The Trouble with New Beginnings

apollo “You must change your life.” I’ve had this aphorism* as a screensaver, on my mobile, taped to the wall, and scrawled in various places for years. It’s an admonition to myself that things can be different, if only I try. Hard enough. 

That’s the bugger—try hard enough. As one year draws to a close and another raises its Medusean head, many of us think about our new year’s resolutions. I know when I was much younger, I’d labor over my list. I can recite most of them from memory because they appeared year after year: lose weight, study French, write a novel, save money and budget the rest, exercise by jogging and biking, exercise by stretching or dancing, catch up on photo albums, clean a cupboard/closet/drawer regularly. 

And like most everyone else, my resolutions lasted a week or two, then were cached until the next year. So I stopped making resolutions. 

The truth is habit does so much more to help us reach our goals than mere pledges. Years ago following a lecture by my dentist, I started flossing daily. The health of my gums skyrocketed. About four years ago, I instituted a daily writing regime and since them have tripled my output. Day after day, week after week, whether I feel like flossing or writing, I do it. And I’ve gotten results.

So this year I’ll look at my motto daily and think about changing my life. But I don’t have out-sized expectations. Transformations may be miniscule but they’ll be cumulative. And habitual. 

*From Rilke’s poem, ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo’: The poet, studying with the sculptor Rodin, gained insight into fleshy, solid, physical forms and applied these to his writing. Viewing this famous statue, he used it as an admonition to himself.