go about helping others next year?

16. Keeping up with the joneses

Are you competing with anyone?  Is there something you are likely to need to prepare for throught the year?

17. Feedback

Are you looking for feedback from others?  Are you looking to give feedback to others?  Is this the year for new feedback?

18. Influence

Do you want to influence the public?

19. fame

Do you want to achieve some level of fame?  We live in a realm of the internet!  You wouldn't believe how easy that is these days...

20. being part of something greater

Joining a movement?  Helping to create a revolution?  This could be the year...

21. Improve the tools available

As scientists we stand on the shoulders of the knowledge before us in order to grow.  We need sharp tools to make accurate cuts and finely tuned instruments to make exact measurements.  Can you help the world by pushing that requirement forward?

22. create something new

Is there something new that you want to do; is next year appropriate for doing it?

23. Break a record

Have your eye on a record?  How are you going to make it happen?

24. free yourself of your shackles

Are there things holding you back or tying you down?  Can you release those burdens?

25. experience

hoping to have a new experience, can you make it happen with thinking about it in advance?

26. Art

Want to have developed a creation?  Can you put wheels into motion?

27. Spirituality

Anything from a religion based spiritual appreciation to a general appreciation of the universe.  Revel in the "merely real" of our universe.

28. community

Looking to make a community, looking to be part of an existing community.  Looking to start a lesswrong branch?  Do it!


about 2.5 hours of writing plus feedback from the https://complice.co/room/lesswrong room and the Slack channel

If you are looking for some common ways to work on these possible goals?  That sounds like a great title for the next post in a matching series (one I have not written yet).  If you want to be a munchkin and start compiling thoughts on the idea, feel free to send me a message with a link to a google doc, otherwise you might have to wait.  This post was written out of necessity for the new-year, and wasn't on my to-do list so the next one might take time to create.

Feel free to comment on goals; plans; progress or post your plans for the next year below.

If you can see improvements to this post - don't be afraid to mention them!

To see more posts I have written see my Table of contents

Comments (41)

Comment author: [deleted] 07 December 2015 04:49:04AM 4 points [-]

I have a lot of goals that are in constant flux, but I've decided on one thing I want. I want a community. Honestly, I'm terrified that I might have to put it together. My area is not tiny, but it's not large enough to have made the rationalist radar yet. There's a humanist group, some atheist groups, and a "free thinkers club" that seems wholly unpleasant. I've spoken with some members, and it seems to be made up of the same debate-club "intellectuals" that skeeved me out in high school. I'm naturally group-averse. I'm on the autism spectrum; while I can pass as sociable, that ceases once I go off-script. Community building is not natural or pleasant to me, but if I want a group that I can trust to share some of my values, I might have to proselytize.

By proselytize, I don't mean using cognitive tricks. I wouldn't be good at that anyway. I just mean, show up to those programming groups that I keep meaning to go to. Showing them some rationality materials, and seeing if anyone is interested in chatting about it. That's all I need, really. People willing to engage without resorting to status contests. People who can support each other, optimize together.

I have no idea how to go about it when there's not a huge rationalist readership in the area. I'm scared, and it'll have to wait until summer anyways. But that's my goal.

Comment author: Elo 08 December 2015 11:24:07PM 2 points [-]

consider visiting local universities as a place to find people of interest in reasoning-type and thinking-type skills and ideas.

Other than that you have already named a few good places to start.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 December 2015 01:31:40AM 1 point [-]

We do have a few colleges. I also work with a lot of engineering types who might be interested.

Comment author: Calien 14 December 2015 11:18:37AM 1 point [-]

Some things that may or may not be obvious:

There may well be a few rationalists in your area you don't know about, who would likely turn up to a meetup if you announced one on LessWrong. I fit that description when some random people I'd never met started a regular meetup in my city. (A second, borderline case: The guy in my math tutorial who noticed I was reading Thinking Fast and Slow, turned out to read LessWrong and HPMOR, and who I mentioned the local meetups to and dragged along.)

If there's an established group in a nearish area, such that you're not in the area but might travel out there occasionally, I'd recommend checking it out. It's not the same as being able to hang out in meatspace more frequently, but is still awesome. See: Australia, Europe.

At the Australian camp, one of our attendees ended up coming through putting his name on the HPMOR wrap party site, a couple of months before, and someone making contact with him. So people interested in HPMOR would be a good bet, if you can find any. Assuming you yourself have read some of and like HPMOR, another angle for proselytising is pestering people you know to read that.

If you happen to also be into Effective Altruism, I'd recommend those groups as well. General EA meetups? GWWC chapter? Random visiting EA philosophers? Aside from the ones who find it through LW in the first place, people wanting to think through their altruistic actions, check if things actually work, and so on may be interested in LW topics.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 December 2015 11:30:42AM 0 points [-]

I think if I put a LW meetup on, well, Meetup, I might draw some people out of the woodwork. In the description, I'd give a brief explanation of the word "rationalist" (as "Boise Rationalists" will probably catch more eyes than "Boise LessWrong Meetup"). I'd also include links to this site, HPMOR, and Khaneman's books, and a blurb about eventual goals. What's your opinion on that strategy? I know that when I moved to the area, I browsed Meetup for interesting groups and attended several. Talking to others, I've learned that they did the same. If I'd seen "Boise Rationalists," I would have been interested.

There's a group that's only a seven-hour drive from my location, so I could make that a few times a year.

I hadn't thought of the EA angle! That might be more palatable to some newcomers.

Comment author: Calien 18 December 2015 09:59:51AM 0 points [-]

I like the sound of that strategy, although here I must admit I'm inexperienced in actually using it.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 December 2015 05:36:31PM 0 points [-]

Would it make sense to mention where you are?

Comment author: [deleted] 07 December 2015 09:37:32PM 0 points [-]

I'm in the Boise, Idaho area.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 09 December 2015 10:41:38AM 1 point [-]

An idea just occurred to me. Work out and start performing your resolutions in December. I'd say to start this at the beginning of December, but anyway, there's still three weeks of the month left. By 1 January, you'll know which of them are a good idea and will have been doing them long enough to create a practice.

Comment author: Elo 09 December 2015 10:59:00PM 0 points [-]

seems reasonable. The thing about January is that it's a schelling point (for many people) for higher-level considerations than the usual month-to-month goal setting might be. Indeed people could and should do that any time. But if they haven't they should do it in January (AKA now for January)

Comment author: RichardKennaway 10 December 2015 11:20:23AM 0 points [-]

The idea is to still use 1 January as a Schelling point, but to work towards it in advance, as one does for Christmas.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 December 2015 11:07:58AM 0 points [-]

I think 'not to fail too badly' should be an umbrella goal regardless of what you want to do. For example, I have an elderly relative in tenuous health, who might have to be looked after. I already know this, and should incorporate it into any resolutions.

Comment author: Elo 12 December 2015 10:16:37PM 0 points [-]

writing "soft failures" into your goals would be a good idea yes. (a non-complete that is not a "failed" - so that you can attempt the goal again)

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 01:17:00AM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 03:47:29AM *  2 points [-]

It's complicated. And depends on the way those people treat your goals.

Scenario 1: you post on facebook "This month I want to lose 1kg, I am worried I can't do it - you guys should show me support". Your friends; being the best of rationalist friends; believe your instructions are thought out and planned. In the interest of complying with your request you get 17 likes and 10 comments of "wow awesome" and "you go man" and "that's the way to do it". Even longer ones of, "good planning will help you achieve your goals", and some guy saying how he lost 2 kilos in a month, so 1kg should be easy as cake.

when you read all the posts your brain goes "wow, lost weight like that", "earn't the adoration of my friends for doing the thing", I feel great! So you have a party, eat what you like, relax and enjoy that feeling. One month later you managed to gain a kilo not lose one.

Scenario 2: You post on facebook, "This month I want to lose 2kg (since last month wasn't so great). So all of you better hold me to that, and help me get there". In the interest of complying with you, all your rational friends post things like, "Yea right", "I'll believe it when I see it". "you couldn't do 1kg last month, what makes you think you can do it now?", "I predict he will lose one kilo but then put it back on again. haha", "you're so full of it. You want to lose weight; I expect to see you running with me at 8am 3 times a week". two weeks later someone posts to your wall, "hows the weight loss going? I think you failed already", and two people comment, "I bet he did", and "actually he did come running in the morning".

When you read all the posts your brain goes; "looks like I gotta prove it to them that I can do this, and hey this could be easy if they help me exercise". After two weeks you are starting to lose track of the initial momentum, the chocolate is starting to move to the front of the cupboard again. When you see the post on your wall you double down; throw out the chocolate so it's not in your temptation, and message the runner that you will be there tomorrow. After a month you actually did it, reporting back to your friends they actually congratulate you for your work; "my predictions were wrong; updating my beliefs", "congratulations", "teach me how you did it"..

Those scenarios were made up, but its designed to show that it depends entirely on the circumstances of your sharing your goals and the atmosphere in which you do it as well as how you treat the events surrounding sharing your goals.

Given that in scenario 2 asking for help yielded an exercise partner, and scenario 1 only yielded encouragement - there is a clear distinction between useful goal-sharing and less-useful goal sharing.

Yes; some goal sharing is ineffective; but some can be effective. Up to you whether you take the effective pathways or not.

addendum: treat people's goals the right way; not the wrong way. Make a prediction on what you think will happen then ask them critical questions. If something sounds unrealistic - gently prod them in the direction of being more realistic (emphasis on gentle). (relevant example) "what happens over the xmas silly season when there is going to be lots of food around - how will you avoid putting on weight?", "do you plan to exercise?", "what do you plan to do differently from last month?". DO NOT reward people for not achieving their goals.

Comment author: Calien 14 December 2015 07:06:51AM 0 points [-]

Scenario 2 sound like it would be bad for me as well as scenario 1. I'm fairly uncomfortable talking about weight goals with most people - it feels like it would be saying I'm too fat or something negative like that, so unless they've revealed a similar problem to me I don't go there. So in that situation I'd expect to feel insulted. It's not a failure mode that I fall into any more, but where I was expecting that scenario to go is "When you read all the posts your brain goes; yeah this is too hard, I feel bad, I want chocolate. And at the end of the month you've gained a kilo."

Might be gender-related. Women experiencing that sort of discussion to go in the direction of judging appearance along with a greater negative affect from being judged unattractive. Men experiencing it being treated as just another health-related goal and being less concerned with judgment if they admit failure.

It's possible that if I did made such a post and read those responses it would go better than that, but it would be anxiety-inducing for me to go about testing that. Tentative suggestion: sharing goals I feel like I "should" be achieving is bad, sharing goals I just want to achieve is variable but expected positive.

Comment author: Elo 14 December 2015 07:28:23AM 1 point [-]

there is probably a gender variability on this issue.

The paper seems to suggest a specific hypothesis as to why: your brain does the "I got all the congratulations, I must be done" process and this causes you to not try as hard on your goal. I don't know how true that theory is, but it seems reasonable.

I am keen for future research in the area.

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 06:52:46AM 0 points [-]

It's complicated. And depends on the way those people treat your goals.

I would not be surprised if you were right to an extent, but I think in general the more careful thing to do is to maintain radio silence.

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 07:59:53AM 2 points [-]

It's complicated again. Trouble is that you have the potential to miss out on opportunities. i.e. before I start a project in the electronics space, I mention it to my friends who are interested in electronics; they then have the opportunity to say, "Oh here's some information I found earlier" or "here let me help you with that"; in various ways that you don't get to take advantage of if you secretly hide all the things you do until they are done.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 December 2015 10:17:36AM 2 points [-]

You could compromise between the two, by telling friends who are genuinely supportive/helpful/motivating, but declining to broadcast.

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 11:07:58AM 1 point [-]

Most definitely; it's about knowing how/why these things happen and making the best of the effects.

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 09:48:28AM -1 points [-]

It's complicated again. Trouble is that you have the potential to miss out on opportunities.

Sure, but that's true for anything. It's bad for your life expectancty to smoke cigarettes, but it's also possible that while you are out smoking a cigarette, the building you work in catches fire and collapses.

I will concede that there are exceptions to every general rule and situations where following the general rule works against you.

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 11:44:29AM *  0 points [-]

What we're really talking about is the balance of the two sides.

Given that:
sometimes goal sharing will be bad
sometimes goal sharing will be good

I am suggesting that the balance falls on a mix of:

  1. mostly good
  2. you make what you want out of it and there is no automatic win-state.

I assume you are suggesting:

  1. mostly bad
  2. hard to convert to a win-state when fighting your own brain chemistry.

This whole issue compounds when you consider the starting state of the person; whether sharing a goal is outside or inside a comfort zone (and easy or hard to do); and again - the environment in which the goal sharing happens.

I am pretty sure we can't get much further on convincing one another of a different state of balance... Especially without more evidence either way.

On top of that - we might genuinely be living in different states of the world where your world is more how you describe it and my world is more how I describe it.

Given that the last point might be true; Which state of the world would you rather live in?

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 03:06:59PM *  0 points [-]

What we're really talking about is the balance of the two sides.

Given that: sometimes goal sharing will be bad sometimes goal sharing will be good

I am suggesting that the balance falls on a mix of: 1. mostly good 2. you make what you want out of it and there is no automatic win-state.

So it sounds like you are saying that, generally speaking, goal sharing is not counter-productive and is in fact beneficial. Is that right?

I am pretty sure we can't get much further on convincing one another of a different state of balance... Especially without more evidence either way.

Well what is the evidence which supports your position?

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 10:23:00PM -1 points [-]

goal sharing... is in fact beneficial.



At the end of the video: that link takes you to the timestamp. (its pretty much what I said above)

I have to admit I only read the first few paragraphs of the transcript earlier and only now went through the entire thing. Looks like your source agrees with me.

it depends entirely on the circumstances of your sharing your goals and the atmosphere in which you do it as well as how you treat the events surrounding sharing your goals.

I'd encourage a from first principles approach. where my early reasoning encompassed your initial ideas and went on to explain why that doesn't explain enough of the observation, and how to take advantage of a different state of the world..

See also: accountability partners. as a thing that happens a lot these days.

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 11:49:07PM 0 points [-]



Looks like your source agrees with me.

Not sure how you get that. Pretty clearly he is saying that in general it's better not to share your goals.

Anyway, please answer my question:

What is the evidence which supports your position?

Comment author: Elo 08 December 2015 12:56:42AM -1 points [-]

I quote from the last 40 seconds of the video:

So if this is true, what can we do? Well, you could resist the temptation to announce your goal. You can delay the gratification that the social acknowledgment brings, and you can understand that your mind mistakes the talking for the doing. But if you do need to talk about something, you can state it in a way that gives you no satisfaction, such as, "I really want to run this marathon, so I need to train five times a week and kick my ass if I don't, okay?"

Sounds like he says there is a way to share goals without getting the negative attributes.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 December 2015 07:02:27PM 1 point [-]

I (try to) maintain a two tier system where I tell advisers and people I know who will hold me accountable what my exact goals are, and maintain silence with everyone else.

In practice this gets a bit messy when E.G my mastermind group knows what company I'm building but my parents and girlfriend has no idea. It can be very hard to maintain this, and another strategy I've begun to adopt is being vague about my goals (e.g. "I've got some interested investment in a disruptive education idea and currently trying to work out the details" and tell people "I'll have more for you in a month or so". This seems to give them an incentive to follow up, and me an incentive to want to actually deliver so I can tell them what I'm actually up to.