Monday, January 7, 2013

On Starting Something New

In honor of the new year, I will share some of my thoughts on starting new things, which may be relevant since many people have already begun their resolutions for the new year. Also a good topic since I'm starting this blog. :)

Starting new things—it's exciting to do. But the excitement wears off and then it's time to either continue or...not. The "not" might entail more definite means of ending something, but for the stuff I'm thinking of, it's not too hard to do. For example, you just stop using a program you bought or started using. Or you just don't take the paint set out again. Or you stop reading the book you found at the library. Or you stop exploring. Or just stop...and "stop" can mean something other than an abrupt, intentional cessation of an activity. It can be quite un-dramatic to stop doing something. You could just leave it and forget to come back. Or think of it and maybe want to take up guitar again, but not enough to actually physically go over and pick it up, or not enough to look for the guitar books and re-teach yourself how to play. This article is turning into being about stopping new things rather than starting new things.

So starting new things stops when the thing ceases to be new. That can take varying amounts of time. But I'm sure it happens to all activities. Or does it? I guess one would continue doing the new thing if he or she liked it enough. Or if it never stopped being new. But is that really possible? I've heard of people saying that they love their job so much because it's something new every day, or that a certain activity never "gets old." But shouldn't there be some time limit to something being new? Like a formula for the half-life of a new activity, depending on its complexity and the normal frequency of use? A blob of play dough can be considered old after just a couple days of playing with it (especially if it gets crusty), but a hobby that requires one to travel or go on excursions, such as rock hunting or sailing, could be considered new after 5 months if you've only gone on 3 excursions.

Maybe whether the activity is "new" or not is irrelevant. Something can be old and still be interesting. I like my old pictures and my old journals because they bring me back to those times. They have value. But  I'm talking about starting new things. That's the topic (rapidly unravelling) for this quick write. What is it about starting something new that makes it so appealing, even exhilarating? And what bridges the gap between stopping something new and continuing with something old? What makes people stick to something? Is it pure like for the activity? Is it the return in recreational value that keeps them coming to it? (I'm not going to talk about jobs here--those have all sorts of different incentives and things to keep people coming back to them day after day even if they're unsatisfied or rather unhappy. Here I'm talking about hobbies.) Is it compatibility with current tasks and lifestyle?

Is it something deeper than that? Like the activity somehow resonates with the person's purpose in life?

So what makes the difference? Not sure. Must have something to do with us being curious, and then retaining what benefits us--emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, or however-other-ly it can.


  1. Great post, and interesting thoughts! I am constantly starting and leaving off of projects and pursuits, so a lot of what you've said here matches my own life. I like your idea about "half-lives" of activities, but I also think you're right that "one would continue doing the new thing if he or she liked it enough." Even when I leave one project or activity, I usually make my rounds and come back to it again. Maybe not all people are like this, but I seem to rotate interests--one summer I'm all into perfecting my guitar skills, then by Fall I'm working on illustration. Come Winter I'm reading education philosophy, and after a while I pick up my guitar again, etc. But I seem to always stick with the same basic interests, even though I leave them and come back to them.

    1. That's interesting—now that I think of it, I think I rotate interests sometimes, too. Especially with reading, I usually don't make time for it, but then I'll go on a reading spree. I wonder why that rotation exists...