Yearly Focus

2015: Goal, Theme & Challenge

For the last two years I’ve blogged about a efforts I’ve decided to take on during the new year. I’ve enjoyed this activity. It helps me strive to complete things that I think are important or interesting but more importantly it give me focus by allowing me to say ‘no’ to other things.

After two years of this process I’ve learned a few things that I want to account for in my third year.

  1. This will dramatically impact how I spend my year. In 2014 I decided to train for an Ironman. That ended up being how I spent almost all of my free time. In some regards this is great because it allowed me to focus for a single year and achieve a solid result. I couldn’t have done that if I had split my time between multiple activities. But, now that I realize this, it is important for me to take it into account as I set goals.
  2. I can do amazing things in a year. In 2014 I went from never having done a triathlon (or a cycling or swim race) to finishing in the top 15% of an Ironman race. I am now confident in my ability to focus for a year and move into the 80th percentile at most activities.
  3. Watch for escalation. In 2013 I surfed Mavericks. In 2014 I completed an Ironman. As I started thinking about 2015 a few ideas crossed my mind: double-Ironman, climb Everest, run a 100 mile race, etc. Though striving for larger goals is often a good thing – I don’t want to escalate myself into oblivion. Not every challenge needs to be more time intense, dangerous or costly than the one before it.

Here are definitions for the three categories of efforts I undertake.

Goal – Something I want to accomplish that is measurable and relatively continual. eg. exercise X times per week or decrease sugar consumption by X percent. These are often habits I want to build into my life an my hope is that by doing it for a year, it will stick.

Theme – A central topic for the year – something I can spend time thinking about and take a few concrete efforts towards. eg. build community or rethink what health means. These are often abstract ideas that are hard to measure but important to spend time focusing on.

Challenge – Something I want to conquer. Crossing an item off my bucket list. eg. climb Mr. Everest or learn to tight rope walk. These are binary, I either complete them or I don’t.

2015 Goal: Read 26 Books

If at first you don’t succeed, set a harder goal and try again.

Last year my goal was to read 24 books and I only got to 17. That said I had a great December in which I finished 5 books. I’d like to keep that trend going so I’m making reading my goal for 2015 as well. I’ll just up the ante by 2 to make it an even 1/2 book per week.

I am going to add two parameters though. Books on tape don’t count and only half of them can be non-fiction.

Books on tape are a great way to consume information but for me miss one of the key benefits of reading. I mentioned this last year when setting my initial goal – reading a paper book allows me to dive deeply into a single topic, to pause to think and to relax more. I was originally contrasting that with reading articles from a computer but I found in my experience last year that audiobooks don’t produce the same effect either.

As for fiction vs non-fiction. I tend towards reading non-fiction. Typically business books, biographies or informational guides to something I’m newly interested in. It isn’t that I don’t like a good story, lately I’ve just been consuming most of my fiction in the forms of movies & video games. There is plenty of good fiction out there though and this year I’m going to focus on diving into more of it.

2015 Theme: Live Slower

This is a lesson I never seem to learn. I always try and fit more in to the limited time I have.

Next year I want to reflect more on what it means to slow down and savor life. I then want to put this into practice in various ways.

To me this means both doing fewer things and also doing things of a deeper nature.

This might look like replacing 30 minutes of scrolling through Facebook news feed updates from hundreds of people with a single 30 minute conversation with one person. This might look like more time just sitting and doing nothing to unwind at the end of the day.

Like cooking meat, I think life is best when done at a lower temperature for a long time. That is how you get the juiciest bite with the most flavor.

2015 Challenge: Summit Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in California and in the contiguous United States. Standing at 14,505 ft tall, the altitude at the summit is enough that most climbers suffer a bit of sickness upon reaching it.

By Cullen328 Jim Heaphy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I picked this challenge because it was the easiest one on my bucket list. Specifically, it was the least time & money intensive. Last year’s challenge in contrast was quite intense in regards to both of those. I intentionally looked for something more moderate for this year as to stop testing the patience of those around me – not the least of which are my wife & son.

Since I live within driving distance from Mt. Whitney and already have 90%+ of the gear I’ll need, this should be pretty straight forward.

The toughest part will be getting a permit and the physical challenge of the hike. If I can’t get a permit for the main trail during the calm summer months, I might end up having to do a longer hike or waiting until the winter. Either of which could make things a bit more interesting.