Can you believe it’s already 2019? Time sure flies when you’re having fun. When I was a child, the days seemed interminable, but now I’m a seasoned senior, I can’t seem to find enough hours to do everything I have in mind. I’m either slowing down or time is moving faster. I’m thinking it’s the former! Or there’s some weird Doppler effect that falls around our aging bodies, but doesn’t affect the younger generation among whom we live. Then again, I may have just decided to live at a slower pace because I want to and I no longer am constrained by outer forces such as schedules, paychecks, or responsibilities.
CAN WE TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS?
A new year is always a good time to turn over a new leaf. Contrary to popular myth, a dog’s capacity for learning generally doesn’t decline during the aging process. In fact, older dogs may have a more developed attention span than puppies, which can actually make the training process a little faster. They might need extra training to unlearn bad habits, but they can acquire good ones in their place.
KUNG FU MASTERS
Since human beings are smarter than dogs, we can all change behaviors that drive us or our loved ones to distraction. As a survivor of decades of broken resolutions, I think picking one specific behavior on which to focus is better than choosing a general goal, such as “I’m going to get healthy this year.” This overgeneralized goal has too many moving parts to it. Bruce Lee, or some Kung fu master, might be able to pick a whirling ninja throwing star out of thin air in mid spin without slicing off any bodily appendages, but we ordinary mortals will be riding in a speeding ambulance, hoping for a five star surgeon at the end of the route.
SHORT TERM GOALS
When I sold insurance, I would focus each week on a specific goal. For one week only, I would be the best cold caller, and the next I’d give the best service, followed by the next week of setting the most future appointments, and the next week of closing sales. In a month, I’d hit every skill and then I’d repeat the cycle. I was always fresh, always excited, and had a short term goal to accomplish on the way to the long term goal of making a living helping people while being paid on commission.
MAKE LONG TERM GOALS INTO SHORT GOALS
Many of us work in occupations with long term goals. These are difficult to meet, but having short term goals along the way to celebrate helps us keep our attitudes positive. When we look at the long year looming ahead, we might be overwhelmed. It we take one day at a time, or a week at the most, Life is more manageable. If we want to “be healthier,” we can chop this goal into several parts:
1. Sleep 7-8 hours per night
2. Drink 8 glasses of decaf non-sugared liquids a day (half water)
3. Eat more fiber, vegetables, and whole grains
4. Eat less processed foods and more home cooked foods
5. Exercise 30 minutes to an hour daily or a minimum of 150 minutes weekly
6. Reduce our sugar intake (sweetened beverages)
7. Quit smoking or reduce our nicotine use
8. Limit our alcohol to 1 drink daily for women or 2 drinks for men
If we were to attempt this entire change all at once, we might last at most a week, unless we were under lock and key, or offered a giant reward in some “Survivor: New Year’s Resolution Island” spin-off. However, we could achieve at least one of these goals if we worked on them just one week at a time. If we make to week 8, we can feel comfortable adding in some of the other week’s behavior goals, but not all at once, when we go for months three and four. The whole purpose is to change and transform a person, not to institute a structure from the outside which they will resist or reject the moment life gets in the way.
THE ART OF PICKING A GOAL
Trust me, at some point in 2019, life will throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans of everyone. It always does. This is when we discover if we’ve made new habits, or if we’re just play acting. By Valentine’s Day, 80% of New Years resolutions will lay beside the road of good intentions. I think this isn’t because we are failures, but because we pick the wrong resolutions. Pick a small, achievable, and measurable goal instead.
“Losing weight” is a lesser goal, since it is measurable, but it may not be achieved in a healthy manner. Drinking red pepper water isn’t healthy. Eating only 500 calories a day isn’t healthy. We have to eat enough to cover our basic metabolic needs.
“Writing an hour a day” is measurable and attainable, and it serves a purpose. We don’t have to be paid for everything we do. Our spiritual and mental health may depend on this hour well spent! Whatever goal you pick, give yourself permission to come close on most days and to try your best on all days.
GOALS AND GRACE
Some days the monkey wrench will mean 25% is all you can give as your best. Give yourself permission to celebrate achieving that much, pick yourself up, and try with God’s help for better tomorrow. We always get a fresh start at the dawn of a new day, for each sunrise is a new beginning, as if it were the first day of the rest of your life. Therefore, every day is a little new year, for there’s 365 days to follow it! Rabbit! Rabbit! Happy New Year!
Joy and Peace, Cornelia
Archaic Torso of Apollo
By RAINER MARIA RILKE, 1908
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
Rilke was secretary to the artist Henri Rodin in 1905-1906.
From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library. © 1995
This is the Japanese zodiac year of the Boar. Instead of my usual rabbits, I’m celebrating with a poem in homage to Ancient Greek art as well as Japanese art with New Year themes.
Toyohiro Utagawa: Tai no yume Ebisu no soroban or The red snapper’s dream: Ebisu using an abacus.