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Silencing Dementors & Other New Year's Resolutions

If you don’t want your dreams, goals, New Year’s resolutions, or whatever you choose to call them to gather dust in the garage with the exercise bike, Ab Roller, and Moosewood cookbook, then you’d better get down to business.

Last year at about this time, I read a blog post by Donald Miller in which he reframed New Year’s resolutions as stories we want to tell with our lives. Miller encouraged his readers to invite friends and family into those stories to provide camaraderie and accountability.

I decided that the three stories I wanted to tell with my life in 2010 were running a marathon, writing a book, and being more intentional about rest. I started training in early January and injured my left Achilles in March, but I did no serious harm and finished a half-marathon in November—not the story I wanted to tell but I’ll take it.

I wrote a short book about becoming a prolific writer that I’ll be giving away on January 18 of this year, around forty blog posts, and three chapters of a book—not the full-length manuscript that I had hoped to complete but still satisfying accomplishments.

Concerning rest, I traveled to the Abbey of Gethsemani last February for a silent retreat, and then I proposed to Megan on July 3. Let’s just say that putting a ring on it can cost you as much in leisure and solitude as it can in dollars. No one is pointing any fingers here.

The holidays have passed, and for the first time, Megan and I are in a state of Normal. We find ourselves planted in 2011. We’ve been having conversations about what we want for our relationship, for one another, and for ourselves. At the root of these conversations is the matter of how we will invest our time.

I might tell you, “Making regular posts on my blog is really important to me,” but if you learned that I made 94 posts in 10 months in 2009, compared to only 40 posts in 12 months in 2009, then you would not come to the conclusion that my blog had grown in importance to me.

Time betokens significance, and if I want to see change in 2011, then I have to change how I spend my time.

I will always have as many excuses as obligations, which is to say, no shortage of them. I will also encounter a legion of naysayers and merchants of defective reality checks who yammer on about life being full of compromises and suck the joy out of your dreaming:

“Don’t be naïve and romantic, Austin.”

All of these Dementors are, without exception, frustrated artists.

Of course life is full of compromises, but what does that have to do with anything? Give me some credit: I know I won’t always get what I want. I may train for a full marathon, get hurt, and settle for a half, but does that mean I stop dreaming and crossing them off my list?

Walter Bagehot was onto something when he said, "A great pleasure is doing in life what people say you cannot do."

After you pay your bills and go on adventures, you’ll realize that the Dementors’ excuses were straw men who burn up in thirty seconds, and all that talk about “real life,” “being an adult,” and “making sacrifices” had nothing to do with being realistic and everything to do with the Dementor’s frustration, fear, and jealousy:

“How come you get to do what you love and travel often when the rest of us put in forty plus hours a week at normal jobs?”

Dementors are too scared to go after their own dreams, so consciously or unconsciously, they deflate other people’s, insinuating that they are immature, self-indulgent, or irresponsible in the process. To follow through with New Year’s resolutions, you must first silence the Dementors. One of them probably speaks in your voice, and it may even say something true like, “Real men make sacrifices.” My hope is that you won’t be so busy being a martyr that you stop dreaming big. Reorganize your time to align with what truly matters to you, and you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish with 361 days.

Perhaps my 12 Goals for 2011 inspires you to make your own list:
  1. Relaunch gu.e, with a new design, vision, and free book on January 18.
  2. Continue to build a vibrant community of gu.ebers on Facebook.
  3. Write at least two posts for gu.e every week.
  4. Write a guest posts on three popular blogs.
  5. Write a short book about “emotional dating.”
  6. Write the “Smart Aleck’s Guide to Selling Crap on eBay.”
  7. Take my wife to Hawaii in April using only Frequent Flyer Miles.
  8. Run my first marathon in Nashville in April.
  9. Run my second marathon in Berlin, Germany, in September.
  10. Pay off my wedding.
  11. Make a trip to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky.
  12. Spend more time in prayer.
In March of 2009, I wrote 28,110 words, which is about 66 single-spaced pages, while working at least forty hours a week at a marketing firm. If I had kept that pace, I could have written a book by early June. I hope I never again underestimate how much I can accomplish in a matter of weeks.

That’s all the inspiration that I can muster for now.

What next?

Go make a list, then send it to me for inspiration. Make a plan, then get to work.

Or, read about my engagement faux pas.

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