New year, new you? Forget it

Behind the seductive lure of “New Year, New You” lies another kind of mistake, too: the idea that what we require, in order finally to change, is one last push of willpower. (Presumably, the hope is that the “January feeling” of fresh starts and clean slates will provide it.) The assumption is that you’re a bit like a heavy rock, poised on a hill above the Valley of Achievement, Productivity and Clean Eating. All you need is a concerted push to get you rolling.

Filed under: my really good resolutions tag.

New year, new you? Forget it

Paris Review – CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface, George Saunders

When I was in my twenties I had this plan to go to El Salvador and write about the experience. I had no money, didn’t speak Spanish, but this was “my dream.” I stopped by one day to see a friend of mine but found only his father home. I’d never spoken to this man before, not really. He was a truck driver, a father of eight, always went around in a white T-shirt and a pair of Buddy Holly glasses. But this day, we talked. I told him about my El Salvador plan, expecting him to find it indulgent. But instead he said, “You know what? You have to do it.”

“Yes,” I said, with the force of revelation. “I do. I really do.”

“And you know why?” he said. “Because you know who you’re going to blame if you don’t?”

I did know.

“Myself,” I said with a knowing smile.

“Bullshit,” he said. “You’ll blame your wife and  kids.”

I often thought of this conversation when I was stealing time from Radian to write this book. If I didn’t, I told myself, I was going to become a bitter old-fart version of myself, blaming Paula and the girls.

So I stole like a mother. I wrote in the bathroom, I printed using the company printer, I turned away from my Kodak report to jot things down, I edited while waiting for an offsite groundwater remediation system to purge, I sometimes blew off a full afternoon when I was feeling ripe, although usually, when that happened, I’d take work home, just to be fair.

(Cf. Amy Poehler.)

It’s been a few years since I’ve read any Saunders, but I’m really excited about his new book.

Paris Review – CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface, George Saunders

The Millions : My New Year’s Resolution: Read Fewer Books

In an odd way, the fact that no one else knows has made me more competitive, not less. I’m sure serious runners are familiar with this seeming paradox. Maybe nobody else knows that you shaved 1.2 seconds off your personal best time for the mile, but you know — and that knowledge, plus the fact that your achievement has brought you no external reward, gives you a perverse sense of satisfaction. Or no, let’s be honest about this: it gives you a perverse sense of superiority.

The Millions : My New Year’s Resolution: Read Fewer Books

Maybe one of the single best things a person can do for themselves is to shift from their default self-worth goals (seeking to prove self-worth and to avoid proof of worthlessness) to learning goals.

Not every end is a goal. The end of a melody is not its goal; however, if the melody has not reached its end, it would also not have reached its goal. A parable.

Nietzsche. Yeah, I kind of hate to be that Nietzsche-quoting guy, but I read it in Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project this morning and it stuck with me.