The Year of Tiny, Interesting Choices

I need you to do yourself a favor. Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine this brand new year. Really take the time to envision yourself crushing everything you're setting out to achieve. 

If you're like me you probably just rolled your eyes or keep them reading on. Reading this right now. You might not think anyone, including me, really cares whether or not you're closing your eyes and dreaming your dreams, but it's important. For yourself.

We declare these resolutions every year and we often forget them by February. Life squeezes in and the long list of goals we wrote to ourselves doesn't add up. We need more than words, we need vision. 

This is the idea of Maxwell Maltz's Psycho-Cybernetics. I've picked it up again after futurist/philosopher Jason Silva reminded me about it, quietly recording inside a bookstore for a video he called How We Prime Our Brains to Achieve More.

Psycho-Cybernetics explores the sheer power our subconscious mind yields for achievement and the consequences of feeding it. If we can vividly imagine what we want to achieve and envision ourselves doing it, our subconscious mind engages like a heat-seeking missile for opportunities. Maltz wrote, "Psycho-Cybernetics does not say that man is a machine. Rather, it says that man has a machine which he uses." Whatever it is you want, you need to see yourself doing it, saying it, becoming it. 

George Carlin swore by it too. In an interview, the comedian explained, "...the brain is a goal-seeking mechanism that if you put the inputs in, if you put into it what you'd like to get out of it, you can let it work and you don't have to coax it, prod it..."

If you've ever had a shower-time revelation, or discovered answers to life's problems in your dreams, you know this. If you've ever rolled over in bed and hit the snooze button, raising your blood pressure just thinking about the day ahead of you, you know this too. Your mind makes your reality. We forget or underestimate or just plain don't believe our brains are running and grinding on in the background. But they are. You don't need to push as hard as you think. Just wind it up and let it go.

If you're too busy to close your eyes for a moment and dream, read The Busy Trap twice and call me in the morning.

Click for more of the xkcd comic.
Click for more of the xkcd comic.

What we need to remember is life is more than one thing. You have choices. You might have your heart set on this brand new year and the big, bad goal you aim to blast, but it's easy to forget there is more than just that. The webcomic xkcd nailed this idea through self-administered advice to a stick figure: 

"You're curious and smart and bored, and all you see is the choice between working hard and slacking off. There are so many adventures that you miss because you're waiting to think of a plan. To find them, look for tiny interesting choices. And remember that you are always making up the future as you go."

When I quit my job months ago, the choice between working hard and slacking off shifted. The pendulum swung me from New York City to San Francisco, and goals became a bit slippery. New York was all about working hard, sprinting through the rat race. San Francisco has felt more like slacking off, surfing among billionaires in hoodies.

Moving to San Francisco was meant to shake things up. But without a clear goal for my mind to focus on, returning home for the first time has shook me up all over again. Grandma asked me if I'd settle down in California or move on. My brother asked me earnestly what the plan would be when I went back to California. Everyone wants to know how amazing California is. And the lease will soon renew.

What better time to ponder it all than the New Year?

Forget the plan, I want adventures. It's beyond working hard or slacking off. I declare this new year to be The Year of Tiny, Interesting Choices. And if I close my eyes and imagine that, I see a flood of dreams finding their way to the page.

My resolution is to write 50 tiny, interesting pieces, every week or so, about reading through mountains of books, learning to do handstands and side-splits, exploring up and down the coast, meeting new people, building with Legos, wrestling with friends, devouring metric tons of podcasts, and experimenting with my mind. 

I hope you'll join me along for the ride. And while we're at it, why not close your eyes for a minute and ask yourself, "What's your vision?"

Dare to make it real because it can be.