December 29, 2013


I spotted two suggestions for end-of-year reflection today. In The New York Times, Ross Douthat's op-ed column, Confessions of a Columnist, was an acknowledgement of his "three biggest analytic errors" of the year. There's power in owning his mistakes, even more power in owning them publicly. My habit has been to celebrate the events and achievements of the year but not to take time to look for my missteps.

Late in the day, I saw an even more powerful tool in The Glass Bead Game. Upon his elevation to the post of Magister Ludi, Joseph Knecht is assigned a coach and a meditation master. Hesse writes

Before his evening meditation, he and his aides, the coach and the meditation master, were supposed to review each official day, noting what had been ill done or well done, feeling his own pulse, as meditation masters call this practice, that is, recognizing and measuring one's own momentary situation, state of health, the distribution of one's energies, ones hopes and cares—in a word, seeing oneself and one's daily work objectively and carrying nothing unresolved on into the night and the next day.

This is a strategy that must have been available to me hundreds of different ways, but I've always managed to avoid. Even in my most structured times, I was lucky if I could do a weekly planning session and sketch out daily to-do lists. I shouldn't keep ignoring the power of this practice.