It is time to start another Year Of. This post is to introduce the topic, starting with the idea behind it and a look back at my first two attempts.
I’ve noticed that a Year Of can be set up either at the beginning or end of a year. The internationally official Year Of is designed to focus attention on a particular issue over a 12-month period. I’ve always assumed the United Nations started it. In contrast, a Year Of can be created by a journalist as a way of summing up and reflecting upon key events that occurred in the previous 11 ½ months.
In 2010, I started my first personally official Year Of as a substitute for non-existent New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t tried the journalistic looking-backwards version yet. Having a bash at self-improvement can be fun if you keep it real. However, critical self-reflection after the fact can be an uncomfortable business.
I cannot put the finger of memory on the exact trigger for my first Year Of. I recall noticing that the health care rebate for a doctor’s visit nicely covered the cost of a music CD. I possibly noticed this because my local Medicare office was very near a music shop. As I was expecting to visit the doctor a few times in 2010 to sort out some breathing problems, and as it had been some time since I expanded my music collection, and as there was an unused iPod Nano sitting in my desk, the idea popped in from somewhere – 2010 would be my Year of Music.
It worked a treat. I love my iPod Nano. It is now an important feature in my life. I also have some wonderful new music to listen to. So, at the end of 2010, feeling pleased with the good progress that accompanied my Year of Music, I pondered “What next?”.
I was driving to Condobolin with my Mum on Boxing Day when the next idea turned up. 2011 would be my Year of Limited Purchases. I had bought my first car in 2011 and not managed the running costs particularly well. I had also spent a bit of money on medical specialists for some heartburn. It seemed a good time to focus on spending habits in order to clear up my two credit cards.
This was when I discovered that the wording used in a personally official Year Of is very important. My Year of Music left me feeling both a success and a failure. I bought some CDs that I did not enjoy, and my hopes of going to more concerts or buying a musical instrument did not magically materialise. For 2011, I wanted to create more space for thoughts and ideas. I wanted to limit the risk that I would feel like a failure.
And 2011 did work quite well. The credit card with the higher interest rate was paid off and no longer exists. But what I liked most was that this simple two-word title, Limited Purchases, also prompted me to think about bigger questions such as “What is waste?” and ponder the role of consumerism in the global financial crisis.
I also noticed that I carried into 2011 some of my 2010 Year of Music. I bought a couple more CDs, but I made sure each fitted with the ideas underpinning the Year of Limited Purchases. I ensured that the new music served a particular purpose, ie it would get used regularly, and that I only bought music I knew I would like.
So, after two years, the format of my personally official Year Of is taking shape. There are many tips on the internet and in newspapers and magazines for making New Year’s resolutions. For me, the following appears to be working:
- Decide on the theme for the next Year Of during the last week of December when work is over and there is opportunity to properly ponder the matter. A long drive helps.
- Pick a theme that flows from or builds upon previous themes.
- Choose words that will make the Year Of seem like tending a garden. The words should create a big amount of space for ideas to develop and grow around the theme.
- Make sure the theme is something foundational. That way, it will set up some supportive habits that will benefit other activities as well.
- Ignore those people who claim that all goals must be specific, measurable, achievable and timed. They are not my kind of gardeners.
I suspect that I will need to be careful with my choice for 2012. I’ve got myself this far. It would be a shame to shoot myself in the foot now by biting off more than I can chew.