Friday, December 30, 2011

The Magic of One Year - What Will Your Journey Be?

Artwife takes a hike - Grand Wash, Capitol Reef, Utah

I have read many books about people accomplishing a big goal, and have noticed that they often take an entire year to do it.  Is there magic in one year?  Perhaps smaller goals more easily completed don't merit a book contract.  But could there be more to it than that?  I have never been big on New Year's resolutions.  The most successful ones I have kept have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, like the year I resolved to watch more Cary Grant movies.  (Incidentally, I have never been sorry I made or kept that one!)  But maybe this year I should reach for something more.

Dr. Edwin Locke researched goals and motivation.  His work is the foundation for goal-setting theory today.  He found that people perform better on their goals if they are both specific and difficult.  Maybe the time frame of one year allows someone to accomplish something difficult (thus staying motivated), while the time limit of a year is just long enough, but not too long.

January is a great time to reflect on what you would like to accomplish in the upcoming year.  At the end of this year, what would you like to be?  More fit?  More social?  More well-educated?  More gainfully employed?  More financially stable? More creative?  More happy?  In her book, One Year to an Organized Life,  Regina Leeds asserts:  "Given the parameter of one year, anyone can gradually learn the necessary skills and make the time to achieve transformation."  Perhaps there is magic in one year.

Fortunately for readers and moviegoers, many adventuresome souls have documented their one-year journeys, and if you don't want to take your own journey at this time, maybe you'll enjoy sharing in theirs.  Here are some titles I have enjoyed about one-year accomplishments:

One Year Off, by David Cohen, chronicles his journey around the world with his wife and small children.  If you have ever wondered what it would be like to leave your home and job and set off around the world, reading this book is a very safe way to check it out.  The book is very entertaining, and Mr. Cohen details things they learned along the way, and also what they would do differently (take less luggage).  The descriptions of exotic locations and experiences are great for any fan of travel narratives.

Long Distance, by Bill McKibben, follows the author as he spends a year working out as an elite athlete to see how well he can perform in cross country skiing.  It is an interesting story, and the author gains a better understanding of the training an elite athlete does to prepare for international competition. He pushes himself to his physical limits, and also copes with his father's illness.  The author effectively expresses how this emotional journey with his father impacts his perspective on his physical training and racing.  

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I love this book because the author was satisfied with her life overall. She did not make any drastic changes (like selling her home and leaving the country), but instead broke down her ultimate goal of achieving more happiness into manageable, monthly projects.  Reading this book can give you ideas of things you might want to tackle in your own life.  The author candidly, and with humor, relates her successes and failures in her one year experiment.  She also has thoroughly researched happiness for you!  The author encourages you to start your own happiness project, and provides suggestions and a website to help you do just that.

Julie and Julia:  I admit I just watched the movie on this one!  This is the story of Julie Powell and her goal to cook all of Julia Child's 524 recipes from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 365 days.  She does this all from her tiny apartment kitchen. The movie version, starring Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child, is entertaining.  I also loved watching someone else do the cooking!  This is a great example of someone exploring their creative self while remaining in their existing life, and the movie is a lot of fun.

If I were to vote for my top choice for a goal this year, it would definitely be One Year Off!  However, I think  I may end up working more on One Year to an Organized Life.  Meanwhile, I will look to the dreamers and goal-achievers I have mentioned above for encouragement and inspiration.  Happy reading, and Happy New Year!


  1. I am so honored to have been quoted here!

    May your adventurous, curious mind and keen observations take you many wonderful places in 2012.


  2. One Year to an Organized Life and the Happiness Project now top my 2012 reading list - thanks!! (And I'll sneak in repeat viewings of Cary Grant. You can learn a lot from him)

  3. Look at you go! The actual author commenting- how sweet is that? Looking forward to a happier more organized self by next Christmas- with you!

  4. Thanks all for your comments. I wish you good things in 2012!