Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another beginning

I collect examples of times in life when the best strategy is "starting over".  An ancient Greek noted that you can't step into the same river twice, since the river's contents change between your steps.  Since every part of our lives is a flow, change is continuous.  So, we can't really start over completely because we have those previous tries in our history, our experience, when trying again. Still, the concept is fun to keep an eye on, watching where it pops up.

I have never played a round of golf but some of the terms are heard more generally.  I have heard of a "mulligan", which a web page says is a 2nd drive (chance?) granted on the first tee only.  It is more common for me to hear a cry of "Do-over", meaning "don't let's count that try, let me begin again".  

One important way of "doing over" involves the Hindu-Arabic system of counting and writing numerals that we all use.  Most of us are born with ten fingers so we create names and symbols for the numbers of 1 to 9 and then we say "Again" and start over.  When we get to ten tens, we start over.  When we want, we can draw a circle, maybe mentally, around what we have and say,"One". Then, we get to start again, for Two. This way of counting results in sets of sets of sets, etc., like the famous Russian dolls.  Much like saying "Today is the first day of the rest of my life."

Computers and related devices are famous for being "fixed" or enhanced or cleaned up by being restarted.  Most operating systems even have a built-in choice to restart the machine although I like a real re-start, where I shut down, wait at least 20 seconds and start up.  These jokes I first read in the 1990's, make fun of the need to re-start.  But it is an easy and powerful help.

The most helpful advice I have run into, and it is based on science, is Prochaska and others' book "Changing for Good".  The book focuses on quitting smoking but that is merely the example used.  It presents good evidence that trying and failing is a good predictor of trying and succeeding.  Of course, each attempt at something needs to be genuine.  Sometimes a rest between attempts, partly for consideration of modifications that might be part of the next try, will help.  It is a fine line: am I simply unsuited to be a top-notch NBA player or must I simply keep trying?  Beating a dead horse will get me nowhere but authentic beginnings may.
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