During the waning weeks of each year, I begin to mull over plans I made at the beginning of the current year plus possible resolutions that I can realistically fulfill during the next year. What haven’t I taken care of this year; and which of those should be carried over into the next? What new things do I want to try?
Such ponderings are as habitual as sending holiday greeting cards to family and friends in December. Perhaps the act of writing short passages in the cards triggers these thoughts of past and future due to so much reminiscing being jotted into the cards. In any case, the endings and beginnings of years remind me to be wise about how I spend time.
It’s important to me to remember the value of expending time and effort in the present in order for long-term, sustainable results to occur. I’ve learned the hard way not to waste time on quick fixes. The rose-colored glasses of my idealistic youth have been put away, in favor of positive practicality. That is, more effort is made to focus my attention on beneficial action with less focus on time-wasting activities that bring little or no joy.
This pragmatism has come to the forefront after much scattered thinking and effort during my younger years. There was inner conflict between instant gratification and restraint in favor of the future. The conflict finally mellowed into introspection, which is more helpful in the long run. What I believed would bring happiness created anxiety, stress, and conflict. It turned out not to be worth the effort. Then I realized that the listing of priorities actually does work to help with focusing on what will deliver results I want.
A business manager might call such planning “cost-benefit analysis”. She would consider which major tasks are required in order to bring projects to fruition. Which efforts are taking up a lot of energy and time without promise of yielding any reasonable rewards? Like the businessperson, I try to take stock of what is vital and what is a colossal time-waster. This is done with a human-friendly attitude because balance between nose to the grindstone and fun times is important.
An important consideration is to be mindful of when efforts fail to produce favorable results. There comes a time when we know that pouring resources into a project yield little or negative return. Now and then one has to know when to cut one’s losses and abandon the project. This must be done carefully because we don’t want to give up merely because the going gets tough.
It’s unwise to just keep the nose to the grindstone only because one has spent a great deal of time and money. Pride is a hard task-master that can sap vital life-energy. There are those, hopefully, rare times when we put our hearts and souls into activities that fail. The project or relationship is simply unworthy of any more of our time, regardless of how much we try. This is the difficult part of the sorting process.
Meantime, if we have been putting forth honest, focused effort into a challenging, important project we may not always know when it is nearing culmination. We need to keep going. Eventually, the hard work will result in tangible rewards due to all of our hard work.
None of this is new or groundbreaking. It’s just that the year 2020 has been an extremely frustrating, distracting time for most of us. It’s important to remember that even with all the craziness that’s going on that our honest efforts are worth it. We can keep our expectations at a reasonable level with the understanding there are no absolute guarantees in life. We remember to be thankful for what we have accomplished and what we have. The takeaway is that it is smart to focus on the present, be mindfully productive with what we have, and the long-term will most likely fall in place in due course.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a slightly different view from television journalist, Anderson Cooper. “When I was younger, I talked to the adults around me that I respected most about how they got where they were; and none of them plotted a course they could have predicted. So it seemed a waste of time to plan too long-term. Since then, I’ve always gone on my instincts.”