The beginning of the year is always a special, hopeful time. Every year, I like to ring in the New Year by gathering with friends, having a glass (or two) of champagne, and making a long list of my resolutions.
Here are just a few resolutions that I made this year: At work, I resolve to be a better listener and to be better about engaging in meetings. I’d like to learn new efficiencies, for example, honing my editing skills, becoming a more imaginative writer, and shortening manuscript review times. In my personal life, I’d like to exercise more to get in better shape, cut back on my carb intake, learn to be more patient, curb excessive spending, and keep my apartment cleaner.
The New Year gives us a chance to reflect on the things that we’ve accomplished, and look forward to the things we plan to do in the future. For me, I spent much of the last year adapting and learning as a new editor-in-chief. But the rigors of the editing schedule, as well as the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, meant that I did not get to take a vacation longer than a few days in 2021. In 2022, I am looking forward to taking a few different week-long trips to refresh, recharge, and explore the world.
The New Year also gives us a chance to reflect on our failures and setbacks. I can’t help but think about all the resolutions that I’ve made over the years that I’ve failed to accomplish. How many times have I said, “I’m going to lose ten pounds this year,” and then eaten a bagel a few days later at an AIChE staff meeting? That’s one of the reasons why the Spotlight on Safety column this month, “Don’t Rob the Pillars of Your Safety Programs,” really resonated with me.
In the column, author Jim Klein discusses how companies may be reducing the margins of their safety programs and increasing the risk of serious incidents in order to make small financial gains. He uses the metaphor of “robbing the pillars” in a coal mine: In traditional underground coal mining, miners would blast and extract coal from a room, but leave massive pillars of coal in place to shore up the roof. When most of the coal had been removed from a room, a few men would return to “shave down” the pillars to get as much coal as possible. Taking too much from a pillar would weaken the room — leading to a collapse.
While editing the Spotlight on Safety column, I couldn’t help but think about how often I am robbing the pillars in my own life. When it comes to my New Year’s resolutions, where am I robbing the pillar to achieve inconsequential rewards that could lead to failure? What immediately comes to mind is all the times that I’ve relaxed in front of the TV instead of picking up clutter in my apartment to make my living space cleaner. Or all the times that I’ve grabbed a quick but unhealthy takeout dinner instead of prepping a more nutritious meal.
This is something that almost everyone can relate to. As humans, we are bound to sabotage ourselves occasionally, preventing us from achieving our goals. If you are a serial self-saboteur like me, perhaps the best New Year’s resolution we can make is to be more mindful of when we are robbing the pillars of our own productivity.
If your New Year’s resolution is to become a more well-read chemical engineer, then you’ve come to the right place. Flip to pp. 55–56 to discover your next great read in our Books section. As for me, I’ve got some laundry to catch up on… but maybe I will take a quick nap, first.
Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief
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