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New Years and Resolutions

The beginning of a new year seems to be bringing a fresh start. So many of us make a mental (or a physical) note about what they want to achieve in the new year, and January seems like a good start for any kind of new resolution.

There are a few things I have actually postponed to “next year” to give myself a kind of fresh start. And I don’t want to make any consideration about the effectiveness of waiting for “the right time” to start a project (I’m sure so many motivational coaches will tell you it’s not a good idea at all), it’s just something that popped into my mind as I stumbled onto an article that showed how the perception of time has changed with the advent of Christianity.

(Yes, I know I’m about two millennia late, but you can be sure that if there’s anything new happening, I’m gonna be one of the last people on Earth to realize it.)

What that article implied is that ancient people used to consider time as cyclical, as the seasons change and come back every year. The years repeated one after the other in a kind of eternal return.

Christianity, on the other hand, introduced the idea of time as linear. Every person on Earth is born and can only move forward in time until they eventually die and move to the afterlife. The time someone spent is not coming back, no matter how many seasons come and return, because human time is just a straight line.

It made me think that this is probably where the idea of “accomplishing something in life” comes from, as if our time on Earth was our time window to become unforgettable in our own way. There’s only so much time to do this, so you better start working your ass off.

Here I’m not going to argue whether becoming unforgettable is a good or a bad thing. What I’m interested in is whether time is cyclical or linear. 

And I know that what I’m about to say is easy to label as “the easy way out” of the dilemma, but hear me out: these two ways of measuring time are not in conflict with each other. On one hand it’s true that time flows in only one direction (at least, we as humans can only perceive this in one direction), but it’s also true that we’re counting it in a cyclical way. Every year we have 12 months, or 52 weeks, or 365 days.

It’s true that we can’t go back to last January, and we can’t jump forward to January 2023, but the subdivision in months, weeks, days gives us a different way of measuring what we do with our time.

If our entire life is the final project, then each year is one of the tasks we need to carry out. And months, weeks and days are the sub-tasks, of course. And this structure of our time, combined with the human tendency to set goals at the beginning of each year and evaluate the same goals at the end allow me to make a far reaching comparison with Scrum, a framework for Agile software development. (Did I mention that my day job is in software development, by the way?)

Nerdy as it seems, it’s one of those things you can’t unsee once you’ve seen that, and from now on I’ll look at my life as my huge Agile project. I’m not sure it’s going to be a good thing or if I’ll regret it, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

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