It’s the first day of January — the middle of winter — and though (knock on wood) it hasn’t been overly cold so far this season, I find my thoughts turning toward summer.
Of course, when it was summer, I did the same thing. As I rode my mower up and down the lawn, my thoughts turned toward this time of year…a time when I didn’t have to worry about cutting the grass.
Now, from my vantage point here at the beginning of a new year, I look ahead at the extended weather forecast, and think that for every day it’s temperate and not snowing and being generally disagreeable, I’m one day closer to crop pants and sandals.
What will life look like during those long, warm days? What things will have changed? What things will remain the same? More importantly, how can I make sure my year stays on track?
And that takes me back to mowing my grass.
My yard has a few strangely shaped areas — a wide half-circle along the driveway, a fall-away embankment in the back yard, and then a long section on the northwest side of the house.
That big chunk of lawn extends all the way to the hay field several hundred feet away. Sometimes I mow it in straight rows up and down and up and down, but other times I mow it at a 45 degree angle.
Whichever pattern I’m mowing, the process is the same. From my starting location, I pick a fence post at the far end of the yard and focus on that spot, then I take my foot off the brake and mow the first strip, all the way from one end to the other.
As soon as I get to the fence post at the far end, I turn around. And it’s funny, I can always tell my state of mind from looking at that first swathe of mowed grass.
If I’m focused on what I’m doing, keeping my eye firmly on that fence post at the far end of the lawn, the line of mowed grass will be nice and straight, but when I’m distracted and turn my eye away from my marker, the line of mowed grass is always more curvy and irregular.
And of course, that means the next several passes on the mower will take a bunch of extra effort to get things straightened out again. Sometimes I never get it straightened out the way I’d like, so I simply vow to do a better job next time.
I think the start of the year is exactly like making that first trip across long, raggedy grass. When I’m focused, my path through January, February, and March will be straight and well-directed.
When I’m not focused? When my head isn’t clear? Then I arrive at the end of March (or worse…December!), only to look back at my path through this new year and think “What the heck happened here?!”
If I don’t take the time to find a focus for myself, my year will end up looking exactly like my messy lawn. Unfortunately, time isn’t as forgiving as grass.
There aren’t any do-overs for the year 2019. Now, all I can do is vow to do better in 2020.
For quite a while now I’ve become more fully committed to finding my focus as I move from the end of one year into the beginning of the next. Having a single guiding thought for the year is like that fence post at the far end of the lawn, and keeping my eye on that one single idea helps me stay on track during the days, weeks, and months ahead.
This year having that sense of focus and direction seems even more urgent than usual because this isn’t simply the first day of a new month, it’s the first day of a new year in the first year of a new decade.
I found my focal point, and now I’m looking at the figurative fence post that I’ve chosen to guide my thoughts this year, to help me start off on — and stay on! — the right foot for the coming month, year, and decade.
If you’d like help to Find Your Focus for 2020, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I still have a few open slots in my Find Your Focus class, but act now — enrollment in this class closes on January 5th.
Meanwhile, I wish you a happy and prosperous new year!