Every December, I make my resolutions for the following year. What I make aren’t so much resolutions as significant phrases that capture what it is I want to concentrate on in the coming year. They always sound a little like New Age campaign slogans, especially if you put the year and an exclamation point after them (e.g. “Get organized 2012!” or “Courage 2006!”). I save these phrases in a document on my computer. Some years have only two or three slogans. Others have a dozen. Most of the slogans are commands, in the second person (e.g. “Stop whining,” or “Mind your own business”). There are some that appear year after year, like a student who keeps flunking the same grade, because I haven’t learned those lessons yet. I think I benefit from creating these slogans, even if I never master them. They have the same effect as writing down a grocery list; even if I don’t look at it before I go to the store, I’ll still be more likely to remember I need bread, asparagus and chocolate when I get to the store, just because I’ve written it down. That’s got to be worth something.
Some years are unintentionally ironic. Like the year 2005, where I had the following slogans:
It’s okay to do what you want.
Keep it Simple.
Let go of old ideas.
Make a ten-year plan.
You could either read all four of those items as being almost the same thing, or you could see the last three as being in conflict with the first item on the list. Advice is often dangerous, and advice to one’s self is no different. It is our past self telling our future self—in unknown circumstances—what to do. Looking over my lists, I find that many of them keep trumpeting the same theme: to not worry too much about what others think. The following slogans from past lists all say essentially the same thing:
Don’t compare yourself to anyone living or dead (2002).
Mind your own business (2003).
Tend your own garden (2004).
Fire your inner critic (2009).
But if I had to pick one phrase that keeps popping up in different incarnations, it is the challenge to “focus.” However, the plan to focus is always buried among other plans, creative projects that span all genres, from baking to painting to singing to writing poetry. I guess if there’s one lesson here, it is the reality that, as important as it is to focus, it is equally important to realize the futility of that endeavor, for more than a short period. It’s an oxymoron. Maybe what we need is focused multi-tasking. Not to focus on one thing at the expense of all others, but to focus on the task at hand. Whether it is as little as five minutes or as much as five hours.
Focused multitasking. That’s going on my list for 2015.
If I can just find where I put that list.