Thinking Big vs. Doing Small

I’m not at all a photographer, but I’ve been taking pictures lately. I’m trying to be deliberate about lighting and angles and my subjects. I’m trying to keep things simple and the assignment (i.e., time commitment) as small as possible: take at least one picture of a tree every day. Here’s what’s happening:

First, I’m seeing the world differently. Already. After only a week of my new hobby, I’m much more aware — than ever before in my entire life — about the way light shows up, or hides, in the world. I’m also experiencing a not altogether unpleasant version of FOMO. Sometimes, I’ll be in a building and I’ll catch a glimpse of a particular moment during a particular day and I’ll think — again, for the first time in my entire life — “the weather outside seems perfect for a photograph.” Sometimes I sneak out and snap a quick picture.

I expect that the above sounds slightly smarmy to anyone who has ever taken a photography course or bothered to learn how to use a camera, but my point in sharing has less to do with my newly acquired perspective and more to do with the fact that I’m succeeding in seeing the world in a new way by simply committing to a new serial project: take at least one picture of a tree every day.

For those of you who have recently made a New Year’s resolution, I would ask this: is it a resolution that resembles the “see the world in a new way” kind of thinking or the “take at least one picture every day” kind of doing? In terms of actual change, of actual progress, the distinction matters. The former, an aspirational thought, might not lead to the latter, a functional behavior. But the latter, a functional behavior, often leads to the former, an aspirational thought.

Or at least that’s what I’ve learned over the past few cycles of my New Year’s resolutions.

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