Sunday, September 18, 2016

The First 100 Days

The first 100 days a president is in office is often used to define the entire term's agenda. The most important, or most pressing business gets addressed first- or at least that's the goal. The administration is full of energy, enthusiasm, support, hope, and fresh gratitude for getting elected. Some go as far as to say it the most productive, if not only productive, time of the entire term.

During RA training in college, I recall learning, similarly, that what a freshman commits to and does in their first 100 days of college will likely play a big role in shaping their entire college experience. 100 days is long enough, they said, to try out a few new things, find a niche, a few friends, and to start forming habits, trends, patterns. Students who start out partying, continue partying. Students who start out going to the gym, continue going to the gym. College, more than maybe any life stage, is full of change and growth, and yet the stats they showed us back then still supported this 100 day trend.

I recall reading (wouldn't be able to tell you where, or who) that the first 3-4 months (ie. 100 days) in a new job, or new home, set the patterns and habits that tend to stick for years to come. Workers who start out arriving on time or arriving late continue those trends. The time you get up, where you park, whether or not you pack your own lunch, if you say hi to the door man- they are all small parts of a routine that start out as a myriad of small decisions and quickly become a routine rarely requiring questioning or second thought.

The "100 days" theory, which I more or less to believe to be true, isn't meant to be restrictive and prescriptive. It is simply descriptive of the way things often go. Habits and patterns are comfortable, even if they are unintentional. The discomfort of being in a new place drives us to develop routines that foster a familiarity that brings comfort and belonging.

Of course change is always possible. Change, though, is often reactive. The first 100 days have the freedom of being more proactive. Most decisions in life lie somewhere on the spectrum between proactive and reactive, often having a good mix of both. There is much importance and value in reactive change and decision making too- realizing something is not the way you want it to be and working to change it is what most of us spend all day doing in one way or another. But, there is something special about more proactive change- you've got a few more raw materials to work with, fresh dirt, new seeds, rather than old soil that needs fertilizing and a garden that needs weeding and uprooting.

Since we've just moved, I've had lots of proactive questions for our new life. Small questions like where to get groceries, and big questions like how will we establish life in a way that cares well for ourselves as well as our new city? In some sense, there are no small questions. Everything says something about what we value and why. The challenge (and fun?) in being proactive is that it marries the big and little questions to produce or create a culture of "me" or "we." Culture creating is a more helpful term, I find, than culture change. We're created to create, are we not? Given how hard culture (and habits, patterns, trends...etc) is to change once it's in place, it seems worth spending time thinking about the culture we want to create before it mindlessly forms on its own.

I've been in Florida 18 days and thought a lot about what creating life here might look like. So far I've settled on planting gardens, killing mosquitoes, getting to know the names of my neighbors, killing more mosquitoes, learning about who lives where and why in this city, not having a TV, getting reacquainted with my piano, and going for long walks.

December 10th. On December 10th I'll have been here 100 days. I wonder what kind of culture will be created by then?