As you all know, for the past three years on every January 1st I have revealed a new Japanese word to summarize the overall theme of my upcoming activities for the year. I have been doing this in my head for years, but only in the last three years have been blogging about it. December 31st is a reflective rather than wildly celebratory day for me. I had spent many years performing as a jazz musician on New Year’s Eve, and was tired of having to spend January 1st recuperating from the night before. So I decided to begin each how I truly wanted to spend it: refreshed and mentally organized, prepared to put a full year’s worth of strategies and effort into effect. This meant spending the day thinking (Jap: 考え, kangae) about who I was and where I was headed in Life; not making New Year’s resolutions, but rather choosing ways in which I would hone and improve my life. So the day of New Year’s Eve has now become my “day of kangae”, my day to choose and strategize around a word/theme for the coming year.
This means the evening of January 1st itself (rather than December 31st) is my New Year’s Eve: eat a good meal, watch a favorite movie, and so on. I don’t drink alcohol, so that saves me both money and a hangover! So in 2016 I decided to start sharing with you my yearly word/theme. First (in 2016) I chose kakan (果敢: かかん): to be bold, determined, and/or resolute. There was much I wanted to create and achieve in 2016, so I became bolder in order to do so. Then in 2017 I chose henkō (変更): change, or alteration: assessing what being bold in 2016 achieved, and how I could improve on the results. This of course means understanding failures, correcting mistakes and re-strategizing successful ventures to be even more successful. Thus, in 2018 I chose the verb naru (なる), “to become”. If we change ourselves we then obviously become something else: something better, something worse, but at least there is a becoming. So I chose to analyze all the things I had become and see what strengths and weaknesses were present in my career, health, financial dealings, etc.
This year’s theme will be the word kaiketsu (解決), a verb meaning “to solve” or “to go from dissonance to consonance” (in music). If I want to continue to act on the lessons I have learnt from considering the previous three words, I must renew my focus on solving problems as part of my changing and becoming, streamline the process of solving itself as the year continues forward. As a veteran musician, I especially like the idea that I can repurpose this word as a metaphor for my personal life, health, career, and such, turning the noise of Life into the music of solution oriented living. This requires specific steps that can be applies to all such areas:
1). Describe the problem to yourself.
2). Study up on the facts to make sure you solve the right problem scenario.
3). Identify your goal (your solution).
4). Consider as many solutions as you can.
5). Choose a solution that fits your goal.
6). Put the solution into action.
7). Evaluate the results, then return to Step 5 if they are not satisfactory.
What I love about this basic system/outline is that you can use it anytime and anywhere, for: regulating emotions, shopping for the right light bulb for a lamp, saving money, choosing between two business opportunities, planning a vacation, and the list goes on. Constantly Incorporating this activity into one’s daily activities makes the mundane aspects of living fun, a type of puzzle solving that can make good things better, and bad things a lot less bad. I actually have on my desk a sheet with these various steps written upon it so I can reference them at any time. I have the basic form memorized, but the sheet has a more detailed version so I can get more out of each step as I progress in my problem solving.
So Happy New Year, and Good Luck in 2019! Be bold in your pursuits, improve on the results, become something better, and continue to solve the bigger issues that come along with being a newer, better, stronger you.