Every year the profusion of New Years Resolutions that I have to listen too makes me feel weary.  I always here the same things repeated over and over.  This year I am going to loose weight.  This is the last cigarette I ever have.  This year I’m going to exercise every day.    I’m going to finally get that promotion I always wanted. No more cholesterol for me.

There are two basic problems with these resolutions.  The first is that people make them and they know ahead of time that they are never going to follow up.  Maybe for the first two weeks, but eventually they are going to fall into their old habits.  The second is that although these are good goals to have in your life, they are still fairly pedantic.  Even if you achieve them they may improve your health or make you more attractive, but they don’t really enrich your life.

So, my response to that is to release my own list of potential resolutions for the New Year.  Notice if you will that you can actually do all of them, if you so choose, as none of them are mutually exclusive.  Notice that none of them are based on things that are either beyond your control or will require years to accomplish. Most importantly they should all be goals worthy of a man.

1)      Learn a new skill. This is an often overlooked thing, but many of us could substantially enrich our lives by adding a skill or two.  I don’t just mean adding a line to the resume, either.  Learn to hunt, fish, golf, or shoot.  Do you know the proper way to fell a tree?  I do.  Can you pick a lock?  Are you able to prepare a gourmet meal for someone?  Can you provide emergency medical aid to someone that has been injured?  Can you change your tire if it’s flat, or how about your brakes? If you were lost in the woods would you know how to start a fire, or navigate by the stars?

The basics of any of these skills, and many more only take a few minutes or hours to learn.  It’s not like learning a new language that can take years.  But the important thing is that you are introducing new ideas and concepts to yourself.  Keep you brain active.  Don’t stop learning.  Thirst for knowledge. Challenge yourself to learn something that you never thought you could do before and see what you learn about yourself in the process.

2)      Start a conversation with a complete stranger. This one freaks people out.  I know grown, successful, wealthy men that would tremble at the idea of doing this.  Find someone that you would not normally talk to and strike up a conversation.  Let them lead and tell you all manner of things.  I have made some wonderful friends like this.  One time I met a woman on a bus that was a little girl in Cuba when Castro overthrew Batista.  She spent an hour telling me how her parents smuggled her into Argentina because they were deemed enemies of the revolution and she didn’t have any papers.

The bus isn’t your style?  Go volunteer at a nursing home and sit around all day listening to veterans of WWII tell war stories.   This is better than any movie you have ever seen. The point is to get out of your isolated world and expand your mind.

3)      Make an enemy. Frank Sinatra once said “A man with no enemies has no character.”  I normally don’t look to ol’ Frank as a bastion of truth and morality, but he got this one right.  Just like we all need role models, we all need the opposite of that.  We all need to struggle against something.  We all need to take a stand.  Every great man needs a Wiley Coyote in his life, if for no other reason than to provide him with an example of what not to be. Or maybe a better way to say it is what not to become.

There are two things that I have learned about enemies.  The first is that they seem to magically appear as soon as you take a stand against something.  The second is that they are going to be uncomfortably similar to you in many ways.  You can learn a lot about yourself from who dislikes you.

4)      Stand up for something. If you’ve made it far enough in life that you can read this list and you don’t feel strongly about anything, reevaluate your life.  You’ve made a mistake along the way.

Choose something to take a stand on and plant your feet and refuse to move.  Dedicate a portion of your time and energy and talents to solve it.  No matter how much or little you throw at the cause, if the cause is worthy, you will get more back in return.

When you stand up for something you believe in, all of the problems in your life get the volume turned down.  The problems at work don’t seem so bad.  Problems at home suddenly seem not to matter as much, or suddenly have solutions you never dreamed of.

5)      Vote! This is one that we should all do better with. Go to the registrar of voters, and get a list of every election you are eligible to vote in for the year.  Put them in your day planner, or email or cell phone or whatever you need to.  Don’t miss a single one.  Don’t make excuses, just get it done.  The alternative is the next time our illustrious congress votes to spend a billion dollars on something you disagree with, know you did nothing to stop them.

6)      Be kind to someone that needs it. People never fail to underestimate the value of kindness.  In most cases it takes far more time, energy, strength of character and patience to be kind than it does to be otherwise.  Showing kindness to someone is a worthy cause.  Granted,  not everyone is worthy of that kindness, but I would be willing to bet you are already thinking of someone you know that the people around you are not very nice to.  Take some time to talk to them, or show them more civility than they normally receive from the people around you.

You know you have the right candidate if they respond with mistrust and criticism.  Kindness is a worthy endeavor in and of itself, but you also have the opportunity to make fiercely loyal friends out of it.  Have you ever heard the old sting about how good friends will help you hide, but great friends will help you hide a body?  I would be willing to bet that great friend started out as a person that needed a little kindness in there life.

7)      Get into some trouble. I know, it sounds odd, but it’s actually a really good practice to be in the habit of.  In this life we are told where to stand, how to walk, and what to say.  It is very very easy to get in the habit of conformity as a form of social entropy.  It just takes less energy not to stand out.  Don’t allow it!  Question authority.  Make up your own mind.  Stand out.  Do your own thing, and if it gets you into a little trouble along the way, you deal with that like a man also.  Just don’t allow individuality to become crushed by the weight of conformity.

8)      Reexamine your faith. At some point all of us have to come to a resting point in our faith.  Either we choose to believe in something or we choose not to.  The trick is to rest, but not to ever stop searching all together.  If you believe in God, ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you are on the path you should be on for your beliefs.  If not, why not?  If you don’t believe in God, has anything changed since the last time you turned over that rock?  Has age or wisdom or life changed your mind about anything?  Is it time to search again?

Read your bible, pray, meditate or go to church again.  Do something that reconnects you with your faith.  Mark my words, whether of not you believe in an afterlife or God, there will come a day in your life where you look into the mirror and what looks back at you is very concerned about faith.

9)      Take a vacation from television. Dennis Miller was right; the TV bug ate us whole in this country.  We have a national obsession and it is limiting us.  All the hours we spend watching TV are hours we don’t spend doing other things.  The average American between the age of 25 and 55 watches 38 hours of TV a week.  That’s 22% of your life in front of the TV.  Under 25 and over 55 the numbers go up.

Step away for a little while. Turn off the TV for 2 weeks and see what happens.  I’ve done this a couple of times before.  I feel obligated to warn you, the first week is rough.  I know people that have told me it felt like they were going through drug withdrawals.   Or maybe for you it will be video games. But take a break from them. You may be surprised what you find on the other side.

10)   Find Passion. No, I don’t mean romantic love.  Find something to be passionate about.  Maybe it is a relationship, or your job or a new hobby or maybe you just want to be like Jerry Stahl and decide to be passionate about everything you do.

A friend of mine once described passion to me as “The fire that burns in your gut powerful enough to make you live just a little bit longer in the face of death.”  Find something that burns for you, and add it to your life.  Then make the decision to pursue it passionately.  Make space for it in your life and passion will fill more than just that void.

Remember above all that life, education, mercy, faith, happiness, and passion are all choices.  Boredom, unhappiness, depression, cruelty, apathy and disloyalty are choices also.  Usually those are choices we make when we don’t even realize we are being tested.  So be careful. Choose wisely.

About the Author:

Shooter is a marketing specialist from Louisiana.    He is well read, and fairly well adjusted to a world that no longer cherishes men of the caliber it once did. In the age of the common man, uncommon virtue is no longer politically correct.

As his nom de guerre suggests he is an inveterate shooter, an amateur philosopher and an occasional writer and is the co-founder of The Institute of Man.

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