Monday, January 14, 2013

Measuring New Year's Resolutions in Degrees

Traditionally, when my students come back from winter break, I take a brief hiatus from Shakespeare to discuss new year's resolutions.

When I ask my students, "who made new year's resolution for 2013?" - lots of hands go up. The class lists off some of the usual suspects, which I end up scribbling across the chalkboard... "lose weight, quit smoking, go to the gym etc"

Then, I boldly assert that "over 90% of new year's resolutions are doomed to fail - all because people don't know anything about etymology."

SIDE NOTE: Unfortunately, immediately after making this statement, one of my very smart and very quirky students became visibly concerned. I asked him what was wrong and he replied stone faced,"my resolution was to stay alive this year." Despite being in good health, he was dead serious (no pun intended). I reassured him that I was confident he would fall into the 10% success rate. My job is a lot of things, but it's never predictable.

After calming the fears of my one student, I explained the etymology of the word "resolution" - which comes from a Latin term resolutionem (nom. resolutio), roughly translating to "the process of reducing things into simpler forms."

Most people fail in changing their lives because they make things too complicated, or try to change too much.  They don't respect the etymology of the term and therefore end up right where they started prior to the stroke of midnight on New Year Eve.

Someone very wise once gave me sound resolution advice, which I now pass along to my students: try to just change your life by one degree... after all, whether or not water boils or freezes is only separated by one small degree of temperature difference. If one degree can completely change the form of water - imagine what it can do for your life.

Boiling point of water is 100°C or 212° F 
For example, instead of making a huge complex resolution like "I'll lose weight" - come up with a simple one degree change... a small part of the solution - like, "I'll add one vegetable to every weekday dinner." It's amazing how much you can alter your entire lifestyle by just changing one simple thing.

So what's my resolution? What's my one degree of change? To write a haiku every day. A simple 5-7-5 form just might be the reflective device I need to keep me moving in a healthy, creative direction. They don't need to be witty, or profound, or good - just an observation... a moment to look around at my life instead of run through it.

So here is my first one.

Facebook Haiku
cuz status update:
"Jersey Shore Boardwalk Ready
By 20-13"

UPDATE: March 2
My resolution turned out to be a little more than one degree.....

Haiku Abandonment 
Who knew haikus would 
be such an arduous task
to capture the day