Pop quiz: Who wrote this quote? Answer at the end of the post.
Welcome to my new Website! A big thank you to my dear friend Maja Berwald who designed it for me as a wedding gift!
Although I have been intending for this website to materialize for several years, it seems to have required a huge shift in my life circumstances to actually make it happen. This summer, after living more than 20 years in New York City, I moved with my husband and two daughters to Mainz, Germany. I will always miss my friends on the other side of the Atlantic and a lot of what New York has to offer, but at the same time this was a welcome change for me, something I have been looking forward to for a while. I’m ready for this new adventure that forces me to grow and learn.
There is a lot of sparkly, invigorating energy inherent in this sort of change. For me it has turned into an opportunity to change not only my outer circumstances, but also some of my ingrained habits that have been holding me back. First and foremost – procrastination. I landed here in Germany full of enthusiasm and a sense of impatience. Longing to dig in and get my new life going in the direction I want it to go. There was no way of cruising on old accomplishments. I had to get out there and make new connections, find teaching work and start building a network.
I do believe that this sense of urgency and openness has made the process of settling in my new hometown surprisingly easy and pleasurable. New beginnings are full of possibilities. When you show up in a place where no one has any ideas about who you are, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself. Or perhaps rather to be more of yourself. No one is expecting a certain behavior from you. You are free. For me this has released a burst of energy and a productivity that I hardly knew I was capable of. I decided to be someone who gets things done, who is proactive. It is quite inspiring seeing what effects a minor change in habits can have.
My new organized and productive self has gotten a lot of ideas and inspiration from the free online course “Learning how to learn” with Dr Barbara Oakley and Dr Terrence Sejnowski. It is full of useful ideas, interesting articles and interviews. A lot of it you may have already heard, but for me the clear and comprehensive way in which the material was presented prompted me to implement some changes to my daily routine.
My new habit is to plan out the night before, specifically, in bite size chunks, what I need to get done and then simply do it. Starting with the hardest thing first. Knowing that to combat procrastination you only need to put in a little bit of effort at the start of the task. So simple but so powerful.
I realize however, I could have done this years ago. Anyone can do it. It is not necessary to wait for big life changes in order to create wished-for changes in yourself. We always have the possibility to take a fresh start. We can always begin anew. There is always some step, however small, that we can take in the direction we want to go. The bigger challenge is perhaps to keep taking those steps while at the same time being able to enjoy the process. Not to get too caught up in wanting to have it all already accomplished. Not to give in when we don’t get the results we want as fast as we want. As long as we live we are never going to be done. Our lives are a work in progress. Can we find a way of relaxing with that while persistently taking the next step?
Writing this post reminded me of a quote I’ve heard attributed to one of the great writers of my new home country, Johann Wilhelm von Goethe. What a perfect way to end this post! However, some internet research revealed that this quote, although often attributed to Goethe is in fact written by the Scottish mountaineer W.H. Murray in his 1951 book “the Scottish Himalayan Expedition, with the last, most famous line of the quote possibly being a very loose paraphrase, by W.H. Murray of something Goethe wrote. Oh well, this messed up my neat ending but at least I learned something new! So here they are, the famous words of the Scottish mountaineer that you have probably never heard of:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”