Tangled Systems in a New Year

image from molossus on flickr

My goal for 2012 is simple: do more of the things that I care about most. This, like so many important things, is simple when you say it but extremely difficult when you try to do it.

Primary among the difficulties here is the challenge of answering the question: What do I care about most?

I find that people in general (and I in particular) are not creatures of simple, straightforward desires, goals, and priorities. In fact we are tangles of extremely different, often contradictory and competing systems: part of me wants safety, part wants applause, part wants love, part wants legacy, part wants truth, and part wants a sandwich. And our difficult task is to round all of these systems up and make a decision about what to do for the day, or in this case the year.

When we say “I” or “me” we’re not talking about all those desires fighting for our attention, we’re talking about the “I” or “me” that gives the attention, that makes the decisions. This realization gives me the power to choose among my systems, to decide that I want to value some of them more highly, and that I want to mitigate the effects of others (like the reptilian fear center called the amygdala, that pipes up equally whether I come face to face with a bear or step onto stage to face an audience who, presumably, won’t eat me).

I try to align my goals with what I believe are my better systems — desires for truth and legacy and making a difference. And although much of my daily behavior is also driven by desires for applause and comfort, my goals, if well made, can act as compass points to remind me of my best direction.

This year I encourage you to consider what you truly care about, which of the things you might want to accomplish are fueled by your better systems. Then dream. Set big, scary goals around those things, and take steps towards them every day. Make 2012 your most impactful, fulfilling year yet.