Everything With Moderation

Things have been a little crazy at the office lately, especially since the college I work at became part of national news trend pieces for a few days last week. It’s a situation that has continued to build tension on campus over the past month and, for me personally, as an employee and alum of the college, it’s been sad to see how much the negativity and anger that has arisen from the situation quickly became louder than voices looking to find solutions and make change.

Of course, just walking around you’re only mildly aware of the level of frustration people are feeling. Public demonstrations, posters, and signs from the many voices vying for attention have ebbed and flowed across different public spaces on and off campus, but nobody’s camped out on the quad in protest, and most classes and schedules have continued as usual.

But things are much different if you pay even a little attention to social media. One quick search for our school on Facebook, Twitter, or YikYak and you’ll see just about every opinion people have, often followed by flame war comments going back and forth about who’s more ignorant or why people want to see our president resign. You’ll see individuals sharing moving stories of their own experiences as targets of racism, marginalization, or violent speech. And you’ll find posts filled with passionate opinions, arguments, and links to all kinds of longer rants that all seem to be strongly for one thing or strongly against another thing.

Sadly, few of these are kind to the people they see as against them. In fact, several posts or comments have been messages of outright hate, and that has been the most disturbing part of this whole experience for me.

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Muscle Memory

Last weekend I was at a party where I got the chance to play the video game Rock Band for the first time. Having been a drummer for almost 20 years, I thought it should be a piece of cake to sit behind the game controller of rubber and plastic electronic drums and start jamming with the rest of the players.

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I gave my drumstick a twirl as the screen started clicking off a beat to a classic Yes tune  (yeah, I was playing with a bunch of adults my age – it’s called classic rock for a reason) and then I started getting my cues from the screen. All I had to do was watch the stream of different colors come down the pathway toward me and hit the gamepad “drums” for each corresponding color in time with the beat.

But playing a drumming video game is not the same as playing actual drums. In fact, my experience playing drums probably made me worse at Rock Band because I had years of muscle memory built up that I had to ignore. This was suddenly a lot harder than I expected – and being surrounded by gamers who were all playing on “Expert” level didn’t help my ego much.

But here’s the good news: it turns out that recent research on habits and behavior has shown this kind of disruption of our environment is an important part of making changes to any habit, especially the bad ones, and that’s something we can learn to use to our advantage.

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Making a Resolution Long Pass

I love that New Year’s resolutions have become so ingrained in our culture as something doomed to fail, and yet we continue to make them. It’s hard not to see the start of each new year (or even a new month) as a time for renewal and positive change in our lives. Who doesn’t want to be a better person?

But I’ve learned that the resolutions that fail are the ones that weren’t made in good faith to begin with. I wasn’t being honest with myself about what I could accomplish or change, but merely what I was hoping I could change; I had vague goals, but no real plan for making them happen, and suffered little consequence if they didn’t happen.

So here’s to making honest resolutions, based on not just what I want to gain for myself, but what I want from myself.

I won’t resolve to run more if what I really want is an excuse to buy new shoes.

I won’t make resolutions just because I think they’ll make someone else happy. I will follow my gut, not my ego.

I will find my tribe and share my resolutions with them. I will change my surroundings/environment/context to reflect and support my goals.

I will make a resolution that means something, a resolution I can plan for, monitor its progress, and bring to a close by the end of the year in a way that feels like more than just accomplishment – it feels like victory.

My New Year’s resolution is a long pass to myself from today into the future, a throw from the end zone of last year so high and so smooth that I can watch it climb and arc overhead as I run forward through the year, dodging interference, leaping over tackles, and plotting my way to the point I know the ball will be landing at the end of the year ahead of me, and I’d better be there to catch it.

This website is a big part of that resolution – turning something I didn’t know I had into something more tangible I can share. I’m going to keep adding to it and expand the scope, and I’m not even completely sure how I’m going to do it. But I have a good idea where that pass I’m throwing is going to land at the end of the year…

Time to get those running shoes on.