“Work more and better. Keep hoping machine running. Dream good.” – from Woody Guthrie’s 1942 New Year’s Resolution List
I’m not much on New Year’s resolutions, but I do appreciate the symbolic beginning that the new year brings. It’s a refreshing time to remember goals and make plans. A few weeks ago, I wrote about boycotting my to-do list. Now that the harried pace of the holidays are past, I’m much more energized to work on the personal projects on my to-do list. I also learned something really helpful in a recent article on the psychology of the to-do list and what that nagging of our subconscious really means. Apparently, the nagging has a name–the Zeigarnik effect–and new research is showing that instead of trying to get us to finish incomplete tasks, the nagging may be the brain’s way of telling us to just make a plan to finish those tasks.
Maria Popova quotes the researcher’s nicely, “The persistence of distracting thoughts is not an indication that the unconscious is working to finish the task. Nor is it the unconscious nagging the conscious mind to finish the task right away. Instead, the unconscious is asking the conscious mind to make a plan. The unconscious mind apparently can’t do this on its own, so it nags the conscious mind to make a plan with specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious can stop nagging the conscious mind with reminders.”
Perhaps this explains why I really enjoy making plans and also why when I finally check something off my list, I don’t experience quite the relief I thought I would. The mental burden comes not necessarily from having tasks to complete, but from not having a strategy to complete them.
Anyway, if you’ve made resolutions for the new year, I hope you’re doing well so far. I loved the quote above from Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolution list. His earnest simplicity is inspiring. Somewhat related, I recently discovered Elizabeth Mitchell’s rendition of his songs for children and my son and I both love it. If you have kids or like folk music, check it out.
While I’ve made no official resolutions, I’m looking forward to continuing to document my family this year. I had a wonderful time visiting and photographing my family over the Christmas holiday. It was so nice to capture my son playing with his cousins and spending time with his grandparents. One of the hardest parts of living away from my family is worrying that my son won’t be able to be as close to them as I have always imagined my children would be with my family. However, seeing him with them over the holiday helped me realize that distance doesn’t change the bond.
Finally, I’m hoping to find better ways to display moments like these for my family this year and plan to try some new options for making prints, photo books, and slideshows. I’d love to hear how you use and share your family photos. Any recommendations for websites or software?
These photos are all from Christmas day. The weather was beautiful and mild, so the kids were in and out of the house all day. My son had a blast playing with his cousins. And in the spirit of the Daily Post’s prompt inquiring what skill I might choose to master (of any in the world!), I’d say I hope to become more adept at capturing emotion in my photographs. I love best the images that tell stories and evoke feelings. And I hope this time next year, my photographs reflect this intent.