The image above comes from an article about using Windows 10 Features, which is funny because I'm writing on my school-issued Mac. Still, I like the image of peeling away something that looks ominous to be able to see something new and desirable behind it.
As you know, I'm a teacher. Every fall, my job offers me a chance to get things right. I can write a new syllabus, come up with a new rewrite policy, select new novels to read, craft new essay topics, and approach my pedagogy in new ways. And even if I don't want to do any of that, I have new students in the room with me, so I hear new points of view, read new essays, and get to know new people. When other adults complain about their jobs as feeling repetitive, I can empathize in theory but not in practice. While some aspects of the job have a Groundhog-Day feel to them, overall, it's a dynamic environment. We who teach are lucky that way.
But even when life doesn't offer us obvious fresh starts, I advocate finding or creating them for ourselves. A new school year provides an easily noted beginning, but a new week or month, birthday, or holiday can also provide an opportunity to observe, consider, and regroup.
You might be thinking, "Carita, that's dumb. Most people don't follow through on their New Year's resolutions. They just end up feeling bad about failing those plans, so why do you recommend adding more times each year when we can feel bad about not being able to live up to the goals we set for ourselves?"
If you're thinking that way, here's why you're wrong. True, you might not still be living your New Year's resolution in February, but did you stick with it for January, for most of January, for a week? If you did, you did that much more of that goal/desired behavior you value than you would have without the resolution. Let's say you dropped off on January 20th. If you think of January 1 as the only time of the year to make a resolution, you're now stuck waiting more than eleven months to come up with a different plan, maybe one that's easier to stick with.
If, on the other hand, you learn to think of EVERY first of the month as a fresh start, you have ten days until you can start living up to your February resolutions. Or if every week is a new beginning, you have less than six days to wait to do what you believe you want to do. The shorter you make your timeline, the more likely you can stick to your plan. If you don't live your idea for a whole week, maybe it wasn't a reasonable goal. Can you modify it and try again? Try to set a target that's half way between where you are now and what you thought you wanted to get done when you set the too ambitious goal? Can you stay on the path of half? If so, what about three quarters?
You can see where I'm headed. Most of us can't make huge changes in our lives all at once; we over-promise and under-achieve. But we can all take baby steps. We might fall down, but like a toddler, we get back up again (sometimes with help) and keep going. If you have enough fresh starts in your year, you can travel pretty far in these micro bursts. Eventually, you'll see that every second you're alive is a new moment you can take to move towards whatever it is you hope to achieve. Every time we fail at something, we learn about the thing and about ourselves. We take that new knowledge and understanding with us into the next minute, in which we can try a new approach.
What do you think about taking fresh starts? Have a good story about a time you achieved a goal in tiny increments or by overcoming setbacks with baby steps in your desired direction? Please share your thoughts in the comments.