Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What to do with New Year's Day

by Ray Daniel


The new year is upon us, and along with it comes the opportunity to make life changing decisions, uplifting resolutions, and big hairy audacious goals–BHAGS in the nomenclature of 1994 (Twenty years ago? Are you kidding me?) book called Build to Last.

Sadly, I have to admit, that I’ve never been one to create life-changing goals on New Year’s Eve. Lose weight? Sure. Right after we kill off these holiday cookies. Write more? Sure, day after tomorrow’s hangover. Spend less time on Facebook? Sure, but I have to tell all my friends Happy New Year first.

It’s just not the best day for this sort of thing.

In fact, I can’t think of one major life goal that came from New Year’s Eve. What’s more, I can’t remember the date of any of my decisions. The other day I was on a writing panel and was asked,
“When did you decide to become a writer?”

I had no idea.

I mean, I know there was a time before I had decided to become a writer. That was the time when I was trying and failing to get good at chess. I remember deciding that it was time do something that I was good at so I quit the chess club and joined a writing group, but

I can’t tell you when that happened.

I remember how I decided to become a computer engineer. I was in the seventh grade and I took an aptitude test that said, “You’d make a good computer engineer.” I said to myself, “Well thank God that’s decided” and the choice was made.

Circumstances always trump dates for me when it comes to remembering big decisions. When did I decide to transfer from Northeastern to UMass Amherst? When I was drunk in a bar in Syracuse called Sutter’s Mill. When did I decide that I’d never drink another Scorpion Bowl? The morning after my first Scorpion Bowl. When did I decide to ask my wife to marry me? The moment I realized that everyone, including me, was just waiting for me to do it.

The big decisions in life cannot be delivered on a schedule or on a date. Instead they flower and grow and ripen until they are ready for us to pluck them off the vine and make them our own.
Which leads us back to the question of what do do with the New Year.

Marking Progress?

A year is a righteous amount of time. Within it you tasted all the seasons, all the holidays, and every birthday possible. You’ve lived through whatever man-made seasons are important to you (baseball season, hunting season, theaters season) and you’ve plugged away at whatever goal you plucked off the vine in the a past.

So an annual accounting seems like a good idea. Question is, date should I use?

Again, for me, New Years Day never seemed like the kind of date that I’d use for marking progress. It’s just so arbitrary. Oh sure, I’ll say something like “goodbye and good riddance” after a particular trying year or, “this was a good one” after a good one, but there is simply not enough significance for me to use the new year as a touch stone. Instead I find myself choosing other dates.

For example, my annual weight goal gets measured at the beginning of softball season with an “Ooof” if the goal wasn’t met or a “Oh, yeah!” if it was. It just fits in my mind to test out the new weight in a well-known activity.

As for writing, my annual touchstone has been New England Crime Bake conference in November. Each year I’d go to the conference and see how I was doing. My first time I had a manuscript, second had no manuscript but was working on it, third had a second manuscript…up until this year, the seventh, when I had a manuscript, an agent, and a book deal. The conference gave me a standard touchstone to use for comparison.

What About the New Year?

So then, what about the New Year? If we’re not going to set goals and we’re not going to measure results what do we do as the ball drops on December 31?

Kissing someone always works for me.

When do you make goals and when do you measure them?

1 comment:

Beth Groundwater said...

I usually overindulge on food, alcohol, and sweets during the winter holiday season, so I'm always ready by New Year's Day to return to healthy eating an exercising habits to get those extra pounds off.