Last year I set five simple personal goals for 2014. I wrote them on a chalkboard in a visible location in my office where I see them daily, and it was a helpful way of focusing myself throughout the year. So this year I’m doing it again.
I treat these goals less like checklist items to accomplish, and more like personal themes to help guide my behavior and actions every day. They are things I want to build into my life for the long run, not just things to get done.
As with last year’s list, some of them are practical and quantifiable, and others are more qualitative and ambiguous.
1. Be healthy.
At 33, the aging process isn’t slowing down on me, and my body cannot do what it once could. I have kids that are growing up and I want to be able to be active with them for years to come. So I need to start being more intentional about my health.
I’d really like to lose my gut this year. The “shoot for the moon” version of this one is getting a six-pack, although that may not be realistic. The steps I’m taking toward this specific part are a three-day split gym routine with weight training and cardio, as well as modifying my diet (low carb and processed foods). If all goes well, I’ll write more about how it went later in the year.
I also need to get more rest, starting with aiming for a daily earlier bedtime (9pm would be great, but at least by 10:30pm), taking naps at least once or twice a week, and watching less TV in the evening (nights I’m not working on something I tend to just watch TV with Ashley, which is a terrible default for health and rest).
I also need to drink less alcohol and drink more water. I consume alcohol pretty moderately, but often I default to grabbing a beer or glass of bourbon when relaxing with Ashley in the evenings. However, making that a less frequent occurance will help cut carbs, and likely help me make it to the gym more often as I tend to fall asleep better after a couple drinks, but have a harder time waking early to workout.
2. Be well rounded.
I’ve come to realize that I’m at a point in my life where my two primary priorities are work and family. Work and related pursuits tend to dominate the vast majority of my time, so my remaining time is usually spent with family.
Those are healthy priorities, but there’s a lot more to me as a person than work and family, and it tends to get smothered in the urgency of those two dominant aspects. So this year I really want to become more well rounded by making reasonable time for cultivating other aspects of my life, and better balancing the work and family priorities.
For one thing, I’m going to actively and intentionally cultivate a few of my hobbies. Snowboarding is something I’ve enjoyed for 20 years, but in the last five or six years I haven’t had a chance to pursue it more than a handful of times. Last year I got a new snowboard for the first time in 17 years, so this year I’m going to make it a goal to get out and snowboard ten or more times.
I’d also like to make more intentional time for some of my other interests like playing video games (while it’s something I enjoy, I’ll go months without playing a game), painting, DJing, and breakdancing.
One of the things I find really fulfilling but straddles the line of work/play is writing. I love writing, but even so it tends to get put on the backburner as evidenced by the amount of times I blogged last year. So this year my goal is to publish a blog post once a month.
And finally, I’m going to commit myself to 10 hours of dedicated learning time/month. I’ve been meaning to brush up on my JS and Ruby/Rails skills for a while, but haven’t made any dedicated time toward the effort. I tend to learn new things with every project I work on, and read stuff in the natural course of my work day, but if I really want to make meaningful advances in my skillset I need to make some dedicated time for learning monthly.
Organization and simplicity are things I value deeply as a design minded person. However, they are not things that come naturally to me. My mind and life are characterized by divergence more than convergence, so I want to work to simplify my world as much as I can.
To this end, last year I made two goals: saying no to more things, and operating daily with less than 10 browser tabs. Those goals were effective, so I want to keep them and build on them this year.
I struggle with physical space organization, so I’m also going to work on keeping my office clean. I want to assign everything a purpose and a place, and if it doesn’t have either of those I need to get rid of it.
To the end of simplicity, I also want to strive more to live within my means.
We have struggled with that in the past at least in part because of the way we were managing our finances, but we started using YNAB this year to help live within our budget.
So far, so good. I’m really enjoying thinking of income with the “every dollar has a job” approach, and value being in constant communication with Ashley about what to do with our money/how it has been spent. It’s good for our finances and our marriage, it seems (although we’ve only been doing it for two weeks, so check with me in 6 mo for a better conclusion).
4. Finish things.
Related to simplifying, and my tendency toward divergent thinking/attention/behavior, I want to make finishing an intentional theme for this year. The most urgent and important things get finished, but I have a lot of things in my life that are only important but not urgent that tend to go unfinished.
That’s a behavior that I want to adjust. I strive to be a finisher, and to ship things. So to this end I’m recommiting to saying no to more things and taking on less, and to getting rid of stuff.
It’s not a complicated theme, just one that will take discipline, focus, and commitment.
5. Give more of myself to others.
Any list of themes that just includes myself is one which is far too self-centered to be healthy for my soul. So my final theme for this year is to give more of myself to others in meaningful ways. This goal might sound ambiguous (and it certainly can be), but there are several very practical ways that I intend to implement toward it’s end.
I’m going to give more of my time and attention to my kids. Since we are a one income family, and Ashley cares for the kids daily, there is a very disproportionate amount of time they spend with her versus me. It’s a fact of the stage of life we are in, but a fact I don’t love and one I want to change at least to some degree. With saying no to more things this year, my desire is that I’ll have more time to give to being with my kids who I love and enjoy so very much.
I also want to be more intentional about how I engage with Ashley. Communicating with her more thoughtfully. Intentionally cultivating the romance in our relationship which - to be honest - since having kids has radically dwindled (though we are amazing friends at this point in our life, just little time/attention for romance). Trying to take initiative to plan things for us or for the family. And generally being more thoughtfully involved in her life.
And finally, I want to cultivate more of the meaningful external relationships in my life. That means taking more time to think of others, reach out to communicate with them, and spend time being involved in their lives.
The journey and the destination
As I mentioned, this list for me is more a list of themes than goals. While it certainly does contain some measurable goals, the point here is to have some themes for my journey this year.
I’m really sold on the idea that the journey of life is just as important as the destination. Goals are like reaching destinations. While they are certainly important, the journey is just as important. And every good journey needs themes that act like guideposts to help you reach the destination.