There’s nothing like plunging in rather than just standing around at the edge of the pool, waiting for things to happen.
Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions for 2012 which we will eventually abandon, for most experts will tell you that it takes at least several weeks of consistency to form a new habit. Human nature being what it is, we will tend to go at it with gusto, and then for various reasons will put things aside and forget about these things until someone asks us, some months down the road, whether we have made any progress on that goal or project we announced we were going to undertake. We will then feel guilty about it for a day or two and then forget about it until next year.
While we do not have to wait for the turn of the year to try something new, or to change course on a particular aspect of our lives, for most of us going it alone is not a realistic way to achieve what we set out to do. We need some kind of accountability, even as adults, to know that if we do not stick to what we feel called to do, someone will be there to remind us of what it is that we ought to be doing. There are whole industries devoted, in whole or at least in part, to this sort of thing: from doctors and lawyers and financial planners, to personal trainers, coaches, and counselors.
On the plane back from Barcelona after Christmas, I had plenty of time to sit and think about some of the goals I hope to achieve this year in my personal/professional life, as well as with respect to my writing. The exercise proved to be particularly helpful last year in regards to writing, as I switched to WordPress and purchased domain names, and made more of an effort to get involved on Twitter. The results have been measurable, and because of that the hope is to build upon what has already been done by improving my online writing: seeking opportunities to write articles and guest-post; adding new features to Catholic Barcelona; thinking about a re-design for my author site and finally getting around to having some proper photographs taken rather than snapshots by willing friends and relations; etc.
Knowing that the various goals, both online and otherwise, that I hope to achieve are likely doomed to failure without some of that aforementioned accountability factor, I am taking the advice of, as it happens, a friendly voice on Twitter and lining up a couple of people to serve as “responsibuddies” on these goals. Putting aside the admittedly twee nature of that term, the idea is that if you know someone will be checking up on you, you are more likely to actually try to achieve what you set out to accomplish, if you are going to have to report to someone on a regular basis with regard to how things are going. Thus in my case, for example, a friend who is very knowledgeable about sports and fitness matters has agreed to help with keeping an eye on my fitness goals for the year, and another who is very prominent online is going to help out with keeping focused on improving what I write online and getting it to a wider audience.
Yet as fun or as challenging as some of these goals are, they really do not mean anything if they are nothing more than vanity projects. They have to, in some way, be contributing to my own spiritual and temporal welfare, and/or that of others. If I am to use the talents and abilities I have been given, it is because I recognize that I have a responsibility to do so, rather than to simply allow them to linger or collect dust, unwanted and ignored.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is the more technical end of Christmastide in most places, since we go back into Ordinary Time tomorrow until Lent begins. We remember when Jesus presented Himself to St. John the Baptist, in order to be baptized at the beginning of His public ministry. By so humbling Himself – as St. John commented to his Cousin, “YOU should be baptizing ME!” – He set an example which Christians still follow today, in baptizing children and adults in acceptance of the Christian faith and in the rejection of sin, with the ultimate goal of getting to Heaven. Yet He also set an example of creating a starting point, which we recall this time each year, for a renewal of the self and a focus on what lies ahead, and doing so with the help of an old friend.
As you consider what you hope to achieve over the next year in your own life, these goals do not of course have to be all seriousness. It is perfectly fine to want to save up for a special trip to visit some old friends, for example, without trying to turn it into the equivalent of the Camino de Santiago. Yet one of the benefits of asking one or more of your friends to help you in achieving those goals is that it will hopefully not only draw your friendship closer together, but also give the other person the opportunity to reflect on their own goals for the year, or for their life, as you consult together. You may end up planting a seed for something profound in someone else or in yourself, if you reach out to make that happen.
And to that end, gentle reader, I wish you the very best of luck in jumping in at the deep end of things.
Detail of “The Baptism of Christ” by Pietro Perugino (c. 1490-1500)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna