Rise from bed. 6:00 a.m.
Dumbbell exercise and wall scaling 6:15- 6:30 "
Study electricity etc. 7:15-8:15 "
Work 8:30-4:30 p.m.
Baseball and sports 4:30-5 "
Practice elocution, poise, and
how to attain it 5:00-6:00 "
Study needed inventions 7:00-9:00 "
This is a heart-breaking passage found in the late pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The schedule is written on the back flyleaf of Hopalong Cassidy and found by Gatsby's estranged father after Gatsby's death; it's proof that Gatsby had the self-discipline to be great. I often think of that passage toward New Year's, convinced that if I could just find the right schedule, I could be more productive. But of course, there's no room for eating, trips to the loo, or a genial conversation with colleagues or students or lovers or partners. There's no room for the accidents of life from which we learn so much.
Twenty-seven percent of us do not make New Year's resolutions. Here are my husband Bill's non-resolutions:
Of course, if 27% don't make resolutions, that meant that 73% of us do. Given our failure rate (I can see the failure rate in the drop in visits to the U of R FLC by the end of February), why do we do this? The "On Fiction" blog suggests that the time between Christmas and New Year's prompts us to tell stories about our life: about the past year and about the future we'd like to create. I like to think of New Year's as a kind of tune-up of my life choices; it's an admittedly arbitrary time to consider what's working, what's satisfying, and to think about changing what I'm finding frustrating or unsatisfying. I've made some really practical resolutions in the past, like never letting my cheque register get out of date, that I've kept for years. Other resolutions, like changing the way I eat and the way I use my time, I need to revisit every year. But I don't completely backslide. Several years ago, I decided to stop worrying about whether I would have enough time to do everything I needed to do. Because worrying it multi-tasking, and human brains don't do that very well; each time we switch tasks, there's a drop in productivity and energy. So I'd make a list of priorities and simply work at them one at a time. I'm still doing this, though I continue to feel as if there's always something else that I could have done. That's what I'm giving up this year: my dissatisfaction with how many (or how few) hours in the day there are. I'm going to try to be more mindful about being at peace inside those limitations. That, of course, makes me think about what's really important to me. Guitar practice or appliquing a quilt I've been working on for several years? I'll go with my gut, rather than trying to over-think it. And perhaps I'll take Thoreau's advice about time as well as about things: "Simplify! Simplify!" And in the meantime, I'll remember that it takes about eight weeks to change a behaviour, so I won't simply throw up my hands and tell myself what a failure I am.
Craig and Mark Kielburger, the founders of the Canada-wide "We Day," made a great suggestion in last Monday's Globe and Mail. Rather than making our resolutions about ourselves and then feeling a failure because we can't keep them, why don't we resolve to take some opportunities to help others. Here's what they said:
"This year, consider resolving to make more socially conscious choices. Little ones and big ones. Often or occasionally. Instead of a better you, try aiming – modestly or boldly – for a better world, starting with you.
"Sounds intimidating? Try this: Choose organic meat or eggs next time you shop. Just one time and already you’re healthier, the animals are happier, and the environment is cleaner. Or turn down the thermostat and throw on an extra layer to compensate. You’ve saved money, fought climate change and made Grandma happy because you’re wearing the sweater she made.
"The more you do, the better you feel, and the more resolutions you keep.