New Year, Same Thinking. Do you take advantage of your time?

January 1, 2009

New Year’s Day has always been my Everest, my college diploma, my driver’s test. It exists in memory as the day when I emerge better than the challenges before me…victorious.

While the day is a temporal rebirth – at least for those who follow Julian calendars – it’s also the first test of the year. How did you emerge from the previous year? What were your first words, views, thoughts, interactions each new year?

Over the years, I’ve subscribed to my father’s belief that the early bird gets the worm, the best choice of bagels, the quiet bathroom and the best sections of the newspaper. I’ve also believed correctly that dashing around the world before others are up is a fine way to get better breakfast service, see wildlife and take amazing photos of the virgin snow or uncrowded attractions.

During college I treated weekend days like New Year’s morning. While classmates were snuggled in their beds or strewn on couches across campus, I was up and out. A deserted campus is a marvelous thing.The air is sweeter, the coffee shop staff is friendlier and the city sounds (I went to school in the heart of Boston) are muffled by their infrequency.

Put yourself anywhere on New Year’s Day and see how getting up early might help you get ahead. OK, not the Post Office, but nearly anywhere else.

Disney World – first in line on an uncrowded morning.

Ski slopes – more runs before 11 than most people can do in a regular day.

The ocean – perfect kayaking, fishing and drifting before the morons take to the water.

Any major metropolitan city – the aforementioned peace, quiet and privilege of being first in line for everything.

Now let’s shift that thinking. If we’re treating every day as New Year’s, how would your life be different? Would you become a walking commercial for the U.S. armed forces getting more done before 9AM yada yada yada? Or would you cherish your peace, strain your brain and work to make your world and that of others a better place?

The thought of saving time is so prevalent that drivers lose their patience if another car cuts them off. Waiting 15 minutes for a table is worse than having our fingernails pulled out. And if someone cuts in line anywhere it’s grounds for a lawsuit.

But then look around the world on any given day. Look in the morning. Look at those people. They’re often the ones who don’t lose it at minor infractions of the social code. They have a pace of life that’s constant and positive – for the most part.

It’s been said, by many people and most credited to Mahatma Ghandi, that there’s more to life than increasing its speed. Ironically, all of Ghandi’s writings are now in the public domain. They belong to anyone and nobody at the same time. All his work…is it for naught? Maybe not.

I believe that. I believe it’s not how much you get done, because that path could bury you under failed expectations, guilt and Xanax. No, it’s how much you enjoy whatever it is that you do.

That’s the path I choose to take whether I whittle away the hours in front of a computer screen, on a softball field, clipped into the cranks of my bike, or mindlessly staring at the hammock swaying in the breeze. I choose a path that will make me a person who can contribute an ear to others’ lives; who can be in the moment; who values the minutiae and the earth-shattering; and who understands it can all be gone the next day.

That next day, symbolically and literally, is today, tomorrow, next month, your birthday, July 4, equinoxes, high tides, snowstorms, births, deaths, hours, minutes, seconds and even New Year’s Day.

Don’t take a moment to think about that. Use one of the moments you’ve already got and emerge victorious from every new day you get.

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