This Year, “Make Perfect Your Will”


Writer and teacher Jonathan Rogers shared a perceptive, persuasive short post on his blog at the close of 2018, encouraging his readers to approach the new year with a new mindset—one that prioritizes “process” over “results.” Though his post was chiefly aimed at writers, I think his insight applies to us all. I recommend his full post to you, but in brief, here was my personal takeaway:

One of my key goals heading into 2019 has been to “read more.” In the year and a half since I graduated college, I’ve noticed a trend that surprised me but, I suppose, makes sense. Graduation meant no more professors handing me syllabus after syllabus of planned reading, and with self-employment came a new, full-to-the-brim schedule I’m still learning to navigate. Predictably, my time spent reading shrank as a result. So, when 2019 and new year’s resolutions rolled around, I decided a top priority must be to redevelop a flourishing “reading life.”

But of course, a desire to “read more” isn’t enough: I must define exactly what I want to achieve and, more importantly, by what process I intend to achieve it. Even a specific goal, like “read X number of books in 2019,” will be impossible unless I plan out the small, daily steps necessary to take me there.

So this year, my resolutions have taken the form, not of outcomes, but of processes. Or, as Jonathan Rogers advised, “Think in terms of habits, not goals.”

For me and my desire to read more, this means I’m focusing on the daily habit of reading, not on some big goal like getting through 100 books before 2020. Instead, I’ve created checklists for myself, I’ve planned monthly and weekly goals, and I’m monitoring how much time I spend reading each day, so that my good intentions don’t get lost in the whirr of the daily schedule. Sure, I have compiled a shelf of books I hope to read this year, but, frankly, I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get through them all in 2019. My intent is to establish a stronger habit of reading in my life, and if I accomplish that, I’ll be contented. (And, the better my reading habits are, the sooner I will get through my shelf of want-to-reads, so it’s a win-win.)

To purloin a T. S. Eliot quotation from Jonathan Rogers’s blogpost,

“I say to you: Make perfect your will.

I say: Take no thought of the harvest,

But only of proper sowing.”

Our little choices like seeds planted patiently will soon surprise us, when sprigs begin scrambling up from the earth and blossoming into a bright harvest. I wish you the best as you hone your will and nurture the habits you want to harvest in the future!


Image: Krisana Antharith / EyeEm / Getty Images