What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
- James 2:14
There is a great American tradition of New Years resolutions -- of setting goals for improvement in all facets of life. Health. Strength. Business. Religion. Family. The end of the old year and the beginning of a new cycle serves as a kind of mental reset button.
Or at least, it can.
This doesn't always work the way we hope.
There is another great American tradition. Gym memberships surge in January. Then they fall back to basically their December levels in February. All the books go back to the library, church attendance dwindles back to normal, and the vast majority of resolutions for the year break.
People fail at their goals for all kinds of reasons. But one that strikes the modern age with unique force is social dependence. The digitally-connected homo sapien shares all of his activities and accomplishments -- as well as his opinions and goals -- online. He derives great pleasure from the attention.
This can hardly be helped. One's online "presence" is often integral to social and business success. And there's nothing wrong with taking pride in one's accomplishments.
But when the validation of likes and interaction becomes a primary motivation for choosing one course of action over another, and if one becomes emotionally dependent upon the internet for the energy to take action, then changing yourself can become very difficult. Resolving to form a new habit, or break an old one, can become very difficult.
You can get more social validation by just writing a witty comment about failing all of your resolutions early.
But here's the secret: nobody cares.
That social validation rarely represents thoughtful support for you. By and large, the internet rewards what is entertaining, not what is good. Certainly not what is good for you.
Dumb cats are entertaining.
Kids saying the darnedest things is entertaining.
Someone "destroying" someone else in a debate is entertaining.
The outrage of politics is entertaining.
Someone doing the boring, repetitive work to establish a new habit to improve their life...
...that's not entertaining.
The internet will "like" your photos of you doing cool stuff. But that kind of cool stuff isn't what makes your life. Its the habits of the day-to-day grind that forge your character. A sky-diving trip is neat, and will get plenty of attention. But it doesn't change who you are. More often the cool stuff is a culmination, the result of hours and weeks and months of preparation. It is the final proof of unacknowledged effort, though there is a growing market for "cool" experiences that require little in the way of self-development.
Because of the amplified power of social validation in our digital world, "signals" can feel more valuable than taking action. Saying the right thing will get you more approval than doing the right thing. Especially if no one is watching.
Perhaps this is why "political correctness" increasingly dominates our lives. Political correctness is just the enforcement of correct signals. You don't have to do anything, so long as you say the right things. And for people who only know how to say the right things, there is much to be gained by coming down on anyone who speaks out of line.
But nobody actually cares.
Nobody really cares about what you say.
Even if all of your opinions are the exact opposite of what is currently politically correct, nobody really cares. Sure, some might try to cache in on whatever moral-signals they can get by condemning you, but it's not about the action. It's nothing personal.
And if all of your opinions run perfectly contrary to what everyone else thinks, it's possible that all you're trying to do is signal. How smart you are. How special you are.
But there are no points for right-think. It doesn't matter whether you are on the political left or right, whether you adhere to the True doctrine of your faith or are a committed heretic. At the end of the day, no one cares about your complicated justifications for why this or that is right or wrong. Nobody cares about your goals or your opinions.
What everyone cares about is value. They see and care about quality -- what you demonstrate, what you provide.
This is why the most effective proselytizers are not the hard-headed zealots, but the ones who live powerful, effective, noble lives. The ones who make you jealous of what they have, and make you want to emulate what they think and do.
Correct belief is important for achieving a powerful life, but it is only valuable towards this end. By itself, correct belief has no intrinsic value. To some, it even has negative value by lulling people into inaction.
They think they've already done "their share" with their words.
Right thought is the scaffold upon which you stand to construct your life. It must be built securely and correctly or you will fall to your death. But no one cares about the scaffolding. It isn't about the scaffolding, and you won't get paid or congratulated for having constructed a solid scaffold.
If you have set resolutions for yourself -- at New Years or at any other time -- then keep it to yourself. Your goals and resolutions are important, which is why you should not trust their value to the novelty-seeking masses online. No serious aspiration can be achieved through non-stop novelty and excitement. It will get tedious. It will get boring. And if you outsource your heart and energy to the internet, or even your friends in real life, you will get crushed. Nothing will change. Nothing new or different will be accomplished.
Goals and opinions are like assholes: everyone's got one, and nobody cares.
But if you achieve your goal, or accomplish something from a particular belief, perhaps people might care.
...if, for some reason, you still care what anyone else thinks.
If you have a unique belief or goal, live it. Put it into action, without explanation or justification. If someone asks, go ahead and explain yourself. Usually they won't.
Because they just aren't that interested.
A goal worth pursuing is a goal worth pursuing without sharing. There are no points for right-think. No one cares what you've read, what you've figured out, or what you think you've figured out. They only care about your accomplishments... and that's all you should care about too.