Whether New Year’s Day is a big deal or just another day to you, it probably prods us all to take stock of the past year. Imagine one of those “Major Events of 2012” articles written not about world news, but about your life. What would that list include?
Of course, life comprises not only major events, but day-to-day work, relationships, activities, chores, and habits. The stuff we do most of the time. Maybe it’s the little things that really color our years.
I keep a list of books I read for fun. In some years, the list is regrettably short. Here’s a sampling of titles read (or re-read, which still count, in my opinion) in 2012:The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy Almost No Memory, Lydia Davis Franny and Zooey, JD Salinger Nine Stories, JD Salinger Lord of the Flies, William Golding Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami Family Happiness, Laurie Colwin The Science of Yoga, William Broad Yoga and You, Esther Myers The Art of Yoga, BKS Iyengar Relax and Renew, Judith Lasater The Runner’s Yoga Book, Jean Couch YogAlign: Pain-Free Yoga From Your Inner Core, Michaelle Edwards Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin The Mind-Body Prescription, John Sarno The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
It’s a random mix, albeit skewed toward yoga books and portable paperbacks to read on the bus. Assessing my list, I thought to myself: Too random. Why not focus on one author (as I mentioned in So many books, so little time)? Or one field of study? Be more systematic. Become an expert on something rather than a dabbler.
A few years ago I reluctantly cancelled my New Yorker subscription because the weekly magazine distracted me from reading enough books. Certainly the profiles and features introduced me to fascinating people and subject matter (and I loved the cartoon caption contest on the last page). But I found that the articles (even those I found compelling and brilliantly written) didn’t really stick in my mind. Months later, I’d be racking my brain trying to recall details about, say, that lawyer who cracks down on designer counterfeiting or that woman who’s an undercover Michelin inspector. Is there value to reading stuff that you don’t retain very long?
Are there other half-baked projects in your life? Take yoga asana. I might commit to one pose or family of poses, and then a workshop or class will lure me elsewhere. My teacher, Louie Ettling, never repeats the same sequences, so I’m always picking up new ideas. Subs can also shake up my routine. Once, Linda Shevloff did full Gomukhasana, sitting on the foot (which I wasn’t regularly practicing) and it suddenly got promoted to my regular lineup. There are dozens, even hundreds, of poses, all clamoring for attention!
So why not be more systematic in my home practice? Maybe 2013 can be the year of backbends, especially Eka Pada Rajakapotasana I, an on-again/off-again obsession of mine. It might be the year of Supta Virasana, which, despite good intentions described in On Supta Virasana and sticking to resolutions, ended up on the back burner. How about the year of daily pranayama? The year that I fully heal a residual hamstring injury? The year of getting in touch with “the three diaphragms”?
There’s nothing wrong with variety, of course. But general knowledge and skills take you only so far. You can know a little about a lot of subjects, or a lot about a few. You can do many skills middlingly well, or you can do some of them very well. This goes for relationships, too: countless friendly acquaintances versus a handful of true friends. Time is limited, life is short. Target what really matters to you.
Images: Pantone color of 2013: emerald, designboom