It’s the first few hours of being 26, the year of 25 has breathed it’s last. What changed in the last year? It’s easy to go through day to day and feel like nothing is changing because it happens slowly, but things happened. There were new ‘Firsts’ in my life. I visited people. I celebrated with people. Inspired by Michael Lynch’s year in review articles, I thought I would do my own version to help me reflect on the year, appreciate the good parts, and recognize the parts that didn’t go so well so I can aim to improve them. No judgement, just reflection.
Kick the reflection off easy, what actually happened between Oct 20, 2020 and Oct 19, 2021? These are marginally in order of timing, but I wasn’t too worried about keeping this exactly accurate. This list is a bit shorter than I would like, so next year I want to be more action oriented and try more things and put myself out there, even when it’s anxiety-inducing. Working my way through this list prompted me to create my Firsts! page, as a happy reminder of fun memories in my past, and making sure life stays interesting by adding variety to it, Psychological Richness.
- Snowed heavily on my birthday in 2020 in Wisconsin, so went sledding with my mom.
- Did a tiny bathroom renovation at girlfriend’s house.
- Ran first marathon and a baby ultra on accident when I passed the marathon point (50k). I made the route for us, turns out I didn’t check the distance well.
- Started a writing habit, lost it, and then started to get it back.
- Wrote a few articles about stuff.
- Started a podcast with friends (Spotify).
- Created a tiny YouTube channel because of the podcast.
- Sent my first personal newsletter out - then never sent another ☹️.
- Had my first lake fire (standing fire pit, still counts).
- Moved across half the country to live with my girlfriend away from our friends and family.
- Got my first car, first car insurance, all that fun stuff.
- Dealt with first bout of real depression, yay! Contributed to losing the writing habit unfortunately, along with quitting fitness and several other positive pieces. On the way back up though.
- Took care of a fuzzy doggo.
- Stayed in a tiny home for the first time.
- Went to several weddings, congrats to the happy couples.
- Swam in the ocean at midnight.
- Touched my toes for the first time.
- Attempted a fitness challenge with stakes.
- Checked my phone too much, despite removing all social media and games. That dopamine addiction is real. Same with email, lots of easy “wins” when checking email.
- Started a satire website with friends.
- Started helping a friend learn to code.
Had a pile of goals I was hoping to achieve during the year, just like every year before, but I struggle to be consistent and have good habits. Most of my goals end up carrying over year after year. Frustrating to see, but have to be honest about it. Looking at 25, even though it’s a bunch of not completed ❌, I’m not mad about how the year went. Failure is often the greatest learning experience you can get, so instead of sulking about not meeting goals, I will use this to fuel a better approach in coming years.
- 200k words written Sept 2020 - Sept 2021: between my free write journal & articles I’ve written on my Notion, not necessarily published online.
- Outcome: ❌ 120k, ~40k word count in Notion + ~80k from writing average of 225 words per page in free write journal. Didn’t reach the arbitrary goal, but wrote magnitudes more than I have since I left high school.
- 52 articles in 52 weeks
- Outcome: ❌ 25, half of them still waiting to be published when I had the brilliant idea of building up a backlog for the newsletter I never sent to cover any weeks I was too busy to write, somewhat ironic. Frustrating, but a lesson learned.
- Get super ripped
- Outcome: ❌ Still have long gangly arms and no muscle. Had a pretty good pull up program going for a while, but that all fell apart. Need to stay consistent not just for vanity reasons, but also if I don’t work out regularly I am way less happy and productive. Discovering on my own what researchers have had proven for years, yay!
- Dunk a basketball
- Create a side hustle
- Outcome: ❌, was wishing my writing would take off and become popular, but hard to do when you only publish a couple times a year. Consistency is key if I want anything to happen.
- Stick to schedule of regular reflection & looking forward with weekly & monthly goals
- Outcome: ❌, stuck with it for about 3/8 months. Not fantastic, but now I know that it’s incredibly helpful for keeping myself on track and reminding myself of the work I’ve put in. It’s easy to forget what you’ve done when looking at the mountain before you.
Room for Improvement
Writing out ideas of where I can improve is a good start, but they’re just wishes until I actually set new habits or concrete actions to make them real, otherwise next year they will be the same. I will need to review and create plans from these thoughts. I am kicking this off with my first Personal Yearly Theme, inspired by Trevor Mckendrick. Back to it, what could be improved from this year?
- Recognizing time & attention are finite, yet opportunities are infinite
- I have a bajillion things I want to try, want to learn, goals to reach, but we only have a limited amount of time here. "You can do anything you want in life, just not everything” (not sure who said this, but I really like it). Taking 1 step in 500 directions is way more frustrating than if I could just choose a small number of items and put a significant amount of energy into them. I struggle with making decisions and losing optionality though, so it’s very difficult to say “no, I won’t ever become a world class skateboarder”. Easy to fall prey to the optionality fallacy.
- A key part of this is ensuring I don’t waste my limited time. I still let many small decisions take more than they deserve, even after writing about it. The process of moving was almost 2 months without working on my hobbies. I want to use a thought device I saw, “If you did task an hour a day for a year, would your life be any different?". So checking email, Instagram, TikTok, etc. are all in the no-no bucket.
- Find systems that work for me
- Feel like everything has to happen right now, today, or it won’t happen. I often feel like the $10 Tim that’s well intentioned, but constantly dropping the ball in work and life. Haven’t found a productivity/task system I trust enough to help me guide my work in bite sized pieces over time, so I keep it all as a stress ball inside my brain. I easily get distracted by new shiny things, which doesn’t help at all. Having a set schedule is a potential improvement, I was able to show up to classes in high school even if they were boring.
- “Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, but underestimate what they can do in a year.” I think I can make a lot more progress towards my goals each week. Too much of my time goes into procrastinating, chores, checking my phone, or fake productivity like reading articles about stuff online. I need to bias towards action, since I have a tendency to over analyze and spend forever “learning” before starting. I need to grab a shitty rod and start fishing.
- Staying connected with people
- Left college and have not done a great job of staying in touch. Can’t imagine how people did it before the internet, since I have barely done that and I can instantly chat with anyone in the world. I would have been a hermit, covered in moss and confused.
- Lessen the dopamine addiction
- Despite removing all social media and games from my phone a long while back, I’ve noticed I still struggle with the dopamine addiction we all face with modern technology. My brain has shifted, and now it wants to continuously check in case I got a text, since it’s so much easier to respond to a message and get a little burst of dopamine than to write this article. It’s not just the phone, though it is the most obvious culprit. Will be trying the Dopamine Detox at some point in the near future.
Despite setting lofty expectations for myself, 25 was still an amazing year to be alive. I am blessed with a privileged life with many friends and family to support and encourage me. I am incredibly grateful for all that I have received in life. I don’t set lofty goals because I hate my life and desperately want MORE MORE MORE, but because I know I have stumbled into amazing opportunities and a lucky position, and it would be silly to not see where it can take me and what impact I can create. Adios 25, and cheers to the potential of 26. See you next year.