TAoN No. 125: Make your world strange in 2023, and 9 more good habits to start any time. Plus, as always, more.
Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash.
Hello and happy new year! I hope you got some time off over the holidays. I spent some of my downtime sorting through some old (digital) files, and I happened across this set of suggested resolutions.
I’m generally not a resolution guy, but a lot of these suggestions are a good idea any time. (In fact I believe I squirreled away this list back when I was gathering inspiration for the Art of Noticing book.) While the piece is from 2017, it’s just as useful today, so I’ll share some of my favorites.
The writer, by the by, is Jason Zweig, an excellent columnist for The Wall Street Journal, a long-ago colleague of mine, and an all around class act. Normally he writes about investing, but I think you’ll agree his advice here is all terrific! Here are some of his suggested resolutions:
“Listening to what someone else is saying without hearing what you already think is one of the hardest challenges for the human mind. When you listen, listen as if your life depends on it. Otherwise, you’ll just hear your own words coming out of someone else’s mouth.”
“Say ‘I don’t know’ at least 10 times a day. That will disqualify you for a career in politics but make you a better person.”
“Introduce yourself to all the people at your job whom you see every day but haven’t met yet. …”
“Most of what passes for modesty in this world is just posturing meant to elicit praise. There is no such thing as humility; there is only realism about how much of your life you owe to luck. Always keep that foremost in your mind, and people will think you are humble.”
“Don’t laugh at things you don’t understand. Take the time and trouble to understand them first. Most likely, you will find that once you understand them, they either become even funnier than you thought in the first place, or not funny in the least.”
“Stop walking with your phone in your hand all the time. Look up and see how strange and beautiful the world is.”
“Never try to get other people to change their minds without first trying to understand why they think the way they do. Never do that without being open to the possibility that the mind that might need to change the most could be your own.”
“When you’re having a bad day, call the closest friend you haven’t talked with in the longest time.”
And finally, this one, my very favorite:
“Work harder at making the familiar strange. Walk or drive a different route than your daily routine; work away from your desk; read something flamboyantly irrelevant; call someone you don’t need to call; look up at the sky instead of the concrete. When you turn back to your routine, it will feel freshened.”
Here’s to making the familiar strange in 2023, and beyond. …
“If you’re not the type to make resolutions for the new year,” TAoN favorite Recomendo, writes, “you might like this list of 27 Life-Changing Micro Habits That Require Only A Few Minutes.”
Practice gratitude while you’re in the shower. “The shower is probably our last refuge from our devices,” [corporate coach Sabina] Nawaz says. “So, as you shower, ask who or what am I grateful for today? As you step out of the shower at the beginning of each day, you're already filling your cup.”
There’s actually a somewhat lighthearted prompt in the book, “Take A Mindful Shower,” but I like the specificity of this variation on the idea.
MY FAVORITE 150 SONGS OF 2022
Here’s a nine-hour, 21-minute Spotify playlist; the songs are not ranked (it’s a 150-way tie for first), and I mean for it to list by artist. But in any case I recommend shuffle mode if you actually want to listen. Includes songs with explicit lyrics.
[The Icebreaker series will return next time!]
COMING UP (+ SUBSCRIBER PITCH)
I had some time to ponder and plan future issues over the break, and there’s a lot in the works. For subscriber-only editions I have plans to write about “mindful materialism;” a couple of posts about listening; more on everyday poetry; and asking how quickly do we exhaust our sense of awe?, among other things.
In other recent subscriber-only issues I wrote about two cheers for social media, musical rabbit holes (revisited), unpopular culture, doing as arguing, and the best compliment you’ve ever received.
TAoN is a reader-supported publication. For access to past and future subscriber-only posts, discussion threads, and more, support TAoN with a paid subscription.
THE NEXT FREE MONDAY EDITION IN TWO WEEKS.
IN OTHER NEWS
For The New York Times Sunday Opinion section, I wrote an essay in favor of clutter. (I think a number of you subscribed after reading that; welcome!) I got some interesting feedback, and now I’m thinking more about mindful materialism — a subject I’ll address in the very near future.
For my BRANDED column in Fast Company, I wrote about 2022: The Year In Objects. This has become a mini-tradition I really enjoy.
The Best Advice Show special year-end wrapup: “23 voices on change, purpose and meaning.” Includes TAoN fave Anne Kadet, and (briefly) me. Nicely done, a recommended listen.
Very excited about The Kō Strategies: “A drumbeat throughout the year to help you stay present — in a tense world where it’s tempting to dissociate.”
Introducing the Productivity Blocker, the first Chrome extension for blocking any website that makes you productive. : )
This is off-topic but I enjoyed it: I had no idea that Warren Buffet has such a ridiculous, junk-filled diet, which this guy decided to emulate for a week … and regretted. Fun piece.
New book co-edited by Joshua Glenn and me: LOST OBJECTS: 50 Stories About The Things We Miss And Why They Matter.
And finally, this, from today’s bike ride, is for the reader who recently mentioned googly eyes to me. Here’s to more googly eyes in 2023:
OKAY THAT’S IT!
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: email@example.com. Or use the comments. —> Or just click the heart symbol. That always makes my day.
And thanks for reading …
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All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032
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I like your resolutions. I liked your article in NY Times Clutter Is Good for You. I wrote them a letter which they considered publishing but then didn’t.
I am comforted by Mr. Walkers’s. Essay “Clutter Is Good for You.” Since my husband died over a year ago, I have felt mounting pressure to declutter and at the same time a strong resistance to change the way our rooms mostly looked on the day he passed. All the objects in my field of view that I shared with him over 50 years are like friends still alive with stories. Why should I want to throw them away? They have silently borne witness to our life together—the happy times and the sad. They make me feel his spirit is still here and help me go forward each day without him. Why should I want to exchange my inimitable melange for rooms that look like advertisements for minimalist kitchens and living rooms so devoid of human life, personality, and as he rightly says, uniqueness?
Is decluttering just another pressure to conform?
As someone who is not a fan of NY resolutions, I loved this list! Being conscious and aware is so powerful, and although I am getting more intentional with it, I still often find myself giving my attention to the same old things in an uncomfortable way. Which is why I love the title and intention of the art of noticing. Cheers.