Fall Rituals: A “New” Year

The New Year is significant in many cultures.  When I lived in Colombia a whole set of rituals accompanied “El Año Nuevo”, including wearing yellow underwear for good luck and walking your suitcase around the block on New Year’s Eve to ensure travel opportunities in the coming year.

Here in North America, the new year is the turn of the calendar year, a time when we traditionally make (and shortly thereafter break) resolutions.  In China, the New Year occurs in late January/early February and traditionally marks a time of celebration, reconciliation, and hope.   Perhaps because I have spent most of my life in schools,  first as a student and then as an educator, my “new year” really begins in September.

I’m not one for resolutions really.  But there’s something about September that invites introspection.  What do I want to accomplish this school year?  That one’s easy – finish the dissertation.  With the cooler weather, it will soon be time to store the bike and kayak.  How will my fitness goals change?   How about work/life balance?  There’s one that eluded me for most of my working life.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the goals may shift, but my progress is often round-about and stumbling, replete with multiple “steps back” and wagon-falling.  As unglamorous as it sounds, I’m a persistent plodder.   To set work related goals, the familiar Smart Goal formula (Specific, Measurable,  Attainable,  Realistic, Timely) really works for me.  For fitness goals, I use a concept found in Younger Next Year by Chris Cowley and Henry Lodge.  They use the term “kedge” (actually a small anchor to that can be used to move a becalmed boat forward) to describe a fitness challenge that is just a little bit out of one’s reach. (Some of my kedges have included walking a marathon and running a 5K.)  Once the goal is set, I find it useful to write them down and detail my (admittedly slow) progress.  Fortunately, there are a variety of tools to help “turtles” track,  ranging from high to low to no tech.  Among the I-phone Apps that work for setting and tracking goals is The Habit Factor, useful for on-the-fly recording.  To keep track of workouts, apps like Map My Run and Map My Ride will track distance and pace, as well as show running/bike routes on the map.  Lower tech and far less detailed is LifeLogger, really more of a list maker with a pleasing design and the ability to upload photos.   No tech options include Prevention magazine’s Day Calendar that provide health and fitness tips, health tracking charts, and a space in the week-at-glance pages to record fitness goals.

So as days shorten, temperatures drop and school schedules shake out, a new  year’s journey begins.  Ah, September!

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