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A new year tends to bring life into sharper focus.

Failures and regrets of the year passed, feigned anticipatory enthusiasm for what lies ahead; milestones of various dressingroommirrorilk, things left undone. Reflections in mirrors that are sometimes more fun house than Broadway dressing room predominate, preoccupy, border on and at times become, blind obsession. Metaphors predominate in private thought, public proclamation: blank canvases, clean slates, an empty room.

Then the ball drops at midnight.

Looking ahead to the future with or without a crystal ball or tea leaves is tricky business, as unbridled optimism bests pessimistic reflection in emotional and intellectual new year sumo matches – especially if you like what you crystalballseersee in your self-prognostications. Much lies ahead, and it is all anxiously anticipated with glee, the past notwithstanding, reality an inconvenient, ignored nuisance. You have filed away the flotsam of the year-that-was like an old tax return. Been there, done that; someday distant, you’ll simply throw it away, stuffed in with some other no-longer-needed documentation.

Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.

Out with the old, in with the new…lives, relationships, homes will all to be repaired and refurbished. At least, that’s the plan. Personal improvements need to be made, changes that will be to your betterment – that much is certain. You know what needs to be accomplished and so you lay the groundwork, anticipate and minimize potential setbacks, confident in your ability to ‘carry on.’ Loses and gains are planned with haphazard meticulousness. Nice, neat, clean. Hey, you got this.

The best laid plans…

eyechartHindsight is 20/20, presumptive foresight is generally myopic. Honest insight is going through the eye chart methodically, working through and around the cataracts of self-doubt and lack of self-confidence – seeing clearly the differences between the F’s and the P’s.

Its o.k. if you need to stop and focus on the chart, but don’t blindly guess.

Hang all the inspirational posters around you that you want, but know that pictures of cats or long-distance runners grimacing while holding a death-grip on a symbolic baton (what is being passed to whom?) – regardless of the simple, pseudo-inspiring verbiage or font – produces only income for the publisher, not real motivation or revelation for you. You need to change, want to change; always know that you can change. But a list of declarations, pledges and promises tacked to your refrigerator with a magnet are no better than the realistic aspects of what you are trying to accomplish, and a well thought out plan for accomplishing them.

And always have a plan ‘B.’ Just in case.

Set realistic goals and be conspicuous and vocal with your plans to achieve them. Get encouragement when you can, Whackamole2from whoever you can. Don’t succumb to doubt or capitulate to momentary setbacks. They will each rear their ugly heads – play Whack-a-Mole on them with reckless impunity.

New year advice is plentiful; Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, doctor’s office brochures. Fortune cookies, Facebook memes, well-meaning friends. They all have their places, simply as reminders that change is needed, that now is as good a time (but not the only time) as any. They are nothing more than reminders.

But you already knew that.hidefgraphic

‘Practice makes perfect’ has an abysmal success rate as a philosophy, but has found its niche as a notorious catch phrase. Practice perfection? You have to first learn a skill before you can practice it to any degree of success. You can’t rehearse to be flawless, but you can refine your flaws into more typical qualities. Change negatives into positives, know your limitations and don’t obsess perfection.

Ideas and ideals get lost quickly in the shuffle of the ides of any make-myself-better-January.

Use both successes and failures as benchmarks. Become acquainted with both, treat each with healthy respect and ample does of humor. Neither should be taken too seriously or passed off lightly. Contrary to what contemporary society may tell you, every accomplishment is not cause for celebration, every stumble is not a call to go back and start over.

All things in moderation.

Your new year’s resolution needs to be in as many pixels as you can muster, live and in brilliant color. The best a crystal ball can give you is this for your 2014: February will follow January, March will come next…it culminates in December. What you see is what you get.

etchasketchLife is an Etch A Sketch. Don’t like what you’ve drawn? Shake it up, erase the picture, draw it again.

Carpe diem; today is simply tomorrow’s yesterday.

I teach English in an urban high school. A poster with the proverb below hangs in my classroom. I have used it in various forms to prompt reflection for writing, and as a counterpoint to various attitudes in both what we read and what we experience in real life. It is great perspective for a new year.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle between two wolves is inside us all. One wolf is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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