Jack Stuart / January 3, 2011

On Resolution-Setting

Thinking about my New Year’s resolution(s) for 2011, I wanted to reflect on how well I did on 2010’s resolutions and perhaps update and/or build on those. Of course, I tested the limits of my computer, my patience and the FaceBook server as I dug in the Wayback Machine to find those goals, but I did – here’s the post:

My 2010 goals, on the record: 1) -15 lbs by Jul (no “Biggest Loser,” but = ideal wt); 2) ≤11 mins for 1.5 mi run by Aug; 3) Practice law (BTW, open to suggestions on the type of law to practice); 4) Pass the Patent Bar; 5) Join a Christian legal org (ACLJ, ADF, PJI, CLS, etc.) & volunteer pro bono time (ANY time = obj …met). I realize I live in the real world, so 3-for-5 or better = a “win” for 2010 resolutions. 

Pretty good goals, don’t you think? I thought so, anyway. How’d I do? Well, let’s see: 1) 15-lb weight drop? Yeah, no. No gains, thankfully – but no losses, either. This goal? Clank. 2) ≤11 mins/1.5-mi run? Ah, no. Thud. 3) “Practice” law? Well, whatever that term means, no. Splat. 4) Pass the Patent Bar? Kinda hard to pass when you don't take it. Blam-O. And last but not least, 5) Join a Christian legal org & do pro bono work for it? Unless my T-38 squadron qualifies – and trust me, it doesn’t – that would be a “no.” Kablooey.

For those keeping track, that’s a whopping 0-for-5. Nice work, Ace.

So, what did I learn? Well, apart from the obvious lesson in humility I’m currently suffering through, I learned (actually, re-learned) a few lessons in resolution (i.e., goal) setting.

Here’s my first lesson: If you’re going to set a resolution, copy it down and follow it up. That path pretty much ended with me the day after I set 2010’s resolutions, when I started T-38 instructor training in Texas. Immediately after that, I moved to Oklahoma and I’ve been flying my – well, flying something off, anyway, even if it wasn’t that (see Goal #1, above: FAIL) – ever since.

Second lesson: Realize a resolution is ultimately a goal about you. Accordingly, you should craft it like any other goal. I teach my students to use the acronym CRAM in objective-setting for their flights. That is, a goal should be: [C]hallenging, [R]elevant, [A]chievable and [M]easurable. Too bad I didn’t listen to my own instruction. Had I, I would have tempered the “[A]” piece in light of my new workload and station in life. I also would have kept an account of the “[M]” piece: simply making a goal measurable doesn’t mean you’re actually going to measure it; only that it can be measured, should you choose to do so.

Final lesson: As I alluded to above, a resolution is a commitment to achieve a goal concerning you. It can be about anything you wish, but it should be related to you – you personally – that is, to the things you want to change about you, not the things you think others want you to change. Also, every resolution has to be seen through the lens of your “day job” and normal life demands, otherwise you won’t follow through because in your heart-of-hearts that particular goal will be trumped by other, more pressing draws on your time.

As a case-in-point, every one of my goals for 2010 was reasonable – all were even things I wanted to do – but not one of them outweighed my overriding priorities of: 1) getting fully processed back into permanent active-duty-AF status; 2) getting through T-38 instructor training without drama; 3) getting my family settled in Oklahoma; 4) spending more time with my family; and 5) becoming the best instructor pilot I knew how by flying as much as I could and doing so as quickly as possible. As to those five goals, I’m 5-for-5 – in the case of #5, in fact, I’ve led the squadron for most flying hours and most sorties for the past several months. This result is a much better showing than that for my stated resolutions for 2010, and much more relevant to both me and my family, frankly. This leads to the obvious question: In light of these revelations, what are my goals for 2011?

Here are my thoughts. I still want to do “better” – whatever that term means – in both weight and fitness categories. I want to be a better father and husband. I want to fly and I want to practice law – I still want to take and pass the Patent Bar, for that matter. But I also have these constraints: I have a demanding job and I live in Enid, OK. In light of last year’s over-reach, here’s my best stab at 2011, in order of importance:

1.) Lead a more Christian life. For me, this means reading more, praying more, bridling my tongue more (esp. in the fighter community in which I live daily), and being a better example at home.

2.) Study for and pass the Patent Bar. In light of 2010, I realize this is still probably a bridge too far, but I’m thinking ahead to post-AF life, and I’d really like to get this behind me before I leave the AF.

3.) Do something with my law license other than watch it collect dust on my wall. This is a big step down from last year’s lofty goals, but it’s a start at least, and it tacitly acknowledges the constraints I face.

4.) Mentor specific individuals.

5.) Run on my daughter’s new treadmill at least twice a week.

Though not listed, I’ve set measurable parameters on each of these goals, of course, as discussed above. Again, I’ll call three-out-of-five a “win” for the year’s set of resolutions, though in truth this metric is really just a face-saving “out” for me when I revisit these next January.

The truth is I really want to do all of these, but yes, I’ve also discovered a few insights about the practical nature of realistic resolution-setting this year. Let’s see if I can avoid re-learning them again, this time, next year.

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