2018 Focus: Half Year Update

With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. I believe that by being selective about where I direct my energy, I can achieve results that are exponentially greater than if I split that energy across many different goals.

I detailed my 2018 focus here (read that first if you want more context). Here is how I’m progressing.

2018 Theme: First Principles Lifestyle

Similar to my update from last quarter – I feel like this theme remains very relevant to our effort for the year, even if I haven’t made much progress on the specific named items below. Having decided on where to live, and now evaluating how we want our family to earn an income, has brought us back again and again to first principles.

2018 Challenge: Profile 12 Families (w/ Kids) Living Intentionally Different

No progress.

I feel bad about this but it just hasn’t ever been the most important thing on my list during a working block, nor has it seemed fun during a free block. Something to think about in creating future challenges. I think my physical challenges worked so well because they inherently were fun and also got me away from my computer, which I already spend enough time in front of to earn an income.

2018 Habit: Daily Devotions

For Q2 my bar raised from 3 days a week to 4. Because of that I regressed to only hitting 7 of the 13 weeks, as opposed to 9 in Q1. But, because the bar was higher, I actually hit 37 days in the quarter which is more than the 33 from Q1. So while I didn’t keep pace with the increase in my goal, I did objectively increase.

Of note, on no week did I complete more than the goal of 4, meaning, once again, things will get more difficult this upcoming quarter when the goal increases to 5 per week.

One thing I noticed this quarter was that on 3 of my 6 missed weeks, it was apparent before Saturday that I would miss the week, there simply weren’t enough days left to get to 4. In those weeks I still could have gotten one or two more days in, but I did not. This is one of the negative aspects of the weekly goal format, but I still think I like it better than the yearly average approach I took to this type of habit previously.

I am concerned that as the number of the goal increases to five and eventually six, it is going to become apparent even earlier in the week, in some cases, that I will miss. In order to counteract this, I am also going to look at the raw quarterly total, so that I have some incentive to keep up the habit at the end of the week on weeks that won’t be able to hit the goal.

On the qualitative side, I started tracking whether I had my devotion time in the morning or evening each day. On 70%+ of the days I was able to do it in the morning – thanks largely to my youngest waking up early. I got in the habit of spending that time before the older children wake up this way which goes well with a note I shared in my last quarter update that I find the morning a much more effective time than the evening to have this devotion time.

2018 Exemplar: John Muir

Very little progress here. I started reading a biography on Muir, ran a race that crossed through a state park named after him and took advantage of camping, with my boys, in a National Park that his efforts helped create.

I had to return biography to the library on account of hitting the maximum renewal limit of ‘how is it taking you this long to read this book – weeks’. I’m next on the list to get it again though, hopefully I’m a bit faster this time.

Sabbath Year – After Twelve Months – Immediate Thoughts After Concluding

I suppose the contrast between the last day of the sabbath year and the first day of the next year doesn’t have to be so stark. In this case it was.

I found myself solo-parenting four children in a house I had moved into less than one week before. Most of our things were still in boxes and the upstairs bedrooms were hot and bright as daylight lasts until 10pm in Seattle during the summer. So we pitched tents in the basement and had a campout.

Between settling into a new house, working and parenting, there isn’t much room for anything else these days. This might be the new normal.

In retrospect, we should probably mark the start and end of sabbath years with a big celebration of sorts. A feast or bonfire maybe. I’ll write that idea down for next time.

I will do some deeper reflecting soon, but I wanted to pause and capture our immediate feelings right now before they slip away.

Before the sabbath year started I described wanting to “enter the next six year period like a coiled spring, planted on a firm foundation, pointed towards the priorities our family values the most.”

My wife and I agree that we feel coiled yet exhausted – if that makes any sense. Neither of us has a lot of extra energy right now, but we do feel excited to begin a new chapter – unfortunately the first months of that are extra hard, as any transition is. I feel especially coiled as I’ve been cutting back and saying no to a lot of things (maybe slower than I planned in some cases – it took me 10 months to stop my running training) and now I feel ready to take on some big new challenges. Those challenges are likely going to look a lot different than the type of challenges I took on over the past seven years though.

We both feel planted on a firm foundation. Our core values haven’t changed, but in a funny way, the stress of this year has forced us to get better at certain skills that help keep the foundation stable. I’ve been working on establishing better habits to ground myself and keep spiritually, mentally and physically healthy. My wife and I have been working on communicating better – not that we weren’t pretty good at communicating before, but the challenge is a lot harder when you have to do all of your communication in 30 second bursts or a few minutes in the evening when you’re both exhausted. We both feel like we’re sitting on a more firm foundation now that we’ve decided on a long term location. That means we can now make decisions with that in mind – be those buying a house, getting a new job, changing hobbies, investing deeper in certain relationships, adjusting our lifestyle, etc.

We both feel relatively pointed but not super specifically. I’ve been wrestling for a few years with what I want my calling in life to be and I had hoped I would be closer to understanding that. I don’t feel that I am, but I do feel like I have enough for the next year. Perhaps that is all I will ever get – that might be ok. My wife feel similarly in that she can’t really think about what things will look like five years from now, but she is 100% certain that tomorrow will bring mouths to feed, diapers to change, lessons to teach and laundry to wash.

Sabbath Year – After Eleven Months – Preparing for Reentry

With one month until our sabbath year is officially completed, we’ve begun the process of reentering normal life.

I wrote this a year ago as I planned our year:

“We don’t have much clarity as to what our days will look like in this period because we aren’t certain where we will be living, what the details of my work will be, or what we will be preparing for. We do know that around five months into each new child’s life is usually the time we start to feel like we arrive at a new normal – so this should be a great time to get the engine started up again.”

Sitting here now, we have more clarity about what our days look like and what we are preparing for. It is also true that with our youngest at five months old now, we’ve gotten out of newborn fire drill mode & have reached a point of equilibrium. That equilibrium just happens to be very intense.

Deadlines

Over the past six months our family has been wrestling with a few big decisions. I’ve reflected about it a few times (here & here). Having now made those decisions, I am impressed with how effective deadlines are. Had we not been trying to stick to our intended timeline, we might still be undecided now.

But, having a target date in mind gave us something to shoot for. It let us work backwards and understand when it was time to broadly explore, when it was time to narrow down and look at details and then eventually, when it was time to make the final call.

Timelines

More important than the specific decisions we made is the deeper understanding we’ve gained about what our timelines look like for those. For many reasons, we won’t start day 1 of our next 7 year cycle in the exact place we want to finish it. But having done a lot of thinking about specifically the next 7 years and also more broadly about how many 7 year cycles we might have left – we now have more of a north star for guiding other decisions along the way.

As we think about reentry, the are the short term things we want to get done in the next month, there are mid term things that will follow over the coming months and there are a few bigger items that we will spend a few years progressing towards, as those opportunities become possible.

In that sense, I don’t think it will feel light a light switch flips on the first day after the sabbath year, but I do feel the impact of this year has already and will continue to drive drive meaningful change in the way we live.