My wife and I rang in the new year very quietly.    We went to a party with some friends, but left early and came home well before midnight and watched a movie.    It’s the first time in our lives we didn’t tune into one of the live watch-the-ball-drop shows, pop champagne and toast and smooch as we ring in the new year.  Now that we live on the left coast, it’s not the same as when we were back in Detroit which celebrated new year in the same time zone as the big apple.   We feel torn between celebrating when the country enters the year with New York as the lead, or hanging on until midnight strikes out here three years later.  I think this year we just gave up.  My wife looked up during the movie we were watching, the clock was three minutes past new year and we paused to say thanks for the last year and decade and made our wish for the new year.

I’m not one that puts a lot of  thought or effort into new year resolutions.  Tomorrow is promised to no one much less another year.   I reflect on the last day and the one coming up.   The last week and the one coming up.  It’s what you do if you are type A like me.   If I need to make a change, I don’t wait for the new year to start, I just get on with it.    The passing of one year into the next is still a good time to reflect on what has past.  To give thanks for our blessings.  To review recent life lessons and use those to help us  face whatever the future has in store for us.   Life teaches us lessons every day.  Some we learn easily and move on.  Others we either miss completely.  Some come back to us for a reminder.

I finished the year by playing golf.  Twice in the last two days in fact.   I’m an above average golfer.  My index hovers around 10.   I can break 80, or I can blow through 90 like I did yesterday.    With five holes to go, I needed to shoot par to shoot 90 even.  I shot one under (and then noted I added wrong).    The lesson came on the last approach shot.  I had hooked my drive left, luckily not in a nearby trap, but behind a tree that would impede a direct path to the hole and the green.    I needed to carve a hook shot with a utility club around that tree (from an uphill lie I might add) to get anywhere near that green about 200 yards away.  Now I’ve been to the range once in the last two months.  I haven’t played twice in the same week since summer and most of my golf since fall has been par 3 where I take nothing higher than my seven iron.  I had no earthy reason to expect anything near success in executing a shot like that.  I did it! I wound up 10 yards beyond the hole and off the green, but it was right behind the flag and I chipped to inside a foot for a gimmie par.

All I remember is standing over that approach there was nothing in my mind other than a picture of the shot I needed to hit.  Nothing else.   One shot illustrates what I love about golf.  Nothing compares to watching a well struck shot soar through the air to its intended target.  More importantly, in my humble opinion, no other game, no other pastime, no other activity teaches you the importance of focus more than golf.   As you walk or ride between shots there is ample quiet time and the choice of how you use it is the foundation of the outcome.  You can wallow in doubt.  You can think about the improbability of what you are trying to accomplish.  The micro faults in fraction of degrees that can lead to disaster.  The blades of grass or spike marks that can cause the ball to veer away.  Alternatively you can picture your intention clearly with absolute focus and resolve.   The lesson isn’t that focus is guarantee of success, but that doubt is an absolute predictor of failure.

Now that doesn’t mean than someone who has never hit a golf ball can picture it in their mind and make it come about.  The ability has to be in there somewhere.    It isn’t that much different with life.  Picturing myself in the leading role for a box office smash hit movie is not a realistic goal.  Something between here and there is more like it.  What you picture in your mind, if its right for you, you will bring about.  Your mind doesn’t know if you are seeing is what you fear or what you want.  If a picture of doubt crosses your  mind – step away and collect yourself.  Focusing on the negative only hastens its arrival.   Focus on the positive outcome.

I finished last year with that lesson.  One I’ve been shown many times and probably will again.   I offer it to you with the best wishes for a new year and decade that brings peace and prosperity for us all.


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