I’ve been very conscious, as I continue my planning, of not overloading my schedule, and not trying to take on too much. Given my personality, there’s never been a chance that I’d lay on a beach for 3 months. It’s much more likely that I’ll overcommit, and try to do a thousand things, and then curse myself at the end of August for not accomplishing everything on my list. It happens, and we’ve got the New York Times article to prove it.
To guard against this, I’ve tried to separate my goals and activities into two buckets, which I call the Checklist and the Springboard.
The Checklist is pretty self-explanatory. It’s stuff I want to do that can be planned, executed, and completed. There are friends I want to be sure to see, and places I want to hang out and explore for a few days. I want to kayak on Spot Pond and swim regularly at Walden Pond and do some fly-fishing. I want to bike around Cape Anne and go to Cape Cod and find the best ice cream in New England. I want to finally read Infinite Jest and go to the movies in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. Write ‘em down, check ‘em off.
The Springboard is a bit more complicated. There are fewer items on the list, for starters. The challenge for each is to define what kind of involvement would satisfy me. Would it be enough to expose myself to something new? Or aim for a thumbs up/thumbs down decision as to whether it’s something I’d like to pursue more? Should I try to set some level of mastery or progress as a goal?
The reality is that the items on the Springboard list are life-long pursuits, and I’m hoping my sabbatical time will allow me to deepen my skills and my appreciation of these interests. Research shows that attitude, enthusiasm and intent are key to keeping the mind nimble and continuing to develop the brain at any age. It’s important to have goals, but exposure, practice, and enjoyment matter, too.
My Springboard activities are going to use my brain in new ways, and I don’t think the learning will be easy. Instead of getting hung up on a specific outcome, I would rather focus on the wonder of my brain’s ability to change and absorb new knowledge. I want to pay attention to when and how things “click” (assuming they will, at some point!), and how I feel throughout the process. I want to be sure to remind myself that learning is the goal.