On New Year’s Resolutions

January 6, 2022

What do I want said about me when I die? That was a question posed to me in Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward book. He encourages readers to write their own eulogy, then live their life so that they live up to those words. “By writing the eulogy as if it’s being delivered today, you may see some gaps between what people would say and what you would like them to say. That can be unsettling for some people, but news flash: You’re still alive and have the power to change the course of your life!”

I love stuff like that. And I hope that more than half of the people at my funeral say nice things about me! A guy can dream, right?

I know there are plenty of haters out there, but I love New Year’s Resolutions. I spend time thinking about them, and I actually write them down. I’ve done it forever and I have no intention of quitting now.

Probably the biggest change for me this year is two items that are no longer on my resolution list. For the first time in almost 40 years, I have no goals related to a specific job. That is still beyond mind-blowing to me. After four months of not working, I’m still not used to it, but I do like it. A lot. One of my favorite Kenny Chesney songs is The Life. The chorus in the song is about what retirement could look like, and it goes, “I fish, play my guitar, laugh at the bar with my friends, go home to my wife, and pray every night, I can do it all over again.” Substitute golf for fishing (I think they are similar in many ways – social sports performed in beautiful places that are really hard to do well), and you have a pretty idyllic existence. But I’m not ready for “The Life” yet. I have always believed and I still believe that if you are not growing, you are dying.

Also for the first time in decades, losing weight is NOT one of my resolutions. Thanks to a massive reduction in stress in my life, and a new guide to food intake, I have lost enough of the weight that I’ve been holding onto for a long time. At the suggestion of a very good friend, I have been on the Noom diet for two months now. I did not have a ton to lose, but when my knee doctor told me to lose some weight and my knee might feel better (aka – she called me fat), I knew that it was more than getting my BMI below 25. Now my goal is just to eat healthily for the rest of my life, except for a few times. And let’s be clear – there will be some big calorie meals. I believe that you can’t trust a skinny cook. If I’m making good stuff, or if I’m presented with spectacular food, I’m eating it. I don’t need to be skinny, but I need to be light enough to be healthy and to reduce the load on my back and my knees.

Steven Covey called this quest for continuous improvement “sharpening the saw.” He told a story of a person coming upon a logger who is exhausted, as he has been sawing on a big tree for three hours. When the logger hears the suggestion to stop and sharpen the saw, he says, “I don’t have time. I’m too busy sawing.” That’s the problem. If we don’t take time to sharpen the saw, we are wasting time and being highly ineffective. And not to be hyperbolic, but again, if we are not sharpening our own saws, we are dying.

When the logger hears the suggestion to stop and sharpen the saw, he says, “I don’t have time. I’m too busy sawing.”

How am I sharpening my physical saw? Well, as I said, I’ve been spending a lot of time recently sharpening my physical saw with Noom – and I want to continue to do this. A lot of the food choices in Noom echo what I have been reading in the Blue Zones research. Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, echoes the advice, writing, “Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.” I’m working on expanding that into a haiku.

I’ve always been an avid exercise fan, and I continue to follow the advice in Younger Next Year, pushing myself hard when I work out (following up on my last post, I swam 10,000 yards with a group of crazy people on New Year’s Day!), doing my best to avoid the body decay that time wants to impose. And one day, I will learn how to sleep more than six hours a night. Maybe.

How about my social and emotional saw? Now that I don’t have the built-in ease of being social at work (which I do miss), I have to work on this more. Being a better husband, father, sibling, son, and friend is hard work. And while those who love us the most can forgive long lapses in communication, it’s better not to have to ask for that forgiveness.

And while those who love us the most can forgive long lapses in communication, it’s better not to have to ask for that forgiveness.

My mental saw is probably the one I have to work on the most. While I was working, I was always learning. I was learning from teachers, from principals, and from new challenging situations. Every day was something new. Saw sharpening was unavoidable. Now, I have to take initiative. I will do that primarily through my writing. And all the while, I’ll continue to follow the Make Your Bed advice: never give up, and get stuff done every day.

I’m not itching to go back to working 70 hours a week, and these writing projects will give me academic and mental challenge, meaning, and a way to continue pursuing my passion for public education.

And finally, I have to sharpen my spiritual saw. I was raised as a Catholic, but I have also worshipped as a Presbyterian and as a Methodist. I do not attend church at this point in my life, but I still hold dear the lessons I learned from those years of church. I believe all of the world’s religions hold truth and inspiration. I don’t have one of those coexist bumper stickers on my car, but the world would be a better place if we all could coexist. If I have a text that I would call my Bible, it would be The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Relying on inspiration from all of the world’s major religions, he focuses on finding personal peace from the craziness we often make for ourselves, and freeing ourselves from our own incessant thinking by focusing on the present moment and nothing else. On a more practical spiritual level, I seek to follow Marie Kondo’s advice and continue to simplify and enjoy what I have. And I am seeking to declutter my mind out on the golf course, following the advice in Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, and accept the failures that happen on the course, get over it, and focus on doing well on the next shot. Like a lot of things in golf, it carries over as good life advice.

I hope that we all can give ourselves the luxury of time invested in ourselves this year, as we sharpen our saws and do what we can to not only tread water, but to swim even faster towards our goals this year.


Books that guide my resolutions for this year:

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  1. Ida says:

    Let’s go out and declutter your mind on the golf course sometime soon.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I always enjoy decluttering with you. Talk with you soon.

  2. marcia says:

    Mike, I love your blog posts. I so look forward to them. You are a very easy writer to read, and I can always imagine you saying these things, so that always makes me smile. Thank you!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thank you, Marcia!

  3. Merlin Clarke says:

    Like most of your posts, this gives me a lot to think about, but mostly it gives me pause and a smile… I’m grateful for both.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      There’s a lot of wisdom in that brief response, pausing, smiling, and gratitude. Nicely done.

  4. Deb Robertson says:

    I love reading your posts Mike. You’ve just given me lots of ideas for my New Year’s Resolutions, which I have yet to write😀. ( it’s never too late!)

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      It is NEVER too late, and you can always revise. Nice to hear from you, Deb!

  5. Annette says:

    I will say nice things about you at your funeral.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      That’s one! And you’ll be funny too.

  6. Kevin Skelly says:

    Great wisdom here. I plan to share with others. Thank you.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thank you Dr. Skelly!

  7. Susan says:

    I’m looking for improvement, not perfection.
    And remember, lying on the grass, watching the clouds float by, is never a waste of time….

  8. Marla says:

    Very inspiring—just what I needed. Thank you!

  9. Seth Finn says:

    Fantastic post Mike, my mental saw was sharpened just by reading that, and now I’ve got some homework, starting with the Eckhart Tolle book. I may not get to 50% saying nice things about me at my funeral by reading this post, but I’m better for it, there’s a lot of practical wisdom in here, thank you.

  10. Laura Samuelson says:

    Hi Mike from Carol Welker and Laura Samuelson! Please reach out to get caught up! We’re living in the Northwest these days.

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