In the 1990s, my favourite TV show was the sitcom “Seinfeld.” One of the main characters was the affable schlemiel George Costanza. Nothing ever seemed to work out for George. On one episode, George gets fired and receives a three-month severance package. He decides he’s going to use that time to accomplish the things he’s always wanted to do but has put off for one reason or another. He’s going to read a book from cover to cover. He’s going to play Frisbee golf. Not particularly big goals, but big for him. George emphatically proclaims that this is going to be “the summer of George.” As the summer progresses, George instead becomes increasingly lazy and spends most of his time lying on his couch watching TV and eating junk food.
Where did George go wrong? What lessons can we learn from him?
What George lacked was the follow-through. George always looked for shortcuts. George always had big dreams but a myopic view of reality. He had little interest in putting in the effort.
The storyline is a reminder that each of us can take the start of summer as a cue to become more physically and mentally active. Each of us has the capacity to make this the “summer of <your name>.” We can choose what we want to achieve – big or small. We can do something we’ve never tried before. We can improve on something we already do. We can shrink our waistlines, grow our muscles, or expand our intellectual and emotional horizons. We can challenge ourselves by developing or enhancing a skill or by trying a new sport for the fun of it. Everybody has the natural desire to become self-actualized, to feel a stronger sense of fulfilment.
Some of us will have a summer like George, meaning we wake up on the last day of summer and realize we didn’t make any of the positive changes we intended to make, for one reason or another. We may wonder at summer’s end why we can’t seem to make progress like we see others making. What do others have that we don’t? Some people have more money, more athletic skills, more opportunities, more initiative, more whatever. But let’s not forget that many who succeed at their goals have less. The key may be accountability.
I recently saw a photo on Facebook of a young boy holding a sign that read, “My dad said if I get 2,000 likes, he’ll quit smoking.” I thought that was very irresponsible. Imagine how that child might feel if the photo doesn’t get 2,000 likes and his father continues to smoke. What does the approval of friends or strangers on social media have to do with quitting smoking? That father was not teaching his son a positive lesson, in my opinion. Like George – who regularly attributed his shortcomings to others rather than to his own lack of initiative – the dad may have been looking for an easy out by placing the onus on others rather than taking ownership of his behaviours.
The success of the “summer of you” doesn’t depend on what others think or do; rather, it depends on what you think and do. Will you set some goals for yourself? Are you willing to work towards them or would you rather take the easy road like George and stay on the proverbial couch?
Whether it’s cleaning up your eating habits so you become healthier, tidying up the helter-skelter of a messy home so it feels less chaotic, trying a group activity or sport so you can feel more energized and benefit from the social connections – you can attempt whatever you set your sights on. By summer’s end, you may not be a world champion at your newfound sport. You may not eat perfectly every day. You may not have the physique you see in magazines. But what you will have – if you put in the effort and take the risks – are priceless rewards, including a sense of pride in whatever you’ve accomplished. Maybe you’ll finally lose rather than continue to gain weight, even if it’s only a few pounds. Maybe you’ll walk a little further than you used to without being out of breath. Maybe you’ll learn something new or improve your self-confidence.
Summer is only three months long. Then again, three months of effort can really pay off and set you on a better path. Don’t be like George. Make this summer count.