In 2008, I resolved to run 1000 miles. This was a good resolution because it was quantitative, yet long-term, and challenging, yet achievable. This year I want to resolve to do something that also meets these criteria, but I don’t want to just repeat my 2008 resolution.
I liked the running resolution in particular because I got something tangible out of it. I’m in the best running shape of my adult life. I feel good when I run. I’ve improved my health and fitness. Now I want to do something similar for my brain.
Recently, I realized that I’ve been learning more at the local trivia night than I have been working on my Ph.D. research topic. This troubles me. School is for learning, right? So what am I doing wrong? Part of the problem is that graduate research can have little tangible gratification along the way. There are no grades. We never feel the sweet release of final exams. There isn’t always a clear measure of progress.
With that in mind, I wanted to make 2009 a year for learning new skills. I made a list of goals for things to learn/practice over the course of the year. It had everything from picking up a new instrument to doing 100 consecutive push-ups. This was a fun list to make, so I’m going to save it in a draft on my blog even though I eventually decided not to make it a part of my 2009 resolution.
Instead, I decided to take the practical route:
In 2009, I will finish my Ph.D. project, write my dissertation, and defend my thesis.
From my current vantage, this seems about as likely as a herd of cats carrying me to school tomorrow on their backs. From your perspective, on the other hand, it may seem like a cop out to resolve to do something that I am pretty-much on track to do anyways.
But I assure you, this is not going to be easy. I’ve been working on… stuff… for five years now, and I feel I have very little to show for it. Making this thesis happen is going to require discipline, planning, and maybe if I’m lucky, some learning. My running resolution was a success largely because of the logging and reporting I did throughout the course of the year. Completing my thesis will require a similar attention to progress. I could record pages over time, or just blog more frequently about research, but I’m open to hearing any suggestions for reaching this goal.
What are your resolutions for 2009?