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ATPM 9.01
January 2003



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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,


Most of the time, my only New Year’s resolution is not to make any resolutions. I dislike the idea of using an arbitrary event (turning a page on a calendar) to trigger doing something we should have been doing all along. That said, I’ve decided that maybe it’s okay to use such an event as motivation, if that’s what it takes to get us moving. But I still think if we really thought it was a good habit, we’d have been in the habit already. But more on habit later. For now, let’s dive into those resolutions.

Computer Things

Change my passwords. We know we should do this every now and then. Sometimes our operating systems are set up to remind us to do it, but mostly we disable stuff like that. And then two years later we need to sign into something and can’t remember what the password was. So we’re changing all of ’em. Right now. I’m stopping to do it right now.

See, if I just think, “Oh, that’s something I should do when I get around to it,” I’ll probably never get around to it. So I did it just now. It took five minutes, well, for all the places I could think of. On Web sites where I’m logging in, I’ve made an appointment with myself for next Tuesday at 3. A whole hour to visit all my bookmarked pages and change my passwords. Time: ten minutes.

Run the virus protection software. Or open it up and set the preferences to auto-connect once a week, Sunday mornings when I know I’ll be asleep. Time: two minutes. Stop and do it now.

Dust. Really. Clean off the air vents and the backs of the equipment. It gets kind of icky back there. Time: three minutes.

Print something in color. This only applies to people who rarely use their printers. I found out the hard way last year that if I never printed anything in color, the ink dried up. It cost more to replace the ink than the printer was worth. So now I make myself print something in color every couple of weeks. Time: one minute.

Do other technical stuff. Stuff I dunno what it is, but you guys do. Defragging and reformatting and zapping and clearing the cache and rebuilding the desktop. That stuff you know you’re supposed to do every so often? Stop and do it now, or make a date with yourself to do it this week. Time required: I have no idea. I just use this thing; I dunno how it works.

Non-computer Things

This is where the notion of putting belief into practice comes into play. Once we decide something is important, we make time for it. We go to the gym, or get exercise somewhere else. We arrange time to meditate or study or be still. We schedule time with people who are important to us. Those are things that matter to me. Other people have other things that matter to them.

This is the measure of the strength of a belief: how do we put it into practice? A belief is worthless without commitment. When I believe I should be a useful member of my community, I cannot then in good conscience walk by a piece of trash without picking it up. Else my belief has no meaning.


If I believe I love my cat and want us to have a good relationship, I put that into practice by deliberately spending time with him, bringing joy to us both. Just feeding him and scooping out the box does not a good relationship make. At least not for this particular cat, and not for me. Your mileage will vary. Cats are like that.

The point is, we choose a belief, a thing about which we feel strongly. And then we put it into action. That’s it. If we really believe whatever it is, then the action part will not be hard. In 1890’s Principles of Psychology, William James said this of habit: “No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better. With mere good intentions, hell is proverbially paved.”

Which is a long way round of saying: It’s not enough to think about it. We hafta do it.

Now go out there and do it.


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Reader Comments (2)

anonymous · January 10, 2003 - 13:49 EST #1
The cat looks insolent.
Ellyn Ritterskamp · January 10, 2003 - 16:11 EST #2
He certainly is!

Thanks for reading, Alex :)

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