July {reflection}

Mid-Year Reflections

July was an “off” month on challenges. I determined this back in my January planning phases — as a way to assess the larger goals of my yearlong project and perhaps set a stronger course going forward for the second half of 2015 based on what I learned in the first.

I’ve done so and with August beginning have changed my approach on goal-setting, in hopes of the self-systemization ideal that I started the year with. Here are some of the changes I’ve made:

Non-Categorization of Goals

I started the year with three categories of goals: Health, Writing, and Lifestyle. This categorization was meant to keep goals varied and expansive. The idea being that if I could succeed in goals across this spectrum, I could build a system or framework that would work on goals in any category. Doing all health or all writing might pigeon-hole me into successfully mastering one corner of my life but nothing bigger.

I don’t think I was wrong in this approach but it had the effect that I was actively trying to avoid. I got stuck in these categories and nothing else. Goal-setting was restricted and habits didn’t overlap as much as they could have. As I learned in April where I turned technology off at night which gave me time to roll out my muscular frame, goals that help one another succeed are ultimately beneficial.

So there won’t be categories going forward. I’ll just set goals on things I’d like to improve on my own life and work on the set-up of the goals so that are not in opposition, but rather in harmony with one another.

Focus On The Means, Not The End

The set up on previous months could aptly be described as this: figure it out. I’d set a lofty goal of something I’d like to accomplish and left myself completely open on how to actually do it. Months that had missed goals could really point back to this as a reason for failure. I didn’t focus on the means as much as the end and a month isn’t a long time for standard methods of discovery like trial and error.

Instead, new goals will focus on the how (or the means), and leave the larger ends unto themselves. If they’re hit, great, but their magnitude won’t be the only measure of success.

Instead, I’ll focus on repeatable smaller tasks which can build habits and create positive change. The actualization of these smaller tasks and habits will be the success factors, not an arbitrary degree to which a larger goal is achieved.

Carryover Goals

Many of the goals I’ve set in previous months were aimed at things I actively wanted to change about myself. Some were challenges to exceed my own expectations, but others were aimed at better living (as I saw it). I found myself in my “off” month of July wanting to continue some of these. Of course, I could do so — but giving it the guise of a challenge made it so much more imperative to my day-to-day.

So, starting in August, I’ll have at least one carryover goal each month. This is a goal I’ve done in the past that will be repeated with the hopes of building long(er) term character change. My hope is that some goals will be carryovers for multiple months and morph themselves into fully formed habits through that process. But that’s to be seen!

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MAY CHALLENGE RESULTS & ANALYSIS

I was just re-reading my post from April’s challenges. April was kind of a month of everything – lots of running around. May was not that. May got simple. I’m set up here in Vancouver and have my own space (a first in four years) and am coming to enjoy the simpler things — having a morning coffee outside, listening to music, watching a baseball game, exploring my new neighborhood. Got to say, too, that Van sure makes it easy. One month in, I’m convinced this is the most beautiful city I’ve been through (naturally). That certainly helps keep the mood too.

May really gave me some time to focus on my goals and start to put some habits together on achieving them. Overall I did pretty well I’d say. Let’s have a look!

Keep A Tidy House [Lifestyle Goal]

Goal: No dishes in the sink at the end of the night. No clothes on the floor either.

Result: 29/31 nights.

Count was kept on a sheet with a calendar of May crudely drawn on it. An “X” was added the next morning if I woke up to no dishes or clothes on the floor. I managed well on the clothes (which is actually probably a more common bad habit on my part). The dishes were the two times I missed this.

I hate dishes. Still do. This didn’t make it any easier. But I find a few methods that worked.

One was something I figured out early on. See what I was doing was using the sink as a kind of sitting place for the dishes. So instead of dumping a dish in there, I left it in a stranger spot — on top of the counter that is in my living room, for instance. That worked until I got lazy and started having flies all around the apartment (it’s nice enough in Van to leave my balcony door open all the time, so I like the take advantage of the fresh air.

Next, I left the light on over my stove — meaning I had to fully walk into the kitchen to turn the light off. That worked for about a week and then I started getting lazy. Almost missed a day as I was going to bed. Had to convince myself to get out and do the dishes.

Later, a friend revealed a trick he used —simply just counting the seconds it takes to finish the task/chore. It works especially well for dishes. This has two (2) effects: (1) you realize how quickly you can really do dishes (most of my times were 2-3 minutes), and (2) you get to race yourself. I could guess how long it would take me and then either (a) try to get near that time or (b) beat it. Fun helps form habits.

Write Book Reviews [Writing Goal]

Goal: 3 published reviews

Result: Done. My reviews for Travels with Charley (Steinbeck), One Summer (Bryson), and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Eggers).

This was fun. It, of course, forced me to read these books which was enjoyable in itself. It also made think while reading, “what’s really going on with my experience here?” And gave a new edge to reading.

I don’t read a lot of book reviews, but I wrote in a style I’m comfortable with and thought hard about what the books and authors left me with. Finished this one on the last day of May!

Pull-Ups [Health Goal]

Goal: 10 consecutive pull-ups

Result: 10 pull-ups over bar, 5 strict pull-ups.

I didn’t specify my goal here, so it’s hard to give a pass/fail on this one. In the past, the ten pull-ups (head below bar, head above, etc..) probably would have counted just fine. The “strict” pull-up — all the way down — is of course much harder.

The positive here is improvement. I tested my pull-ups on the first day of May and got to 4 pull-ups, and about 2.5 strict. That’s more than a 2x improvement on these, so I’ll take that as a positive sign. It was certainly an improvement.

To accomplish this improvement, I set out to practice the pull-up multiple times per day. AT least once in the morning and once at night I got myself to do pull-ups, and then experimented with doing negatives (starting near the top and slowly lowering myself down). These all helped build up my pull-up count.

FULL ANALYSIS

May was a good month to sit back and assess some of my challenges and what I’m accomplishing. I had more time to devote to them (I don’t think I could have finished three books in any other month this year). As life as slowed down for me due to staying put for a bit, I found some room to dive deeper into my 2015 project. I’ve made notes on self-systemization that I think will carry me in my future endeavors, but still nothing quite complete as a full framework or system. Closer, but not close yet.

As the month progressed, I found new tricks for habit-forming (see the lifestyle goal) — one’s that I’m still using past the month’s end. I also found success in blocking time off in my calendar to make sure I attended to my goals. I stuck with one old lesson as well — performing something before doing something I would do anyway. (In this case, it was doing pull-ups before I had my all-important morning coffee).

I’m still looking for greater assurances of success but I feel myself getting more used to my discipline cycles and finding ways to either overcome any lack thereof, or motivate myself in other ways. What I’m looking for is a larger sea-change in myself (or a trigger that can cause that), but the monthly goals are short and don’t always allow for that exploration.

What i’ve set forward, then, is a June full of my most ambitious goals yet. These will not be easy (see my Home page for a listing of those). I’ll need to be disciplined, dedicated, and focused — all while trying to tinker with a system that aids these paradigms. So we’ll see.

July, then, is an “off” month. It’s a reassessment time. What’s worked? What hasn’t? It’ll be time, then, to put forward the first go at a system and see if it makes or breaks. More on that later, of course.

For now, June is already begun and I have goals to attend to!