It’s still only mid-September but I’ve already started to see signs up outside restaurants and hotels urging us to “Book now for Christmas“. Heck, just three weeks ago I was still enjoying my (late) summer holiday, and Christmas is nowhere near the top of my To Do List.
But this has reminded me of the cyclical nature of our calendar. As day follows night, and summer follows spring, so many of our schedules repeat annually if not more frequently.
[Image courtesy of LancasterLondon]
It made me realise just how much of our lives revolve around fixed events in the calendar. The summer term ends and is followed by a long break which eventually draws to a close with “Back to school” notices in the shops, new uniforms and sharp pencils. The days start to shorten as we celebrate Harvest Festival, and as autumn approaches we seamlessly change from summery clothes to warmer ones readying ourselves for fireworks and Bonfire Night. Then Christmas starts to loom large on the horizon with a variety of festivities, nativity plays and mulled wine and presents, quickly followed by snow, New Year, first buds of spring and then before we know it we’re back where we started. But a year older.
What do we have to show for that year? A year of progress? A year full of rich experiences? A year of learning great new things. Or another year in name only?
How much are we really in control of our time, and are we getting the most out of it? Do we sometimes forget to look towards the horizon, seeing so much in the foreground to distract us?
Can we somehow snap out of the cycle, temporarily disabling the autopilot which navigates us through the weeks which turn into months which all too soon become years? So much of what we do is structured around the annual cycle that it can sometimes be daunting to break out of it and do something different. Habits, good and bad, naturally form around the calendar – “we always go away for Easter“; “I never drink alcohol during January“; “we love going to Henley in early July“; “August is always as dreadful month with exam results“.
We all have these fixtures in our lives – both personal and professional. Yes, their familiarity provide us with a degree of comfort, but they can also impose constraints and limit our options.
I was recently talking to a graduate recruiter. September is usually the time when the graduate recruitment cycle ends, with newly qualified graduates starting their first full-time professional jobs as the search starts for next year’s cohort. No sooner have the recruiters shut the book on this year’s entries, than they are starting the cycle again looking for next year’s. There’s no time left to consider doing things differently this time round – the starting pistol has already been fired, and they’re off again.
It’s really hard to consider doing anything different from one year to the next – even if every fibre in your body is urging you to do just that.
In the words of the anonymous quote:
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Change is possible. Even with the fixed nature of some annual events, it is possible to do things differently. So the real question is this: how important it is to you to change? Give it some thought – it might work for you.
In the meantime, book early for Christmas – to avoid disappointment.