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New Year To-Do List: Honor Each Day

By: Head of School Elizabeth Zurlinden

January 29, 2020

January 1, 2020. A new year. The dawn of a new decade.

The magnitude of this significant day was not lost on me. I love New Year's, not the eve spent watching the ball drop in Times Square, but the wee hours of the new year's first sunrise.

Like most years, I welcomed this new year in the small beach community our family loves. Waking before the moon retired, I tiptoed through the hushed house, hopped on my bike and pedaled the few minutes to the ocean. In either direction, the white sand beach was completely barren. This is my new year tradition, a solo beach walk at sunrise, my footprints marking the first steps into a new future, time spent in the stillness of morning set to the soundtrack of the lapping ocean tide. A breathtaking beginning to a new year.

Walking beside the ocean waves as the sun peeked above the horizon, I focused my attention on the rhythms of life's constants, the ebb and flow of the tide and the rotation of day and night. I considered my own life's rhythms and the beauty of this simple, solitary day.


A Challenge for Each New Dawn

"Imagine if we treated each new dawn of each new day with the same reverence and joy as we do each new year." This quote by Angie Lynn offered me a challenge. How would I honor each new dawn?

A new decade is too overwhelming to contemplate. I reflected on the past ten years. I began 2010 as a parent to young teens, who then became drivers, high school and college graduates, and I ended the decade with two children who are working professionals. I look to the future with joyful anticipation, but ten years — even one year — is a capacious concept of time that needs to be scaled for my pursuit of living purposefully into the roaring 2020s. There is ample potential in one singular, extraordinary day.

As Tolkien writes, "little by little one travels far." Each 24-hour gift contains the small moments that comprise our journey, our life.  For me, the road map for a successful journey is a list - a written record of goals or daily need to-dos. Mundane as groceries needed for the evening's dinner or thoughtful intent articulated in heart-held hopes, my lists reflect my desire to make meaning of my collective days.


Productivity and Persistence

For many, lists record tasks to be completed that reveal both the list-makers’ humanity and creativity, as well as signal their appreciation for the opportunity offered in one day and their determination to make good use of it. For instance, a to-do list written by Leonardo da Vinci is an inventory of his passions parceled out into tasks like, "draw Milan." A to-do list of John Lennon's that was sold at auction for $16,000 recorded books he wanted to read and the need to fix the hook on his bathroom door.

Just recently, I have adopted one of Benjamin Franklin's daily list making habits. He scheduled time each morning and evening to examine his day by asking himself two questions, "What good shall I do this day?" and "What good have I done this day?" 

What I admire in my fellow list makers is their productivity. Their achievement of big things, like framing the Constitution, painting a masterpiece or crafting a songwriting career that remains the most successful in history, is evidenced in their consistent persistence in daily tasks, habits and deliberations that paved the path of their life's legacies.

Interestingly, it was at the beginning of the new year in 1888 that Thomas Edison wrote a long list of "things to be done," including items he wanted to create, such as ink for the blind and an electrical piano. That year Edison established 45 patents. Whether it was his intellectual curiosity or his lack of a need for sleep, Edison proved to be quite productive, and I give serious credit to his list making for narrowing his focus to what was important in his eyes to dedicate time and energy.

Author Gretchen Rubin agrees, "Day by day, we build our lives, and day by day, we can take steps toward making real the magnificent."

A Sacred Promise

My plans aren't grand, but I do long to make the most of this one extraordinary life I am being given one day at a time. There is a sacred promise in each new day that mirrors Emily Dickinson's affirmation, "I dwell in possibility" and Steve Maraboli's bold truth, "Every new day is a once in a lifetime event."

Whatever is on your to-do list today that will shape your quiet routines and amazing accomplishments, I offer you a verse from Ralph Waldo Emerson. "Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year."

Happy New Year, everyone! I pray 2020 will be the first glorious year in a decade of blessing for you and your families. And may it begin this very day!

Now that it is nearly February, I am finally able to cross writing this New Year blog post off my list!


Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in Creve Coeur, is an independent private preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills.​ Request a free Rossman School brochure here.

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