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.
More details about the process are in this blog post and you can review the results from past years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018).
2019 Theme: Long-Suffering
My theme for 2019 is long-suffering.
This is the first full year of my newest sabbath cycle, of which overarching vision is that of preparing for my calling. That means my next six years will involve undertaking a lot of hard work, that might not always be directly rewarding or obviously contributing to the long term work I want to accomplish.
With that in mind it seemed appropriate to start off by focusing my attention on the theme of patience, since I am going to be waiting for at least six years. I liked the word long-suffering a bit better than patience though as it seems both more active and also more appropriate for my current lot.
I find it interesting that long-suffering is closely related to the words patience and passion, from the Latin pati. Though we use those three words in very different ways today, they all have their origins in meaning about bearing a burden, enduring an experience or carrying a weight. Their meanings lie in the idea of caring so deeply about something that you are willing to sacrifice for it. An apt definition for my case.
This year will be centered around learning to extend my horizon of delayed gratification from years to decades.
2019 Challenge: Fasting in the Wilderness
For my challenge this year I’m going to walk into the backcountry, somewhere in the mountains near me, find a comfortable spot and sit there for an extended period of time, on the order of 2-3 days (definitely not 40), without food, any entertainment, company, etc. Just me, my clothing, a tent, some water and a few ‘break glass’ emergency items.
This challenge fits nicely with the theme of long-suffering on a micro level as I will be probably be suffering a good bit as I sit there without comforts for an extended period. It also likely fits with the theme of long-suffering on a macro level as I think it will be a good time to clear my head, think longer term about the future and envision all of the things that are motivating my present.
The idea of my yearly challenge is to push myself to do something new. To grow myself by introducing new types of stress, seeing how I handle those, then attempting to reflect on the experience and walk away better. I’ve actually done something similar to this previously though, so I will likely push the intensity a bit in order to make it a challenge that stretches my comfort zone.
I intentionally kept this challenge intense but short as I’ve realized that a lot of my previous challenges turned into big projects. Last year’s challenge was essentially creating a new blog from scratch, which would have taken me dozens of hours. I currently don’t have capacity for any more big ongoing projects though, hence the contained nature of this challenge.
2019 Habit: Minimizing Digital Entertainment
I wrote last year about a secret goal I was tracking in case I made it an official focus later. I decided to do that.
I will be attempting to decrease the amount of time I spend digitally entertaining and distracting myself. Last year I watched 52 movies, streamed 5 seasons of TV shows, played 1/4th of a video game and also watched a handful of sporting matches. In total that was probably ~200 hours spent over the course of the year, or ~4 hours per week.
Sure, I learned some things during some of that time. But mostly it was a distraction, a chance to focus my attention on something other than what was in front of me. And though my four hour average pales in comparison to the average American, who logs around 35 hours of TV per week, I think I can bear to decrease it nonetheless. I suspect the cohort I’m aspiring to count myself a part of spends closer to zero hours than 35 entertaining themselves.
This habit fits with the theme of long-suffering as I am looking to spend more of my time patiently investing now towards a future I hope to someday see. Entertainment, in contrast, is often reaping time for enjoyment now. It comes at the cost of being able to spend that time investing in the future. I don’t think it is altogether negative, but it is something I can bare to cut down on.
My goal is to drop to 2 hours per week on average. I am leaving some time in because I do really enjoy movies as a way to relax, especially on airplanes, and have been using video games as a way to help deal with the dark, cold, wet winters of Seattle. However, cutting my digital entertainment time in half from last year would mean I had 100 extra hours to spend on other things over the course of the year which would be immensely valuable. I suspect that at the same time, the 100 hours of entertainment remaining might be even more enjoyable due to its scarcity. I doubt I’ll spend much time on movies below a RottenTomatoes score of 90 with the precious little time I have.
I will keep track of my weekly totals and look at how many weeks I stay under 2 hours and also my average for each quarter. I’ve found that the combination of short term and long term goals is a good way to maintain constant incentive. At the beginning of the week, I’m motivated to try and log another successful week, but even if I miss that mark, I still have a reason to the best I can for the remainder of the week. In this case since the goal is to decrease something, keeping an eye on the long term average will be the way that I stop myself from binging and creating a debt that would takes me months to recover from (like last year when I went to the Boston Marathon and watched 7 movies over the course of 4 days).
2019 Exemplar: Nelson Mandela
Finding exemplars is tough. I’ve yet to find a good way to Google for specific people that fit with the theme of the year, so I tend towards people I know something about that seem somewhat relevant to the theme. Perhaps in the future I’ll find a better way to select people.
This year Nelson Mandela came to mind because of the 27 years he spent in prison and the fact that his greatest accomplishments came after that. He was clearly a driven man and to be able to do so little for so long must have been very difficult for him. I think I will be able to learn something from how he survived that experience, grew from it and accomplished things after it. After learning about him, I’m sure a measly six years un-incarcerated preparation will seem a small undertaking in comparison.
2019 Bucket List Item: Run the Wonderland Trail at Mt. Rainier
When I first started this yearly focus process back in 2014, my challenges were basically items from my bucket list that I wanted to cross off that year. Recently I changed challenges to be more focused on the theme and I’ve felt like I’m missing out on achieving bucket list items. So I’m bringing my bucket list back.
For 2019 I am going to attempt to run the 93 mile Wonderland trail that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier. It happens to be appropriate to the theme. The trail is as beautiful as it is difficult, climbing and descending 22k+ ft as it circumnavigates the 14k ft tall volcano. Most people attempt this hike as a backpacking trip of 7-14 days. I’m going to try and run it in in one shot, lasting about 24-36 hours. It will be two days sleepless, exhausting, physical and mental strain. I’m super excited.
Some people might ask if I’m too busy to be adding a nearly-100 mile run to my plate. I feel like I’m too busy to not have it on there. Having something big and crazy looming on my horizon is more motivating to me than having some relaxing period. What I am too busy for is training for a run like this. So I’m not going to do it. The point isn’t to be well prepared and do the run quickly (relatively speaking), it is to suffering through it and enjoy every moment.