Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Beginnings Again

No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There's no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.
—Harry Chapin, Circle

Thoughts for Your Resolutions

  • Small steps count: Take finances: many Americans are in a quagmire of debt. According to EcoFuture, the typical American household carries $8,570 of personal debt (this does not include the mortgage). The good news: small steps can add up. David Bach has acquired fame in part by naming The Latte Factor™ (how small daily expenses eat away at your chance to save or pay down debt more quickly). The Latte Factor calculator is a great tool for quantifying the rewards that can come from (both literal and figurative) small change.
  • False starts are not dead ends: Many modern thought leaders reflect on the meaning of false starts. In Choosing Simplicity, Linda Breen Pierce comments that we can view false starts as mistakes, or as side trips of value for a limited time period, but not the long term. In her New Year’s issue, Oprah writes about a false start of her own: trying a humanitarian effort that failed before starting her leadership school in South Africa. The impulse was good all along, but the details of how to help needed to gel.
  • Think circular — endings are also beginnings: Harry Chapin (see lyrics above) said it well. If you face endings this year—losses of a relationship, a loved one, a job—try this exercise once you have caught your breath. Write about what changes this ending might inspire, what chances it might provide. Write about how you have grown (or can grow).
  • Creativity is a collection of beginnings: Include a creativity clause as an essential element of your resolutions. A lot of people, weighed down with misplaced work ethic, see creative endeavors as an indulgence, but they are a great way to stretch mentally and emotionally. Visit The Top 10 Benefits to Creativity to learn more.

Great Expectations

I await the New Year eagerly. I am waiting for the intense action and emotion that surrounds Christmas to subside, for life to settle back down. I am waiting to feel cleansed of excess, for a pause that allows real reflection again.

The expectations that come with Christmas can be both joyous and suffocating. As we anticipate meaningful connection with those we love and relish the magic of stars and bright lights, we sometimes suffocate the possibility for joy with the desire to make things even better, to make things perfect. Our intuitive selves know that what we have is enough (if we stop to recognize it), and that perfection is a false goal.

The possibility that the New Year presents, like Christmas, is double edged. As I ask, What will it be?, I make an effort to avoid the wrong kind of expectations. It will be an adventure, a revelation. It will contain both disappointment and fulfillment. It will not be perfect. It will not be predictable. But even the disappointments are likely to carry a hidden gem of wisdom. The fading holiday wreath is a reminder of life’s circular (versus linear) qualities. Endings can double as beginnings, and the most valuable lessons are likely to come around again.