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“To change one’s life: 1. Start immediately. 2. Do it flamboyantly. 3. No exceptions.” William James

Funny, isn’t it? Right now, with 20 days to go, I am positive that millions of people are making their rules for 2017, applicable from Day 1. (Okay, maybe not so much the Chinese, who have a different New Year.) They plan to diet, exercise, rise early, watch less telly, etc. Or maybe that’s just me. Again. Every year since ever.

Honest intentions, I have no doubt.

Next funny thing. Having promised to eat better, exercise etc. etc., they (we)  rationalise that because this is the season of celebration (and the conventional wisdom for celebration is to eat and drink to a massively stupid – yes, stupid – degree),  the fact that we are definitely starting to live better on Jan 1st means we can justify doing the exact opposite.

And I am just as stupid as most of you, in that regard. (Not as stupid as those who think it’s okay to do it FROM New Year until Christmas. Love to those alcoholics who will give up booze for a month to prove they’re not.)

William James, the ‘father’ of psychology (not psychiatry, different science), sought to identify the proper prescription for a successful life. By successful, he spoke not of fame and fortune, but of greater personal effectiveness and integrity, where one lived in accordance with one’s values and therefore did not suffer the debilitation of depression, stress and guilt. His prescription was to advise people throw themselves into our primary objective – living life with the peace of knowing that what you are doing is good for you, good for others, and which serves a greater good. Even if that service only means becoming a role model for others.

Bear with. You have a conscience. It may be teeny weeny, or it may be a big bu66er. But you have one. When you fail to act in accordance with its sage advice, you feel a soupçon or a bucketful of guilt, depending upon its capacity and your willingness to listen to it. What you do with that knowledge is the difference between achieving James’ definition of success, and living a life of quiet desperation where you spend every evening wondering where the day went and why you haven’t achieved what was on your principled list of things-to-do.

How do I know? I know because that has been a tendency* in my life. A lot of my friends seem impressed with the amount of ‘stuff’ I do and the miscellaneous blobs of service for which I am known support their belief, but I know I could be a doing a whole lot better.

And with few exceptions, so do my readers.

Right now, those close to me privately and professionally are all preloading every conversation around the cake/biscuit barrel/sweet tin with ‘well, it is Christmas’, then stuffing their face knowing how daft they’re being. And (here’s the annoying part), after Christmas they’ll all go on a diet and bring their left-over cr4p into work. Thanks a bunch.

Starting today is key. It’s not easy, but it is the only truly sound route to getting what you want, and getting it soon enough to enjoy it.

My advice, therefore, is to follow William James’ advice. But be a little bit careful with the ‘flamboyantly’ bit. I think he meant do it ‘big time’, not dressed in a pink tutu, wearing a Stetson and covered in Braveheart make-up.

 

*Does ‘tendency’ mean absolute headlong throwing-yourself-into-dedicated-idiocy?

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