No. 17 | Seven goals for this new year (and how I did in the last)

1) Read 40 books.

I have this broken out as two goals: read 20 works of non-fiction and read 20 works of fiction.

I was in a bad reading slump before 2016. I read, certainly, but it wasn’t a strong habit, and I wasn’t keeping track. I wouldn’t be surprised if I read as few as five books a year some years in my 20s. Awful. And out-of-character. I read so much when I was a kid. Whole days in the library ripping through books.

For 2016, I finished 19 non-fiction books (goal: 20) and 13 fiction books (goal: 10). Much better.

Reading got a bit laborious at the end. I knocked down my fiction goal early and was cramming non-fiction books in the last two months. I’m hoping to keep a more even pace this calendar year. To that end, I upgraded to a Kindle with a backlight, and while it is not as well-designed as my original Kindle, I can read it at the bar. (Lonesome as that may sound, I’ve made several bar friends this way. People love to ask what you’re reading, especially when they can’t tell from the cover.)

2) Run in 5 races.

I’m scaling back by one from my 2016 goal of six races, which I completed in November. This year I want to make more room for biking and weight lifting, or perhaps some sort of gym program that involves punching things.

Running travels well and was a good companion for me in 2016. I’m not terribly sentimental these days but being single and away from family and old friends can make holidays challenging. It was nice to have something new to focus on on Thanksgiving weekend, for instance, and to ensure I’d have a bit of runner’s high and pride and physical exhaustion on my side to do battle with any Big Feelings that cropped up.

I also had a goal to run 500 miles. Managed to get to 330. I think I’ll just keep renewing the 500 mile goal until I can crack it. I’m curious if one less race will help me run more (more freedom to push myself) or less (not as top of mind).

3) Publish 50 issues of 7×77.

I am glad for how I structured this thing because I’m not feeling too stressed about getting it out every single week. But I don’t want to slouch on it, either. I like working with quantities like “50 times” and “25 times” as opposed to “do X every week.” Focusing on the total number of times I send it means I can do some cramming and catching up if needed, and not suffer the motivation hit of immediate failure if I miss a week in January or February.

4) Send someone a postcard from every city I visit.

Lists are increasingly a lens for how I think about the world. Collecting souvenirs is a sort of listmaking, and an instinct I have while traveling. I’ve managed to avoid starting a magnet or snow globe collection, but the instinct is still there. Externalizing this collection through postcards seems like a good use of that energy.

As a bonus, I find writing notes, cards, and letters extremely gratifying. It’s emotionally similar to the feeling of publishing an article or serving a meal you cooked yourself. This is also a way to build a bit of focus and mindfulness into my travels, especially work trips.

(I also have a letter-writing goal for 2017. If you want to be on my potential postcard/letter recipients list, hit me back with a snail mail address, even if you think I have it … which reminds me that I should make a project goal about organizing my contact list. Ugh.)

5) Sit for meditation 25 times.

I’m hoping this goal will simply kickstart an even more frequent practice. If not, hey, 25 times is better than none.

6) Visit five museums.

Yay museums! Museums brought me a lot of joy in 2016. There are few experiences that put a smile on my face as quickly. I visited the Guggenheim and the Whitney for the first time on a bonus trip to NYC (thanks Kristina!), marveled at the craftsmanship of old furniture with Michael Metts at the High Museum in Atlanta, and learned about exploding flour mills on my first-ever date in Minneapolis (more romantic than it sounds). While I managed to visit seven museums in 2016, that was instinct and happenstance, not mindful planning nor part of my goals. I’m capturing this as a goal to make sure I keep it going in 2017.

7) Set a goal for each conference/talk/workshop.

I’ve been doing public speaking and workshop facilitation since 2012, and am grateful to have several engagements on the calendar already for 2017. I am trying to be conscious of not coasting, and to keep pushing myself further each year. As I sit here today, I can’t quite articulate what pushing myself will look like for my 2017 events, only that I know that I want to. So, putting on my game designer’s hat, I’ve added a goal that generates goals.

For 2016, my goal was: Go into each conference/workshop prepared and well-rested. Not especially measurable, but I was able to use it to inspire specific actions, and I think it was successful. I used downtime in January to build a new deck template so that I’d be less prone to being sidetracked by design ideas in the weeks ahead of a talk. I also found myself scheduling more small blocks of time to get started on prep much earlier than I had been in the past. All basic study skills stuff that I was supposed to learn in 8th grade, I suppose, but hard-won lessons for me.

I found that being well-prepared and well-rested made me less precious about the workshop material itself — because I had not created it in an emotionally-heightened state (e.g. last-minute panic), I was more open to experimenting with new ideas and eliminating familiar crutches.

Originally published as List No. 17 of the 7x77 newsletter project.
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