Day 0: Starting tomorrow, I’ll be wise

Looking nothing like a wise old man yet.

Looking nothing like a wise old man yet. More like a tired mole trying to squint intelligently.

In 12 hours, I’ll embark on a new quest. The goal: to become a better person. No less. I’ll tackle one domain from the  VIA inventory of strengths every other month. Sometimes it will be easy — I hope I won’t have a hard time being curious about the world  — and sometimes it will be hard — I am far from a natural leader, and I never even understood what it means to be spiritual. But that’s what I’ll do: try to improve all aspects of my personality. If nothing else, I will learn what I really stink at.

Why I do this? I am sick and tired of excusing myself for not being the person I expect myself to be. I consider myself calm, and yet I have my unexplained outbursts of unreasonable anger. I am mercy personified, except when I am not. I am grateful for everything I have, and yet I complain about the smallest and most insignificant trivialities as soon as I get the chance. I am a great listener, and yet I talk more and more about myself. The list could go on and on. I have always considered myself a good person: reality shows me more and more that I am not. And I want to do something about that.

The other reason: I’m almost 40. I am halfway in this life. The first half was spent dreaming about becoming the next celebrity, the next superstar athlete, the next great philosopher, writer, business man — the next great anything, really. But it never happened. I am too old to be the next Michael Jordan, too stupid to become the next great philosopher, too lazy to become the next anything. But I refuse to become a bitter, negative old man, sitting in his arm chair and complaining about everyone and everything. I will, if nothing else, lead a kind of life that makes people be happy for me, and happy they know me. I am not old yet, but when I grow old, I want to be ready. I want to be wise and happy in my old age.

I’m not even close to being that kind of person yet. That’s why I have to try.

My plan for the next year is like this. In January and February, I’ll try to be as curious, creative, wise etc as possible. How I’ll do that, I’m not sure yet — one way will be to find heroes during the year, role models I can emulate or at least model my behaviour after. They will all be male, and they will all be old. Another way will be to find rules about how I should live my life to be healthy, happy, live long, feel better, or improve one of the 24 strengths. Some will be scientific, some will be based on some gut feeling, some will be based on some aspects of my new found heroes, some will turn out to be wrong.

I will also try to look the part. I have not yet decided what that means, but a search for “wise old man” gives quite clear indications that I should end up with a long, white sage-like beard. I began saving up for a beard two hours ago. It also means going barefoot as much as possible. I already do it sometimes, and I have already run a barefoot marathon, but from now on, it will be a quest. I will not wear shoes unless I really have to.

And one final rule on day 0: I will not surf the web. I will not read newspapers, I will not check NBA results, or any other sports results, I will not find entertainment on YouTube. Reading newspapers is bad for you, news is bad for you, despite some occasional gems. And sports is bad for you, it turns you away from the real issues. If I am bored, I will be bored and let the boredom linger on until I manage to push it away by my own force. Otherwise I’ll end up like old people who watch all the news, all the time, just to “see what’s going on in the world” — and all they ever get out of it, is tabloid sensationalism and exaggerated and skewed fears. No, whenever I use the Internet, it will be to pay bills or research my writing. Other than that, I’ll use the real world instead.

This concludes day 0. Happy New Year.