Yearly Focus

2017 Focus: End Of Year Review

At the beginning of 2017 I wrote about my focus for the year. I’ve posted a few updates throughout the year (quarter year, half year & three quarters) and now is the time to do a final review.

2017 Theme: Sabbath Year

Self Grade: 8/10

After learning in the past that having multiple goals dilutes focus and causes competition for a limited amount of time, I decided starting last year to focus my goals (challenge, habit & exemplar) around a single topic.

For 2017, the theme was centered around the idea of a sabbath year – a year of rest.

I found that centering around that topic worked really well. My efforts towards each of the three goals contributed in part towards each other and they feel very much as three notes of the same chord rather than three diverging items.

I think there is still room to improve how much of my free energy – that which excludes family care, self care & earning an income – goes towards my yearly focus. I definitely invested in a few other topic this year and think I can do better at focusing more.

2017 Challenge: Define & Launch A Sabbath Year

Self Grade: 10/10

We launched the year on July 13th which means we just about completed the first half of it by the end of the calendar year.

Completion for this task required:

  • creating a written philosophy about our family’s sabbath year practice – DONE (see here)
  • composing a plan for the current iteration – DONE (see here)
  • starting this iteration before Dec 31st – DONE (Started on July 13)

And I also had defined tiered stretch goals

  • spend <75% of 2016’s family budget during the sabbath year – SUCCESS (currently at 67% of the 2016’s monthly average)
  • the partial sabbath year that I can review by Dec 31st is, in my opinion, two standard deviations away from the standards set by the last six years – SUCCESS (Any way you slice it, this year is an outlier.)

Reflecting on the year, the heavy lifting for this challenge during the first six months of this year was centered around defining expectations and preparation logistics. While it had seemed like the sabbath itself would be easy, in fact it has presented itself with its own difficulties.

What I have learned is how important familiarity is when it comes to the difficulty of something. For a competitive marathon runner, running something like a double-marathon is not the most challenging thing – running casually with no races in mind for a whole year might be. The former follows a known type of difficulty, while the latter is completely foreign.

This year has forced me to rethink a lot about my identity, priorities and the purpose of challenging myself. Though that is not what I thought I was signing up for, I suppose it is not far from what I was after.

I am still only half way through the sabbath year, which didn’t align with the calendar year, so there will be more to come from this in 2018.

More detailed posts I wrote throughout this quarter here:

2017 Habit: Time Outside With Family

Self Grade: 8/10

My habit for the year was to spend time outdoors with family, I was aiming for at least 7 hours per week. Over the course of the year 42 of the 52 weeks were successful. Of note, six of the ten missed weeks were in the first ten weeks of the year – meaning I got much better as the year went on. I actually averaged 10.25 hours outside per week which is about 50% more than 7 hours. The peak week was 24.5 hours.

This habit also fit nicely with the theme of resting. Getting outdoors was a good way to get away from distractions and inputs as well as to make room for processing the thoughts spinning around in my head.

Along with the success of the focus, or perhaps contributing to the success, this has been the best designed goal I have ever attempted. Most years, goals that are habit-like tend to be the ones I do the worst at. No matter what, I am usually cramming in December in order to have the least-bad result when the year closes.

This year however, things feel much more organic. As a result of pushing through difficulties on a continual basis this year, I have gotten past hurdles so that certain activities are now much easier. Because of that, I think this habit will carry forward to future years with more success. Which is, of course, the real reason I do this.

Here are the collages I made each quarter showing off a few of my favorite outdoor activities.

2017 Exemplar: Eric Liddell

Self Grade: 7/10

In my second year having an exemplar, I made progress towards setting a standard for what I want this to look like, but still feel I have a long way to go.

Over the course of this year I watched Chariots of Fire, a movie about Liddell, read For the Glory, a biography of him, read The Disciplines of the Christian Life, a devotional book he wrote, visited the site where he earned his Olympic Gold Medal in Paris and attempted to emulate his approach to races.

Interestingly, aside from mentioning the fact that he didn’t run an Olympic heat on the sabbath, there wasn’t much information in the material I covered about his philosophy or approach to the sabbath. I was able to learn a good bit about other aspects of him: his disciplined prayer life, his commitment to doing what he believed God was calling him to and his ceaseless desire to serve others.

The first of those is the most relevant to this year. It is what I consider a daily sabbath – time set apart from each day to spend in prayer, reading the bible and doing devotionals. One story of his commitment to this comes from when he was in an internment camp. Despite being underfed and overworked, he would rise each morning to pray, read by the light of home made candles and quietly sing hymns with other prisoners. The direness of those circumstances and his resolve throughout them reveals a lot about his character. This was not something he did on top of the many burdens he bore for others while at the camp, it is something he did so that he could continue to bear those burdens.

His dedication to daily sabbath has served as a bit of a call out for me – what in my life is so difficult right now that I am not able to find that time as regularly as he was? – and also an encouragement – why should I think so highly of myself that I would be able to burden my load alone?