Sunday, January 06, 2013

New Year's Resolutions and Henry Ford...

It's January 5, and I've been thinking of things I want to do, mostly goals I want to achieve, this coming year. They're not exactly New Year's resolutions, but New Year's is as good a time as any to think about making positive changes, so every year recently, in late December and early January, I've found myself doing this. The idea of making New Year's resolutions, once popular, has fallen into disrepute, but I agree with Henry Ford, who supposedly said: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

Last year, one of the things on my list was simply the vague notion that I wanted to get in better shape. I didn't even start to work on that goal until March, but in December, I completed my first half-marathon. There's power, at least for me, in writing things down. This started accidentally, because one hot July afternoon several years ago, I sat down and wrote out a list of things I needed to have done around the house. I think I was having some intermittent garage door problems, and decided to make a list of various other things that needed to be done. Along with the mundane, I included some major projects, e.g., having the pool removed. The list was a journal entry, and after writing it, I wrote a lot of other entries and forgot about it, but a couple of years later, browsing through that journal, I came across that list again and to my surprise, I realized that I'd taken care of almost everything on it, including having the pool removed. 

This was interesting to me, because I hadn't consciously thought about it; in fact, I'd completely forgotten that I'd written it. It got me thinking that maybe, writing a list of things one wants to do can be more powerful than we realize. Since then, I've made a number of similar lists. When I do it, I always do it the same way I wrote that first list: I write things down off the top of my head, whether or not they seem realistic: for example, when I wrote that I wanted to have the pool removed, I didn't have the money to do it, but that didn't stop me from putting it on the list.

Yesterday I read an article in the NYTimes on Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert's research on looking ahead, called "The End of History Illusion", which suggests that all of us consistently underestimate the changes ahead of us. I don't know how my idea of making lists of things to be done melds with that, but I guess in 10 years I might find out.

In the meantime, it's time for me to stop writing this post and start making a new list.

Happy New Year everyone!


Lisa :-] said...

I know that once I write a grocery list, I can usually remember all the things that are on it without looking at it again... But one of the lingering after-effects of the cafe experience is that I am utterly and completely allergic to lists of any kind.

emmapeelDallas said...

I understand, and I'm not generally a list-maker myself; I even (stupidly, perhaps) resist making grocery lists. The interesting thing to is still that I had no recollection of anything on that list, except having the garage door checked and the pool removed.