the calendar’s relentless progression: autumn leaves

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The latter part of September perpetually hosts the first day of fall—a time of moderating weather, heavier work schedules and looking ahead.

During one’s teens, 20s and even 30s, this annual period typically seems full of hours and days, its farewell comfortably in the distance. Yet into the 40s and 50s, those selfsame hours appear ever briefer, ever more precious. As much as the numbers themselves do not change, our perception of them moves ever faster. While not able to slow the calendar’s relentless progression, making the most of each 24-filled gift basket goes a long way in mitigating it. This applies to finding fulfillment in work and career projects, to spending dedicated time with family and friends, to enjoying vacations and travel, to lifelong learning.

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sitting in traffic: road kill

The concept of sitting amongst interminable traffic is so widespread and familiar as to make regular clichés seem like fresh air in Beijing. How we respond can make the Wait Lossdifference between being impatient and forlorn for the entire day or at peace with productivity in light of what cannot be changed.

Do we curse or listen to an audiobook? Do we throw up a thin body part in a form of gesticular cancer or do we put on a foreign language-learning CD? Do we feel stress to the point of needing a heart stent or do we call ahead and let them know that we’ll be late?

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the absence of discipline: canceled checks

Why is it that ‘discipline’ so often seems like little more than 2½ four-letter words? Or the rebuke of stern punishment? Or behavior as tightlychecks controlled as a bank teller’s drawer? Why is it that typing this singular word into a Google search yields an overwhelming number of articles about disciplining children? Why is it that self-discipline more often than not evokes giving up statin-inducing cheesecake and excessive beer and lazy workdays?

Because that’s where human instinct would have us go. Yet the absence of discipline yields little more than galling gluttony. The hard-to-digest fact—counterintuitive as it may initially seem—is that the joy of discipline is far more sustaining than pleasures as easy to obtain as pints of ice cream or Scotch. Take any kind of work (another four-letter word, but that’s for another time…) that you love and are highly motivated to achieve, then measure how it feels after four or five solid hours of intense work. Exhausted? Sure. Exhilarated? Equally sure.

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