We’re coming to the end of the year, a time when I can’t help but look back at how the year went and reflect on my wins, losses, and lessons learned. I set some goals for 2018 at the beginning of the year; I’m somehow not surprised that I failed to meet most of them.
What went well?
I did more writing than last year, and I did manage to rework my personal site. I even shipped a new open-source project as part of that effort, my first from-scratch Hugo theme. That was a lot of fun!
I shifted the bulk of the work I do, too, from a support-focused role to a more dev-focused role. That’s worked out better than I could have hoped.
What could have gone better?
A good chunk of the year was spent feeling anxious about what’s next. This stole a lot of energy that I would have liked to have used for building things, learning new things, and coming back to old hobbies.
I’ve also been suffering from tendon pain in both my right foot and left hand for well over a year now, which seemed to get especially bad as I was working towards my physical goals.
What have I learned?
I learned quite a few things this year.
The first is that, well, it’s pretty important to reflect on how you’re doing. It’s hard to make progress if you’re not taking a look at your attempts to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Retrospectives like this help you course-correct to maintain some kind of forward progress in your projects.
The second thing is that it’s really hard to make progress on a goal if you don’t understand how it aligns with your own personal identity. Jocelyn K. Glei discussed the idea of “tender discipline” in a recent episode of her Hurry Slowly podcast, and the question that titled the show really spoke to me:
Who are you without the doing?
Similarly, James Clear’s book Atomic Habits introduced the idea of building habits around your identity; once you understand who you want to be, you can better create habits that reinforce that when the going gets tough and your motivation is drained.
That, then, is what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Who am I without the doing? What is my identity? Given that, where does it make sense to focus my time and attention?
These are the things I’m thinking about these days, and that’s what I want to take with me into the new year. I have some ideas that aren’t yet fully-baked, but we’re going to get there. And it doesn’t have to all be in place for January 1st, but it does have to fit.