Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Manner of Speaking

Since moving from England to the United States in the 1990s, I still get a kick from some of the questions and verbal exchanges my accent (British) elicits. Here are some of the best -- or, depending on your point of view, the worst -- encounters that have endeared themselves to me.

Traveling is always guaranteed to produce some good exchanges. One time I stopped for something to eat in rural Iowa. Hearing me order, a trucker walked up and asked me, “You from Canada or something?“ Most definitely something, I thought.

In a Kansas City coffee shop I got talking to a couple of teenage girls and, after a while, decided to introduce myself by shaking hands whereupon one of them took my hand and, bending her knees and slightly bowing her head, curtsied. I was highly amused and told her, “There is no need to curtsey to me!” Perhaps she thought that was the expected etiquette when meeting a Brit.

Bar Talk - In Minneapolis I spoke with a man in a bar who, after learning I was half English and half Welsh, said, “But Wales is just a part of England, right?” Trying to explain the difference, while carefully throwing in the few words of welsh I knew for good measure, he accused me of trying to hoodwink him. Hilarious.

And how could I forget the drunk in a Detroit bar who refused to believe I was not faking my accent. He asked that I show him my “currency” as proof of where I was from. Except he wasn’t quite that polite. Twisted, eh.

The holidays - “Do you guys have Christmas in England?” someone once asked. “Used to. We all recently converted to Islam,” I quipped. Needless to say, I wasn’t too surprised when my explanation was accepted at face value.

Some exchanges just stretch belief. Case in point: I once parked in a downtown Minneapolis parking lot when the attendant, to whom I paid the parking fee, said, “You speak English very well. Where do you come from?"
“England,“ I replied.
A confused look, and then, “So they teach you the language there, huh?”
Apparently, they’ve been teaching it there for some time. I smiled, wound up the window, and drove off.

Perhaps the most bizarre exchange of all took place in a Jacksonvile, Florida, supermarket during a break from a road trip between Miami and Atlanta. Ordering a sandwich at the deli counter, I became conscious of a man nearby staring at me. A look back a few seconds later and his eyes were still fixed on me. After collecting my sandwich I headed toward the checkout only to notice the same man heading my way. By this point I was a little apprehensive so decided to turn into the adjacent isle, stop and pretend to look at something on the shelf, and hope that he’d walk past. But he didn’t. Instead, he stopped inches away, and in an elongated Southern drawl, said, “Excuse me sir, can I say something to you?”
My heart began to pound a little faster as I imagined what he might want. “Sure, say whatever you like,” I replied.
“Cheers, mate!” he boomed, adding, “I’ve always wanted to say that to an Englishman.”
And then he was gone. Just like that.

Being (mis)understood can also present its challenges. At a state park this past summer, having just been on a hike, I asked someone to take a photo of me and my new friend.
“Take one a little closer,” I requested.
“Take our clothes off?” my friend said, a look of complete surprise on her face.
Oh sure, but I hardly know you.

And then there are the really fun encounters. Not long ago, in a Brueggers Bagel shop, I asked, “Can I have a little more cream cheese on that bagel?”
“Honey, with an accent like that you can have as much cream cheese as you like,” replied the woman, smiling.

These are, of course, some of the more memorable (and extreme) encounters. For the most part having the accent I do can be a fun thing and, more often than not, a non-event.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Waiting for Change

Limbs laid bare
like frozen fingers
suspended in time

Huddled together
yearning to move
waiting for change

Spring’s warm breeze
awaken buried desires
as shadows recede

Monday, August 31, 2009

August Travels

I love to experience new things, meet new people, and see new places. August has been a wonderful month for all of these, both in the U.S. and abroad. I often find the need to fight the status quo and guard against complacency, so new experiences are food for my soul.

The month began when my friend Krisanne invited me to go sailing and camping. Leaving Minneapolis early Thursday evening I joked that she had packed enough equipment to keep us going for a month, though she did think of everything we might need!

After an hour's drive we arrived at Hok-Si-La campsite a mile north of Lake City and quickly put up our tent as dusk fell. We had a wonderful location with a view across Lake Pepin to Wisconsin. Shortly afterwards we met her friends Katie and Rick at the marina and boarded the yacht. When about a mile from shore Rick cut the engine and we just drifted, the sounds of Abba (Rick‘s choice) emanating from the cabin.

The evening was perfect. There was the slightest of breezes, the moon periodically emerging from behind the clouds, casting a shimmering reflection on the water. Our two hours on Pepin were wonderful. We laughed, told stories, and drank beer. Most surprisingly, we didn‘t see another boat during the entire time - just the moon, the stars, and the lights of Lake City in the distance.

Around midnight Krisanne and I headed back to Hok-Si-La where we built a fire and sat up until 3 am chatting. We also paid a visit to our nearest neighbors, whose voices we could hear in the distance through the trees. Here was tranquility and calm, an escape from the city with just the wind, the rustling of leaves, and the sounds of the night to keep us company. Rick and Katie stayed on the boat.

We woke up to the gentle beating of raindrops on the tent but soon went back to sleep. When we woke up again the rain was falling so hard that we couldn’t see across Pepin. And our tent had started to leak. The rain showed no signs of letting up so we decided to pack up, getting very wet in the process. But what fun! On the way home we stopped for lunch at the St. James Hotel in Redwing and were reunited with Rick and Katie. Krisanne is a great traveling companion.

My next trip was a lot longer, both in time and in distance. In my quest to see all 50 states I try to see at least one new state each year. Because I have been everywhere within a day’s drive of the Twin Cities, and also because I loved Kansas City so much when I visited in 2007, I decided to venture back there, stay a couple of nights, and take a separate trip to northeastern Oklahoma.

Leaving Minneapolis early on Friday morning I headed south on I-35, past endless fields of corn and giant clouds that drifted lazily across the sky. The clouds in the midwest seem bigger than on the coasts or in England. There is something calming that the solitude of an open road offers -- a different kind of solitude to being in the woods, but a solitude nonetheless.

The flat fields of Iowa gradually gave way to Missouri’s gentle rolling hills and after eight hours on the road I arrived in KC. That evening I visited a wonderful coffee shop (with live music) in Westport, site of a famous Civil War battle. I also spent some time in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum.

At breakfast the following morning I sat studying my road atlas when a woman covered in sweat and dressed in running gear approached me and asked, “Where are you going?” We chatted like old friends and she suggested I also go to Arkansas, adding, “…but you’ll need to haul ass!“ She then invited me to join her and a friend in the evening. I accepted the invitation, which turned out to be tremendous fun.

The day was interesting though I would think twice before spending so long in the car again. In Arkansas I went to Bentonville, a charming town in the Ozarks. It is also home to Wal-Mart though I didn’t know that when I arrived. Sometimes when traveling my accent can elicit interesting responses, especially in small towns. Ordering coffee in a cafĂ© I was told “there’s a girl who comes in here who does a great impersonation of your language.” I smiled. Bentonville was charming.

I then headed to Miami, Oklahoma, where a corvette rally was taking place. The town had seen better days, but the sight of 100-plus corvettes lined up on Main Street before heading onto Route 66 later that day made me glad I came. Having been to Arkansas and Oklahoma I've now been to 32 states - I wonder where will be next?

The journey back to Minneapolis was long though I did strike it lucky in a casino close to the Iowa-Minnesota border. I am no fan of casinos and don’t know why I went in though my 10 minutes there saw me part with $5 and walk out with $80.

Last week, on my way to visit my dad in England, I decided to stop in Iceland. When I arrived it was cold and grey and most people were dressed in wooly hats, gloves, and big coats. I wasn’t prepared for that. In a coffee shop early in the morning a woman asked if the seat next to me was free. Recognizing each other from the plane, we chatted and arranged to meet for coffee that evening.

During the day I explored Reykjavik and met my new friend later on. Walking around the city we stopped and stared at the sight of 30 Danish men wearing suits who were singing on the pavement outside a Danish pub. We couldn‘t decide what the occasion might be but it was wonderful to stand there and listen. Later on we listened to Celtic music, performed by Icelanders. The night was great fun. I also loved the slogan on her business card, “Adventure Seeker”.

In contrast to the timeless tranquility of my dad’s village and Arlington Row, in particular, I spent yesterday, Sunday, in London. I dearly love Minneapolis but London will always burn brightly in my heart. I went somewhere touristy (but fun), Speakers’ Corner; visited a couple of old haunts, Covent Garden and Camden Market; and experienced something new, the Notting Hill Carnival, which I have always wanted to see.

Perhaps Samuel Johnson, writing in the 18th century, knew a thing or two when he wrote, “...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

I don’t think I have ever traveled so much in one month. I write this from the rural charm of a hotel beside Rutland Water in England’s smallest county, Rutland, on the last day of the month (a short break with my dad). In a couple of hours my aunt and uncle are coming to dinner. What a great way to end the month.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I love to run my fingers
through the long strands
of your hair; blonde mixed with red,
like strawberries and cream.

Sometimes you wear it straight,
sometimes braided, sometimes in a bun.
Pink ends, pig tails, and untamed curls;
or dark brown like cascading chocolate waves.

Among a harem of maidens fair
I just want to wallow in your hair.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Since I was old enough to remember I have been a Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) fan. In recent seasons it has become the norm for clubs to redesign their playing kits each year. Last week the Spurs website showcased the club's (three) new designs for the 09/10 season.

Yes, the home shirt is still (largely) white, the shorts still (mostly) navy, and the socks (for the most part) white. Some years I like our kit; other years I don’t. But there is more to it than that. As for the latest offerings, I’ll let you judge for yourselves.

The home shirt sports a mustard-colored V that crosses over each shoulder. Hideous. They ruin what would otherwise be a decent shirt. In any case, yellow on white is not a good color combination. What were the designers thinking? Perhaps the club knows something we don’t, and the yellow stripes will make the players run faster and play better. Call it restyling. Call it exploitation. Call it what you will. I call it ugly.

Then there’s the second and third kits, where the colors change each year. Consider: Last season’s second kit was sky blue, now it's navy; the third kit was black, now yellow. Tradition in an age of global branding means nothing. Even as a Spurs fan I thought the absence of white caps on Arsenal’s sleeves last season was in poor taste; instead, they got stuck with a white stripe.

Changing kits each season lessens its appeal as an event. Perhaps after two or three years fans would want a change. A longer span defines an era. But the prospect of money to be made --combined with fans’ desire to wear the latest kit--will ensure this will continue - even though most people think it obscene.

Criticize Spurs' new kit though I might, there is worse--Bolton’s, for example. On the positive side, at least the yellow stripes will be gone next year, and as long as the players don’t emerge from the tunnel wearing red, my love for Spurs will march on.

But whatever the kit looks like, I know we’ll finish in the top four come May. Of course we will. Just try convincing a Spurs fan otherwise.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Leadership Twin Cities

Earlier this month I completed my Leadership Twin Cities class. The program's goal is to make us aware of important issues in our community, to motivate us, and to get us as leaders to use what skills and resources we have to make a positive impact. It certainly had a positive impact on me.

I first heard about LTC through a colleague at work who had been a participant the previous year. After a little research I was keen to be involved. It seemed a good fit with my role as co-chair of a committee at work that grants funds to fund local nonprofits and my involvement with Little Brothers. But really, I wanted to challenge myself with issues I was not familiar—or not nearly familiar enough--with. I also wanted to take my leadership further.

The class began in September at a wooded retreat 45 miles north of the Twin Cities. In addition to learning more about the following nine months, it was a chance for the class (around 50 people) to get to know each other. I recall the fun we had talking and drinking beer around the bonfire at night. In fact, there were many memorable moments. Here‘s a few that stand out:

As late summer drifted into fall we went on a bus tour for Metropolitan Issues Day. I saw the beauty of the cities. I also saw how maintaining that beauty comes at a cost. A community needs a good environment in which to thrive.

At Economic Development Day at the Midtown Global Market we heard a sober economic outlook from the state economist. He was, of course, being honest but his message got us all down! But this was short-lived and our mood was soon lifted when we met some of the Global Market entrepreneurs whose food we later enjoyed for lunch.

In December at Politics and Media Day we took part in a mock council meeting in the council chamber. That was a lot of fun, a great exercise in democracy, but also in improvisation.

As we moved into winter we gathered on a bitterly cold day for Arts and Culture Day at the Open Book. I saw the value of business helping to fund the arts.

Then came warmer weather, the promise of spring, and with it Community Safety Day. Our call-to-action items for this day were especially interesting. The tour of Hennepin County jail was eye-opening and made me realize the importance of funding preventative programs; my police ride-along was something I’ll never forget. If those six hours in a squad car could represent a microcosm of our community then I saw things that work, things that don’t work, people that need help, and people reaching out to help. In short, I saw a community - a living, breathing, functioning community. Like a circle, I saw how many parts are needed to make it whole.

The image of a classmate being tasered by a policeman was remarkable. I'm still amazed that he volunteered for that. Hearing a husband and wife recount their time in jail after being convicted of million dollar mail fraud was compelling and will stick with me as a moral tale long into the future.

The co-chairs’ requirement that we sing to the class should our cell phones ring made me paranoid. But to everyone’s benefit my careful vigilance saved them from that prospect; I only hope that the incoming co-chairs don’t consider tasering as a new punishment for ringing cell phones.

Nine months ago I didn’t know much about how a community affects business or how business affects a community. I now see that they affect each other a great deal: the two are intertwined. I had taken so much--be it transportation or safe streets--for granted. LTC has changed how I see things; my ongoing challenge will be to decide how to put this knowledge to good use.

At our last meeting at Medtronic World Headquarters for Vision Day I was honored to be asked to speak at the graduation ceremony. As I stood on stage I asked why our class was important. In front of me I saw open-minded, intelligent, forward-looking people who want to make a difference. It struck me that LTC can be summed up in three simple steps. We had all completed the first: be aware of the issues; the second: decide to get involved with a nonprofit or similar organization; the third: choose to act.

LTC was a wonderful experience. I made some great friends and would recommend it to anyone. I am excited to take what I have learned out into the world. Leadership is many things, but trying to make a difference--while learning along the way--is not a bad path to be on.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Myth Assigns Meaning to Life

People often use the word myth to imply the opposite of truth. An explanation about something is referred to as a myth meaning that it isn’t true. But if you look at the original meaning of the word, myths can be viewed as timeless stories that cast meaning on our lives (e.g. classical mythology, folklore, the Arthurian legends). These stories explore our fears and desires and provide a commentary on what it’s like to be human. They also give expression to our innate sense that there is a lot more to life than what is on the surface.

Myths don’t deal in facts -- but they do give insight into life and help us to understand our fellow human beings. I am particularly interested in the myth of the hero. Heroism features prominently in the myth stories of all the cultures and creates a direct connection to our own lives.

For me a hero isn’t someone with meta-human powers; rather, it is someone who emerges from a bad place or a bad experience, comes through a physical or mental trial, attempts to understand that experience, and then tries to make a difference. Life turns full circle: trial, redemption, discovery, growth, and trial again.

Our time on earth is finite, made up of only so many summers and winters. Choosing to make a difference in the world often begins on a local level but may in turn lead to a grander stage. Life can offer many rewards, but it’s up to each of us to look for them. Like the knights in search of the grail, we must all go on a personal quest.

Experiencing something at the right time, perhaps aided by fate, can alter one’s life. As we move around this beautiful earth we leave little marks everywhere we go, but it’s also possible to leave an indelible footprint. I want to make a difference with my time. I want to act and not sit by.

I have often wondered why myth stories are so prevalent. They are everywhere because they matter. Myth assigns meaning to life. The stories are about making choices. Heroes don’t have to be perfect, but they do need a redeeming quality.

The figures from mythology, shrouded in the splendor of antiquity, are still talked about today, their stories still told, their deeds still recounted. Why is that? Perhaps, through risk and redemption, like a phoenix rising out of the flames--those same flames that one devoured but then gave birth to new ideas--those old ones knew a thing or two because they have been tested. They are the ones we can learn from. Growth often comes from a background of pain.

Life goes so fast. It is filled with risk, but that is what makes it exciting. Like a speeding train, to really enjoy the journey you must climb aboard and enjoy the thrill of the ride as you cruise past the stations of life. We have all made mistakes, we all have regrets, and some things we cannot change; but we can try to understand them so that we might gain a greater understanding of ourselves.

Consider the Tree of Life, a tree of many branches that illustrates the idea that all life on earth is connected. Picture for a moment its branches and you’ll see a beautiful symmetry, everything woven together, alluding to the symmetry in our own lives.

Connectedness, fate, destiny, chance--call it what you will--are often unseen and unrealized. Nourish the tree and you’ll have healthy branches; healthy branches will give growth as each new spring comes and goes. But don’t forget to nourish the mind and, as British author Rebecca West said, “Life ought to be a struggle of desire toward adventures whose nobility will fertilize the soul.”

When you have doubts choose to look fear in the face; after all, it is just a face. A person’s life’s work is never over if you follow your convictions. Lift your fate above earthly sensations, above negativity. People won’t always remember your words, but they’ll remember how those words made them feel. And they certainly won’t forget your actions.

My own journey is different to your journey, my thoughts different to your thoughts, but the path through the woods leads to the trees of life. For a long time my own path was shrouded in a mental fog. I knew I was on a journey but couldn’t see my way out of the woods. Now, after a long march I stand at the tunnel’s exit, the light streaming in, pulling me toward it.

Can we contribute something that is bigger than ourselves? Only time, that great arbiter and judge, knows the answer to that, but it’s important to keep trying to do what you want to do. Stay on the path, whichever way it twists, whichever way it turns, until you reach your destination. And then, like the heroic figures from long ago, life will have turned full circle.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

MPD Ride-Along

As part of my Leadership Twin Cities class we are required to do a ride-along with a police officer. I did mine this past Friday, but having never been in a squad car I wasn’t sure what to expect.

By the end of the night I had seen bar fights, street fights, and drug arrests; experienced a high speed police car response; saw police with shotguns; and was present when the officer I was with drew his pistol, and when he used mace. I also donned a police jacket as I accompanied the officers on foot at bar closing time.

For the sake of propriety I’ll call the two Minneapolis Police Department officers I rode with, Officer A and Officer B.

Some Highlights:

1. A report of two men exchanging drugs outside Block E. A description from a surveillance camera was given and off we went. “We are going to pull up and get out really quick,” said Officer A. Arriving at the scene, both officers jumped out of the car and were soon searching the individuals concerned. I stood nearby, watching. So too did everyone outside Block E. Both were then put in the back of the car as I sat in the front. Unable to find drugs they could not be charged and were released.

2. We were flagged down by a disheveled-looking man close to the Salvation Army homeless shelter. “I have a gift from the chief,” he said, and began to dig around in a large canvas bag he was carrying. It was dark, we were in an area full of crack dealers, and he was inches away from the front passenger window. I was nervous. Bizarrely, he then pulled out a letter he claimed was from the Chief of Police, before telling us that “someone” in the area was dealing crack to minors. Not enough to go on said Officer A. As we drove away, Officer B told me, “Sitting in the back you wouldn’t have seen, but I pulled my gun out. It was pointing at his chest.”

3. On the radio came a call “Officer needs help!” It was in North Minneapolis. The officers looked at each other and the decision was made: they would respond. Within seconds the siren was sounding and we were speeding north on Washington Avenue at 80, perhaps 90 mph, streaking through one red light after another in pursuit of another squad car. Although nervous, I had an adrenaline rush. This was exciting!

Arriving at a house we were met by 12 squad cars, all with their lights flashing. The disturbance—whatever it was--had just been resolved but dozens of police officers were standing around, some wielding shotguns. The smell of burning rubber from screeching tires still hung in the air as we got out to investigate. Officer A told me that some cops were carrying M16s, because “even though a shotgun is more intimidating, it won’t penetrate a wall.”

4. At bar closing time the officers asked whether I wanted to go on foot patrol with them along 1st Avenue. I agreed and was given a police jacket to wear so that other officers might know who I am “should things get out of control.” I saw numerous disturbances, including someone who had been beaten, his face covered in blood. On each occasion I stood nearby observing.

Other Events:

1. Report of domestic assault. Accompanied 5 officers to apartment building near Grant Park. A woman came out to speak with female officer but wouldn’t talk.
2. Woman passed out drunk near the Salvation Army shelter was carried off by paramedics.
3. Woman stopped for changing lanes without signaling. Screamed abuse at Officer A when questioned. Drugs found in car. Handcuffed and taken to jail. She had multiple violations.
4. Nicollet & 5th. Fight involving about 10 people. Eight squad cars arrived. Arrests made.
5. Report of a gang of 30 people and gunshots on Cedar Riverside. We took off at high speed, siren blaring and lights flashing but were told it was a non situation by the time we approached Seven Corners.
6. Officer B used mace to disburse a gang at parking ramp who refused to move.

What I learned:

1. CCTV cameras are everywhere Downtown
2. The number of times police punch license plate numbers into the computer would surprise you
3. If you wear a police jacket people will treat you like a cop, some with respect; others with contempt
4. Abusing an officer will only serve to annoy them
5. Most squad cars carry serious firepower
6. When another officer needs help cops respond in force
7. Apart from the 90 mph chase (occurred early on), although often apprehensive, I felt little fear; perhaps the adrenaline masked it.
8. People make dumb decisions when drunk
9. There is a side of life out there that is a daily reality for many; but out of sight and ignored by others.

At 3 am they took me to my car. We shook hands. Officer A said, “It has been a little quiet. Sorry we couldn’t get you a shooting or nothing.”
"That’s alright,” I said, smiling, “I think we did ok.”

Footnote: My friend Maureen (from Leadership Twin Cities) did her ride-along a couple of weeks ago. Check out her experience at Mad About New.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Among the Orthodox

As a volunteer with Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, I spend time each week visiting Nadia, a refusenik from the former Soviet Union. Born Jewish, I imagine Nadia is in a tiny minority, having converted to Christianity some years ago. I know her family suffered much at the hands of the KGB, but I know little about her reasons for converting.

When I visit we sometimes go to a local Baptist church, but being in St. Louis Park, a part of the Twin Cities with a sizeable Jewish population, I have always wanted to visit one of the area’s many synagogues, so when Nadia asked me if I’d like to do so I agreed.

Last night we decided to go to a Shabbat Friday evening service. To our surprise the progressive synagogue we chose to visit was closed so we drove to another one nearby, Bais Yisroel. Approaching the entrance, I looked through the window at a room full of black-clad men rocking their torsos back and forth, nodding their heads. “Nadia, this is an orthodox synagogue! Will they even let us in?” I said.

At the door, a man dressed in a black hat, suit and tie greeted us. I told him we’d like to join the service.
“There’s no reason why you can’t…I suppose,” he said, appearing surprised at the request.
“Are you Jewish?” he asked.
“Actually, no, I just want to check out the service,” I replied.

When Nadia said she born Jewish but was now Christian, a fellow congregant who had now joined the man at the door replied, “C’mon, if you were born Jewish you are Jewish!”

Consider: A Brit and a Soviet refugee, born Jewish, now Christian, wanting to join a service at an orthodox synagogue. No wonder the looks! After a little more gentle persuasion they said Nadia could go upstairs to the balcony to pray with the women and I could join the men in the main room. No mixing of the sexes here.

I then walked into a large room of about 200 men clad in dark suits and long black coats. Some sported beards; others ear locks. Many wore large black felt hats; others round fur-lined hats. A majority were rocking back and forward, chanting. Strolling to the back wearing my bright red scarf, I must have looked incongruous to those around me. If the intent of wearing black is to avoid frivolity then it clearly works.

I soon found a chair at the back of the room and sat down, content just to observe. Within a few minutes someone brought me a skull cap which I promptly placed on my head as a sign of respect. I was also handed a Hebrew Bible (one side of the page in English) and told, “This is so that you can pray.”

Outside it was cold and winter and dark. Inside, the congregants practiced rituals that the passage of time has done little to erase; the liturgy sometimes sung, sometimes chanted, the rituals time honored. It was as if I was living in a kind of continuous present - at a quick glance I might believe I was somewhere in 17th century Eastern Europe. But if you have been persecuted for so long I imagine it's important to hold onto your traditions.

What was great is that no one raised so much as an eyebrow at the odd looking fellow in a bright red scarf who likely didn’t look Jewish and who remained seated throughout; furthermore, I was the only one not wearing a shirt and tie.

Outside in the lobby people were very friendly, smiling when our eyes met, and introducing themselves to me. I had a great time and left feeling a sense of respect. We didn't talk about it afterward, as I took Nadia straight home, but I am keen to hear her impressions when I next see her.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Making Resolutions Stick

New Year brings with it a sense of renewal and dreams of new possibilities. The atmosphere is suddenly ripe for change. This year I picture an image of myself different to how I am now.

Millions of people make New Year resolutions. Some resolutions will stick; others will dissipate with the melting snow. Last year mine fell into the latter category.

I have never been a big fan of making resolutions at New Year because they rarely result in change, though, in my case, that is because I rarely keep them. How many of us have started a diet, or joined a gym, only to fall back into old habits? Why do we, with the best of intentions, stop doing what we started?

I am a procrastinator--I can be great at starting something but not so great at reaching the finish line. But in 2009 I’ve decided to change all that. I thought about what it would take to make change stick and concluded that--even with the best intentions in the world--it will only happen if backed by a plan. One that is manageable. So this year I have made three resolutions and have an action plan around each one.

I think that real change takes time, so I won’t be repeating the mistakes of 2008 when I tried to accomplish everything at once. This year my goals are attainable, not pie in the sky. I also plan to make myself accountable by sharing my goals with a couple of friends. And, as with any good challenge, I plan to reward myself sometime before the bells chime in the new year of 2010!