road sign with three right way arrows

Stumbling along the Path to Self-Improvement

Just as sure as leaves drop in autumn, advice flows in January. You may not set New Year resolutions, but I bet you plan to improve something over the next twelve months. I know I do. Yet it takes more than a simple flip of a calendar page for a fresh start. According to my inbox it takes a plan, a spreadsheet, a coach, or a free introductory subscription.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that marketers encourage overindulgence in November and December and then offer a recovery plan (for a small monthly fee…) in January.  If the year expired before you accomplished your goals, it’s nearly impossible to resist this siren call.

This is the year to finish that novel, lose those ten pounds,
run that half marathon, or insert your goal here
Just follow these ten easy steps, and you WILL succeed.

When I’m faced with this annual onslaught of guidance, I feel as if I’m shopping at IKEA. Resistance is futile, and my cart won’t stay empty for long. (See my savvy shopper post.) The beginning of the year might be an excellent time to review results and plan for improvements, but if I wanted to start fresh in January, didn’t I need this advice in December…or November? It’s only the third of January and I’m already behind.

The sheer amount of suggestions and techniques overwhelm and frustrate me. What if I miss the key point that will make my life easier, my waist trimmer, or my writing better? How will I implement it all? Couldn’t some of these advice givers wait until next month? Start the year with a clean slate? (See Sherry Howard’s post on Fiction University.) Evidently she hasn’t seen my inbox.

email inbox
A screenshot of my e-mail inbox.

I welcome the chance to pause and consider what is and isn’t working. Where have I made progress? Is it time to change tactics or hire help? Have I lost track of something I wanted to complete? Yet, many of the posts, classes, opportunities are only offered NOW.

I keep my subscriptions updated. (See this post). The ones I follow are relevant to my projects and offer excellent advice. All these options are good options. However, there are only twenty-four hours in a day and most of those are claimed. This forces me into difficult choices. I must eliminate some interesting projects. Priorities must be set. Boundaries must be defended. What if I choose the wrong one? 

Despite all the brouhaha about fresh starts and clean slates, the first of January is just another day in on the calendar. Any changes and improvements must be implemented, practiced, and evaluated. I’ve decided to take a few days and sort through the books, posts, classes, and projects. After that I’ll decide which to toss, shelve (at least for now), or try. When I hit on a winner, I promise to share-just not in January.

How does the self-improvement season make you feel? Leave a comment!
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