Rejecting “Bests” and Resolutions

FoxPrint Editorial Tiffany Yates Martin Best-of

Rejecting “Bests” and Resolutions

This time of year is when it seems like every article is either about “best-of” lists for the end of one year and resolutions for the beginning of the next.

I’m actually not a fan of either. I have a mental block against stack-ranking anything, and I can barely remember what happened last weekend, let alone cull through my memory banks to try to think of “the best” books or movies or music or anything for the past twelve months. Put those two together and my head swims.

And setting resolutions on an arbitrary day of the calendar doesn’t always suit my circadian rhythms—plus it creates a lot of pressure and expectation that I do just fine imposing on myself without that, thanks so much. Why seek out more ways to whip myself with a yardstick?

But then recently New York Times columnist Melissa Kirsch wrote this in the Saturday-morning Times newsletter:

“I wish that I could get annual best-of lists from everyone I know, and that those lists would not be limited to the usual genres of things that can be listened to or watched or read. I want people’s highly subjective and specific lists: the best advice they received and the best ideas they had. The best seltzers they tried or walks they took, the best changes they made to their morning routines. I want ideas for better living across the spectrum of existence; no category is too idiosyncratic.”

She asked friends and loved ones to share with her whatever deeply personal “bests” they had experienced over the year—no item or experience or idea too minor—and got answers that included a sunset over Lake Michigan, an efficient change to a grocery-shopping routine, a favorite video game.

This felt much more rewarding and genuine to me than trying to identify “the best” book or movie or what have you—how do you choose?! So many are so good in different ways, and everyone has a subjective metric of measurement. And it encompasses more of the things that matter most.

So here is my highly specific, personal list of some of my favorite (not best! Best is too much pressure) experiences, changes, occurrences, realizations, and yes, even a song or book or two.

  • Favorite thing I ate: chocolate candy bar dessert at Uchi (and everything else at Uchi)
  • Favorite new drink: Three Thieves pinot noir—a $5.99 Costco discovery that’s a blend from vintners like Joel Gott, and surprisingly good and light
  • Favorite change to writing routine: Dictating blog posts on dog walks
  • Favorite change to writing approach: Writing for fun
  • Favorite new beauty product: Tanologist self-tanning drops (natural color, no smell, easy to use—add to your favorite lotion)
  • Favorite new fashion discovery: Lyssé pants (no wrinkling, dress up or down, feel like yoga pants and look fantastic—just thank me and go get some)
  • Favorite TV: My list, my rules—there were several: Minx, Winning Time, and watching the original Will & Grace for the first time
  • Favorite read: A tie: Rest, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (honorable mention: Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari)
  • Favorite new song: “Bam Bam,” by Camila Cabello and Ed Sheeran—I cannot sit still when it plays
  • Favorite new tradition: Girls’ weekends with besties (I got three this year!)
  • Favorite business-practice change: A written priority list I use in choosing what to say yes to and what to say no to, and in scheduling my time
  • Favorite perk of the new world order: “Zoom friends” who have become close friends
  • Favorite realization: That I can not take responsibility for things I am not responsible for
  • Favorite rediscovery: Rekindling with my brother the close relationship we had when we were young
  • Favorite piece of advice: Learn to tolerate discomfort

Goals, not Resolutions

It’s the biggest New Year cliché: People set their resolutions and go gangbusters for a month or two before fizzling out and feeling like crap about themselves over it. My trainer at my gym actually plans his business projections around it, knowing he’ll see a flare of new clients in the first quarter, but that they’ll dwindle by spring or summer.

Why do we do that to ourselves?

I generally reject even the structure of making a resolution that starts on the arbitrarily designated stroke of midnight December 31 and is supposed to carry us till the next rotation of the Earth around the sun—but I am a big fan of structure and deadlines in general. In my business I have to be.

But my plans don’t always coincide with the Gregorian calendar year, so I set whatever schedule works best for me. And I don’t make “resolutions”—I simply set goals and intentions.

Those two things go hand-in-hand for me: I regularly reexamine my business practices, my mission statement, and my plans for growing FoxPrint, and based on that I think about what I’d like to focus my energies on going forward, both concretely and more ephemerally.

Currently my tangible goals include the follow-up to Intuitive Editing, and streamlining some of the other prongs of my business: I cut back on my writing commitments and am working on how to offer resources more directly to authors, like online workshops and clinics, without spreading myself too thin.

My intangible intentions involve saying yes to more “life” things and no to more work things. (In fact the hubs just came in a few moments ago asking how I felt about cutting out of work early this week and trying bungee fitness for my birthday. It was an easy yes.)

I’m mindful lately that life is finite and the way I spend it really matters only to me, and maybe periodically a handful of people directly affected. There’s no “legacy” to create—I get however many years here and when I’m gone most of whatever I did on Earth will fade, as with the billions of beings throughout history. We’re specks in the scope of time—but I’ve found this thought liberating and exciting rather than depressing. So much of what I can get so obsessive about really doesn’t matter much in the end—it’s the journey, to be a big old cliché.

So this sleepy post-holiday morning I slept in, let the dogs out, and got back in bed with my husband for a little while.

Relationships and experiences and the moments of our lives are what matter. Work can wait.

I want to hear what matters to you, my friends—your favorite insights and realizations lately, favorite discoveries and moments, and how they are impacting you moving forward.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • This was a good read and I like your ideas for your “best” list. For the first time in years, I have zero resolutions for the New Year. And I can’t wait to get started!!

  • Favorite thing I ate: My sister surprised me with my Mom’s fruitcake, complete with Brazil nut stuffed dates that take forever to assemble, and batter that’s hardly there and so hard to mix.
    Favorite new drink: Coffee Negroni at The Columns in New Orleans. Because I would have said a plain ol’ Negroni was the perfect drink.
    Best advice ever: “Don’t fight for what you don’t want.” That isn’t new, I “discovered” it years ago, but it has saved me from fighting so many ego battles where no matter who wins, I lose, so it remains my BAOAT.
    Happy New Year!

    • LOVE the fruitcake surprise! Did you know your sister had the recipe? What a lovely gift.

      And your BAOAT…it’s great. How often do we get “wrapped around the axle,” as my friend says, of chasing what we think we should want, or used to want, without stopping to reassess whether it’s something we actually want. I never articulated it this way, but this is how and why I quit acting, actually–one day I played out what my life would look like if I succeeded wildly in that career, and I realized it seemed unfulfilling to me. I had stopped wanting that career–if I ever did…I wonder now–and was a little late in reexamining that to figure it out. Changed my life immediately though–I moved away from NYC and have focused on editing/writing ever since, to my great delight. You’ve put a pithy mantra to that seminal experience. 🙂

      Thanks for weighing in, Claudia. And enjoy your coffee negronis!

  • Robi Lemon-Francis
    January 14, 2023 9:27 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts! My goal this year is to not get stressed over fitting everything in and be more balanced! My first step towards my goal is reading The Relaxed Author by Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

    • I read and really enjoyed that book too–it sums up my approach to this career. If we don’t take the reins and let ourselves relax about where we’re going and when, it’s a recipe for burnout and for never feeling satisfied. Thanks for the comment and compliment, Robi–I’m glad the post hit a chord. 🙂


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