Carolyn Astfalk, a 10 Minute Novelist, greets us this New Year with some wise words.
Our lives are marked by repetitive cycles: hours in the day, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, holidays, and anniversaries. Routine provides structure and comfort. It can increase productivity and satisfaction. It can also provide complacency.
Or the opportunity to start over. Again, and again, and again.
OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED
The older I get, the more conscious I am that our beginnings are numbered. I may not have all the time that I think I have. The Bible reminds us, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13) But you don’t need the Bible to tell you that. Look at news headlines or the lives of friends and family. Life is full of sudden plot twists: disaster, birth, illness, loss, opportunity. To the horror of readers and writers everywhere, sometimes the main character is even killed off before the climactic conclusion.
I have a small label affixed to my refrigerator door, which my 11-year-old routinely mocks. It reads simply, “Get fit or die fat.” He thinks its simplicity is amusing, but those are pretty much the stakes. You resolve to change, and you do it or you don’t. As the Steve Miller Band puts it, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.” Time passes whether you pursue your dreams or allow inertia to rule your days. Either way, the future will have passed into the present.
In a commencement address to the students of the Catholic University of America this year, San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers spoke about the Latin phrase nunc coepi, which translates as “now, I begin.” Rivers talks about the importance of this phrase in the locker room and in life. “Now I begin. In our prayer, in our habits, in our relationships, in our profession. It is applicable to everything. . . But this is ongoing. You begin again, and again and again. You never give up. Nunc Coepi.”
A member of the writers’ group Pennwriters blogs under “begin . . . begin again.” The author blogs frequently about new beginnings, her greatest being retiring as a family practice physician to write the novel she’d always wanted to write. When I skim the Pennwriters news feed, I frequently scroll by those simple words, “begin” and “again,” that provide a reminder that until the end, it’s never too late to start.
SOME TIPS FOR ONCE YOU’VE BEGUN
Set specific, measurable goals. Write them down. And then review them. Leadership guru Michael Hyatt shares his goal-setting tips. I admit to being horrible at this, and I see the evidence of it in my life. The one time my husband and I set very specific financial goals for ourselves, our money habits became focused and disciplined, and we were amazed at what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time.
If you are failing at your New Year’s resolutions, you don’t have to wait until next year to begin again. Do it now. ‘Nuff said.
Avoid the all or nothing trap
Back in the days before DVRS, recorded videos, and streaming this and that, children lived at the mercy of the holiday television schedule. I diligently clipped the program schedule from the newspaper and highlighted the selections I wanted to watch. Because my oldest brother was on the cutting edge of audio/video technology, we had a Betamax VCR in our home, which offered the advantage of me being able to watch one program and record another.
On one fateful evening, three—count them 1-2-3—beloved Christmas specials aired simultaneously. The details of the evening have grown fuzzy, but I remember the anguish and tears of not being able to view all three programs, even with a second TV in the house. I ranted about the cruelty of network executives who would create such a schedule designed for heartbreak and disappointment. Not a child particularly prone to melodrama, I really went over the edge that night. In the end, my frustration drove me to the appropriately juvenile decision to proclaim, “If I can’t watch all of them, I won’t watch any of them.”
I’m ashamed to admit that I still make such juvenile decisions. There are fewer tears, rants, and general angst, but the immature choice is the same. “Well, I had one cookie and blew it. Might as well eat the whole bag.” “I’m not on target to meet my goal. Might as well throw in the towel.”
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t throw in the towel when you screw up.
The main characters in my forthcoming novel, Stay With Me, fall short of their ideals and disappoint each other in significant ways. Finding themselves particularly discouraged, my heroine tells her fiancé, “[This] doesn’t mean we’ve made a fatal error. We screwed up . . . and we get back up and dust ourselves off and keep moving in the right direction.”
Now is the time to do it. And tomorrow and the next day. January 1 and every day. It’s time to begin.