Yearly Themes

We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit
— Aristotle

Way back in the far flung year of 2017 I wrote a blog post about Resolutions for the year. I won’t rehash them all here, you can go read the post if you fancy, but to cut a long story into a few words, I failed more than I achieved. In looking at what resolutions I did complete though versus the ones that I failed, I noticed a bit of a pattern. 

The resolutions that I completed are: Redad 52 new books, Take a selfie every day (kind of), and Solve a Rubik’s cube. Those three share a distinct feature over other resolutions I had such as learn to code in python or meditate every day. What does it mean to “Learn to code”? Have I achieved that goal if I write an app? What if I can just create a small program? Or maybe even just get a basic understanding of the language, but not able to write anything myself? What counts as “Learn to Code in Python?” 

I thought I was being more concrete with my resolutions last year, but looking back they were still vague enough to give some wiggle room. The “Read 52 new books” is an extremely well defined task with an obvious stopping point. It wasn’t easy, I think I finished my last book just shy of midnight on the 31st of December, but I made it. And if felt good.  

The problem with my other resolutions was not only a lack of clarity but an over ambitious ideal of what I could accomplish. Doing something every single day is hard, and as soon as you miss a day your brain, or at least my brain, eases off a little bit and makes it that much easier to miss the next day, which turns into a snowball. It’s the same thing that causes someone on a diet to eat an entire package of cookies because they already broke their diet for the day by having just one, so why not gorge. 

Now you may notice that one of the resolutions that I accomplished was to take a selfie every day (kind of). The reason that kind of is there is because I didn’t actually take one every single day, but I got most of them. I think the reason for this is twofold. One, because the first time I missed a day was something like 5 or 6 months into the project. With that much time invested it’s harder to just up and drop the project just because I missed a day. And two, because taking a selfie is easy. It takes about two seconds, and although I sometimes get a bit self conscious about doing it if I’m in public or something, I’m working on getting over that. But the low upfront time investment is easy enough to say that I can reliably do this everyday from the get go. Doing something like meditating every day, while not a multi hour endeavour, still takes more time and prep than snapping a photo. It’s unrealistic to hold myself to doing it every single day without fail.  

So this year I’m taking a new direction. I’m not doing resolutions. Well, ok, I really want to learn to moonwalk this year, but that’s kind of like the Rubik’s cube one from 2017. Just a fun little addition. 

Instead of resolutions I’m following the lead of Myke Hurley and CGP Grey from the Cortex podcast and coming up with a theme for the year. I highly recommend that podcast for anyone who spends any time thinking about how they work and the tools they use for productivity. If you want to get a full picture of what a yearly theme is listen to episode 79 where they talk about their 2019 themes. They give a full explanation of what a theme is.  

For those that don’t have 2 hours though, here’s the short version. A yearly theme is like a North Star. You set it for the year and then use it as a navigation tool to guide all your big decisions for the year. The idea is to look ahead at what you want your year to look like and come up with a theme that encompasses all your ambitions. So I sat down and looked at what I was unhappy with in my life and the types of things I wanted to accomplish and I came up with my theme. For me 2019 is the Year of Creation. 

For the last several years now I’ve been telling myself I want to be a writer. But I’ve actually written very little. Fiction or otherwise. I think I had like 4 or 5 posts on the blog last year. So it’s about creation in the literal sense, but also in a more ambiguous sense. I want to create opportunities for myself this year too. I’m back in school, so I want to meet more people. Do more things I enjoy instead of worrying about work or school or money 24/7. In a really high level sense this year is about creating a life for myself that is more in line with the ideal I have in my head.  

I’ll be checking in with my theme throughout the year here or there, determining if I’m on track or not. Themes are more fluid than a resolution, and thus more suited to the way my brain works at least. Feel free to think of your own theme and share them in the comments. Happy new year :D