The word I want to lead me through 2019 2019-03-04T12:26:37+00:00

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The word I want to lead me through 2019

Published: February 25, 2019

I know. I know. I know.

I know I’m not supposed to do this. I know that.

New Year’s resolutions don’t work for most people. They’re too big. They’re too vague. People try to change too many things all at once. Most are worded to focus on results instead of process, which is a recipe for disaster.

Here’s a typical example: Exercise more. Ugh, it’s so vague! What does this even mean? What’s “more”? Once per week? Five times per week? What kind of exercise? Walking up stairs? Two hour powerlifting sessions?

Vague resolutions are easy to ignore because they’re not actionable, but adding specificity doesn’t magically make resolutions a good strategy for meaningful, lasting change either. Let’s pretend that instead of “exercise more” we said “go to the gym three times per week.” If you’re new to regular exercise, then this is a big thing to tackle cold turkey, but at least it’s specific. It’s something we can measure.

Week #1 goes great and you make it to the gym 3 times. Week #2 goes even better and you go 4 times. Wow! You feel amazing! Then week #3 comes along, and you miss a workout. Life happens, your motivation dips, whatever. You recover from this slip-up and the next few after that, but eventually you have a couple of bad weeks in a row, and now you feel like a failure. You’ve fallen so far behind that it feels pointless to even try anymore. Better luck next year I guess!

Sound familiar? So many resolutions suffer from this pass/fail pitfall. I’m not a fan of resolutions, and science agrees. Science thinks resolutions suck too.

Possibilities

I know all this. I promise I do. But still, I tend to get swept up in all the New Year’s stuff anyway. After years of conditioning, January 1st just feels like the right time to reset. New year, new possibilities and whatnot.

There are a lot of things that excite me right now, and 2019 feels like a mile-wide empty canvas, so I’m gonna share some stuff. My big list of possibilities. The many different ways I can choose to spend my free time this year. A lot of these are probably going to sound like resolutions, but they’re not. I’m not actually committing to doing any of this stuff this year. There are no failure states. Possibilities, not resolutions.

Let’s start with some 30 before 30 things. I’m more than a year into this project now, but I don’t have much to show for it yet, unfortunately. I did stay in a tiny house a few weekends ago though, and that was an experience. It had a space toilet and everything! It was tiny but not so tiny that I completely ruled it out as a potential future living situation. My girlfriend and I put our cell phones in an adorable little lockbox and spent the weekend focused on simpler things. I’d like to do it again sometime.

Last year wasn’t full of 30 before 30 milestones, but that doesn’t mean 2019 can’t be. Just look at all these things I want to do that I haven’t done yet! So many possibilities!

30 before 30:

  • Release an iOS app in the App Store
  • Prioritize sleep for 30 days straight
  • Do one month of CrossFit and commit
  • Keep my balance while walking across a slackline
  • Complete a NaNoWriMo
  • Go on a solo, multi-day backpacking trip
  • Spend a weekend inside a tiny house
  • Pick a recipe book and make every recipe inside of it
  • Work through the Marie Kondo method
  • Ride a train across the country
  • Eat at an Iron Chef’s restaurant

Another thing I want to spend more time on is self improvement through self experimentation. Make mindful tweaks to my attitudes or actions for a finite amount of time and see how it makes me feel. See what sticks. Hopefully I’ll learn something about myself in the process and plant some seeds for future useful habits. I’ll talk more about what I’m trying to do with these when I get around to actually doing them, but look at the possibilities! So many opportunities to learn and grow! Makes my brain tingle just thinking about it.

Experiments:

  • No phone in bedroom
  • Purge Pocket and keep it clean
  • Read 4 books in 28 days
  • Don’t be late
  • Don’t talk about work at home
  • Go 21 days without complaining or uttering non-constructive criticism
  • Meditate
  • Five Minute Journal
  • 1 new documentary per day for 30 days
  • Write down 10 new app ideas every day
  • Micro lessons
  • No TV (YouTube, Netflix, etc.)

I don’t write much, and when I do it’s not very focused (see: this post), but I want to write more and learn to write better. I’ve got lots of ideas and good intentions, but thoughts and prayers are bullshit without real, concrete action. This could be the year!

I already mentioned experiments. I want to blog about my experiences with those when I have them. I also want to make more stuff and write about the process. Personal projects, not just work projects. I want to share all of my dumb app ideas with the world because ideas are a dime a dozen. Why be precious about them? I want to learn from others who actually manage to ship their projects. Meet, talk, study, get inspired, and share what I learn. And last but not least, animation. A medium and an industry that I love dearly and will forever have thoughts about. Possibilities on top of possibilities.

Writing categories:

  • Project updates
  • Experiments
  • App ideas
  • App analysis
  • Animation industry

And all of that only scratches the surface because my interests are numerous, and my penchant for making lists knows no bounds.

Miscellaneous other things:

  • Publish more blog posts (10 would be good, 12 would be better)
  • Restart my email newsletter (monthly?)
  • Generate 500 app ideas (sounds crazy but 2 per day for the rest of the year would be more than 600)
  • Read my iOS and Swift textbooks in their entirety (I’m a chronic textbook skimmer)
  • Finish the Stanford iOS course (this one)
  • Pickup my guitar again
  • Read 20 books (6 down, 14 to go)
  • Play all the board games I own (friends who roll dice together stay together)
  • Exercise 4 times per week
  • Plan a proper date night once per month
  • Go on 2 big vacations
  • Start sharing my writing prompts on Reddit (stop lurking, start contributing)
  • Play more video games (it’s a big huge medium that I’ve mostly ignored in recent years, which is a shame)
  • Try using Twitter again (people who make stuff tend to hangout on Twitter, and I want to hangout with more people who make stuff)
  • Finish redesigning my website
  • Continue time tracking but actually measure my progress somehow

Not resolutions

And that’s it. All the things I want to do. All the things I want to do right now at least. People change. Interests change. You might be thinking to yourself, “Hey Danny, super cool lists, but these kinda look like resolutions. Like, just an unreasonable amount of resolutions. Are you sure you’re not accidentally doing the exact thing you railed against like 1000 words ago?” Well yeah, kinda. But also kinda not. I think it’s mostly a mindset thing honestly.

I’m not going to finish half the stuff I listed here, and that’s okay. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I might only get around to 10% of this stuff honestly. Or less. Still okay. Some things I’ll focus on and then maybe not focus on and then maybe focus on again later even harder. Some things I’ll try and then cast aside and never think about again. Some things might just happen naturally without me having to exert any effort at all. That’s not very resolution-like, but again, totally okay.

I think resolutions are too rigid: Do this, do it for a year, don’t fail because people are watching.

You know what’s not rigid? A word. A phrase. A theme. Something to gently guide the broad strokes of my decision-making without tying me down or making me feel bad about myself. That’s what I want.

My yearly theme

Looking at my lists and seeing all of the possibilities laid out in front of me, I see some patterns. Learning, playing, and trying new things are all prevalent themes, but there are two that really stick out and dominate my thoughts:

Create more. Consume intentionally.

I want to spend more time making stuff. I said it in this post. I said it in my last post too. It’s been a recurring theme on this blog since I started writing it back in 2013. When I think about the best version of myself, I think about a person who makes and builds and creates. Someone who takes on hard projects, pursues novel ideas, and regularly puts cool shit out into the world. Maybe not cool to everybody, but cool to me at least. Maybe cool to one or two other people as well. That would be enough.

I want to do these things, but these kinds of things are hard. They take a lot of time and energy and dedication, which can be difficult to come by after a long day at work. But this is important to me, and I don’t want to keep sidelining it, so I’m making it the cornerstone of my theme for 2019. When I’m at a crossroads and I’m not sure what to do next, I’m going to do my best to err on the side of creation.

The second part of my theme goes hand-in-hand with the first. If I don’t reign in my mindless consumption, then there won’t ever be enough time left in the day to create. Compulsively checking Reddit or Hacker News ten times a day isn’t healthy. Automatically turning on Netflix every night with dinner isn’t healthy either. I don’t want to abstain from news and entertainment sites entirely, but I do want to be more mindful of my browsing.

It’s unnerving when a behavior becomes so ingrained in our brains that our bodies seem to act without consulting our conscious minds. Like driving the same route to and from work every day. One moment you’re getting into your car at home, and the next moment you’re parking your car at work with no idea how you got there. At some point along the route you zoned out and your brain took over, flawlessly navigating complicated traffic patterns. Brains are really good at executing established routines.

For me, when I get bored or my current task feels challenging, I tend to navigate to certain time-wasting websites. One moment I’m hard at work on an important project, and the next moment I’m opening up eight different YouTube tabs to checkout whatever random videos happened to be featured on the homepage that day. I zoned out, and then my brain took over to follow an established routine. High quality project time becomes low quality leisure time, and while leisure time itself isn’t the enemy, unplanned and unintentional leisure time is. Spontaneity isn’t the enemy either. I have no desire to plan out every minute of every day, but I would like my conscious mind to start participating when it comes to decisions about how I spend my life. I want to re-train my brain to eliminate the autopilot routines that lead me down unproductive paths.

That’s my plan for the year. Create more. Consume intentionally. My North Star. My guiding light. I’ll post periodic progress reports on this blog as the year wears on. New blog posts are a legitimate form of creation after all.

What’s your theme for 2019?

Cheers.

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Image credit: Amaury Salas

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