On being ... a taste of my own medicine

By Ingrid Sapona

The new year is traditionally a time for resolution making. While I’m all for taking inventory of your behaviour with a view toward making changes, given that I’m pretty constantly examining my own quirks and habits (and writing about them), I don’t tend to try to make resolutions to change just because the calendar year is ending.

The past few years, however, I have set goals specifically for the New Year. (Resolutions are quite different. To me, goals are objectively measurable or quantifiable, while resolutions typically aren’t because they involve modification of some behaviour or way of being.) For example, my goals last year related to the number of classes I’d take at the gym, the things I’d change or replace on the boat, and the number of club cruises I’d participate in. (For those keeping track, I fell short on one of these goals, I surpassed one, and I met the other -- sort of. I won’t bore you with the details of which was which.)

As you can see, my New Year’s goals tend to be modest. And why not? My theory is the goals should be a bit of a stretch, but basically achievable. That way, at the end of the year you have a sense of accomplishment and you can set the bar higher the following year.

This year though, I’ve decided to break with my personal tradition and so, in addition to extending my goals about the gym, the boat, and the like, I’m making a resolution as well. Though this may not sound particularly noteworthy, given how many times I’ve gone back and forth about it over the past few weeks, it certainly seems column-worthy to me.

There are many reasons for my hesitation, not the least of which is because the idea of making this resolution came up in a kind of round-about way. You see, most people make New Year’s resolutions to change behaviours that (to paraphrase Dr. Phil) aren’t working for them. In this case, however, I can’t really say the behaviour I’m resolving to change hasn’t worked for me. In fact, part of me thinks the behaviour at the heart of my resolution might just be one of the proverbial “secrets to my success” (to the extent I dare consider myself successful). So, resolving to change it is a tad unnerving.

But anyway, here it is: I resolve to be less practical in 2007. Given that most people consider practicality a virtue, I realize this resolution might sound ridiculous. Does this mean I’m resolving to be less virtuous? I suppose, but let me explain.

The idea that being practical can go from being a virtue -- and therefore something good -- to being a negative (if not quite a vice) didn’t come to me as a result of any detrimental consequences I suffered as a result of a particular practical act or action I took. Instead, the belief that there might be a down-side to being practical came to me a couple weeks ago when I noticed how many times I found myself saying to friends, “sometimes you just have to let yourself be impractical”. Honestly -- for some reason, that saying almost became my mantra in December. (No, I didn’t just invoke it as a one-size-fits-all response -- I’m more creative than that and, I hope, more compassionate.)

The more I found myself saying it, however, the more I started thinking about whether I really believed that whomever I was saying it to would actually benefit by being less practical. In each instance I came to the inescapable conclusion that if they’d only let themselves be a little less practical, they might just open the door to more friendship, companionship, and happiness.

For example, a friend was bemoaning the fact that she doesn’t know how to let someone know she’s interested. In that case, my advice about being less practical basically amounted to urging her to let him do little things for her, even though she can do them herself. As I explained to her, letting his generosity and helpfulness trump her natural practicality might allow feelings of need and want to blossom, which might be the first step toward letting their relationship evolve from the purely platonic. Though this might seem like a trivial example, it’s typical of the types of situations where being practical can be a roadblock to letting others in.

Given that I’ve been known to take some pride in my own practicality, the more I found myself admonishing others to be less practical, the more I started wondering whether there’ve been times or situations when being less practical might have served me. Though it’s impossible to know, odds are there have been.

So, I’ve decided to take a dose of my own medicine and I vow that starting January 1, 2007 I’ll be less practical. After all, heeding my own advice seems, well (I can still stay this since still 2006) the practical thing to do! Heaven knows what possibilities are in store for me as a result of this resolution. Of course, if anything interesting comes of it, you’ll probably read about it in an On being…

© 2006 Ingrid Sapona


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