As one year ends, it is traditional to look ahead and set some objectives for the coming one. Here are a few of mine for 2011, chosen according to how relevant I think they might be to the lives of readers and related to the other material I've discussed.
Get healthier. Like many people in my country, I am overweight and out of shape. One reason is my sedentary lifestyle: I spend way too much time in front of computers, books, and television (or, as I like to rationalize it, trading an active body for an active mind). Another reason is that I don't like the taste of healthy food, and consider it a waste of time to cook. Intellectually, I know these “reasons” are actually excuses for living inside my head instead of in the world, and allowing myself to be spoiled by a culture of convenience that's killing the planet. In the coming year, I'm going to change all that. Really.
Pay off debts. Traditionally, debt is used to either deal with problems we haven't planned on (like sudden car repairs), finance future growth, or buy things we don't need but expect to be able to pay for later (such as a house and education). I've used debt for all these reasons, and when possible, paid it down. As soon as I get a job, I plan to use as much as possible of my income to do just that, and make a stronger effort to pay as I go.
Consume less. One good thing about being unemployed is that you don't have a lot of money to use for buying stuff you don't need; unless you use debt. Of course, the social pressure to buy more still exists, aided by an entertainment and advertising industry that knows exactly what psychological and biological tricks to use. I'm not immune to such pressure, but I am getting better at shrugging it off (vilifying the whole concept of excess consumption helps). I know that when I get a decent-paying job (he says optimistically), the pressure will intensify. One approach I'll use to offset that is to become an active part of a social network of like-minded people who can provide healthy feedback and persistent social pressure to do the right thing.
Be more positive. I'm self-aware enough to know that I've been a bit of a “downer” since I started studying the potential futures of humanity. It's hard to be cheerful when you think the world may end in your lifetime. I also realize that my personality has something to do with it, feeling the need to explore and probe and test wherever I go. Recently, I've tried to define what a positive future might look like, and focus on actions that can be taken to create it. In the coming year, I'll redouble those efforts, and also try to get better at knowing the truly good parts of the world around me, especially the people, and find ways to do good and create beauty wherever I can.
Whatever your circumstances, I hope that over the next year your life will improve (or at least get no worse), and that time will be a transition to the kind of future you want.