January: A Blizzard of Lists

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order – not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.”

– Umberto Eco (Italian novelist)

The making of lists – whether it be a list of New Year’s resolutions, books to read, places to go, weekly errands and to-dos – is a comforting, reassuring way for us to gain a sense of order amidst the all too often chaotic, frenzied lives we lead.

Particularly in a New Year, as we reflect upon our accomplishments and failures of the year before and the ambitions and hopes of the year ahead, creating lists can help us us clearly define a plan for moving forward and making progress in our lives – whether on a personal, professional or spiritual level.

Self-examination books

While spontaneity and impulse serve a valuable role in our lives – igniting that whimsical childhood spirit and providing a refreshing reprieve from the doldrums of daily routine – meandering through life without a plan or goals can lend itself to a rather meaningless existence.

Consider the words below from some of the most respected minds:

  • “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” – Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter (1881-1973)
  • “The significance of a man is not in what he attains but in what he longs to attain.” – Khalil Gibran, Lebanese-American author (1883-1931)
  • “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” – Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American industrialist (1835-1919)
  • “In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” – Henry David Thoreau, American philosopher (1817-1862)
  • “In everything the ends well defined are the secret of durable success.” – Victor Cousins, French philosopher (1792-1867)
  • “The important thing in life is to have a great aim, and the determination to attain it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and statesman (1749-1832)
  • “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father (1706-1790)
  • “All things are ready, if our minds be so.” – William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  • “The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to know how to live to purpose.” – Michel de Montaigne, French philosopher (1533-1592)
  • “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” – Seneca, ancient philosopher (4 BC-65 AD)

Of course, as the quotes above imply, it is not enough to have a plan. We must first discover and develop a sense of purpose – a sense of self – in order to create and execute on a plan that imbues our lives with significance.

famous quotes on planning

But, that’s not always easy. Which is why ATG puts forth a list of several books for the New Year that provide an opportunity for reflection and self-examination.

Happy list making and purpose-ing!

  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2013)
  • Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder (1991) 
  • Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch (2006)
  • The Road Less Traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck (1981)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (2012)
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (1997)
  • Thomas Mellon and His Times by Thomas Mellon (1885)
  • The Way of the Seal: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Succeed and Lead by ex-Navy Commander Mark Divine (2013)

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