I’ve recently been spending a lot of time thinking about the past year, what has gone well, what mistakes I’ve made and where I have grown. I have also thought a lot about the future year, trying to see where I should place my focus, what lessons to remember and where I should strive to grow. Mid-August may seem like an odd time to be looking back over the past, but perhaps it holds a little more significance to myself. You see, today is my birthday.
Eighteen years ago, today, I was born. Being the age of majority in Canada I am now afforded all the rights of an adult. Seeing as this is a fairly special birthday, I thought I would take a little bit of time to look back at the past year and look ahead to the future year. Normally I try not to bore you with personal details of my life, but I thought you might be interested in not only what I have accomplished this year but also where I have my sights aimed for the next one. Since this is a personal development website, the decisions I make about where to focus in the year ahead will certainly influence the topics I write about and what I can share with you.
Looking back at this year I have to say I am very proud of myself. I would consider this year to be, by far, the best year of my life and I have high hopes that the next one will exceed all expectations. I have grown more in this year than in any other and I have been happier this year than in any previous year. I thought I would like to summarize some of the accomplishments that helped make this year great.
This year I:
- Started reading at least a book per week .
- Started exercising 4 hours a week and finally up to an hour each day.
- Became a strict vegetarian.(no animal products)
- Set up this blog in late February and wrote over 100 posts.
- Grew this website from a few visitors to several hundred visitors each day.
- Cut down internet usage to a half hour per day.
- Started by limiting television and then gave up television entirely. (I have watched some television during my brief goal-free period, due to an relative abundance of time, although without any television access it won’t be difficult to re-establish this habit in September)
- Completed my first software program Goals! An Interactive Guide  and released it for free on this website.
- Started waking up at 7:00, then 6:30, 6:00 and recently as early as 5:30 to become a true early riser. (which for a teenager is no easy feat!)
- Finished reading almost 70 books since the year began, aligning myself with my ten year goal of having read 700 books.
- Volunteer coached two soccer teams four hours per week, one team was aged 10-12 the other was my age.
- Earned $4500 worth of scholarships which should almost cover my first years tuition.
- Came in first in a three province wide area Chemistry exam.
- Graduated from high-school with the second highest marks in my graduating class of 77. (one of my best friends had the top marks)
There were many more minor achievements that helped make this year great, but those were the major events. Depending on who is reading this list it may seem impressive or mediocre, so the actual amount of accomplishments isn’t nearly as important as the growth involved in those accomplishments. Although some of those events I might have been able to accomplish a year earlier, I would say most of them required a huge amount of improvement on my part.
Looking back at the past year isn’t just about boasting accomplishments 😉 , no it is also about learning from the mistakes made. And I have made plenty of mistakes. Many of the goals and areas I tried to pursue led to dead ends. Other times I got caught into a negative pattern of thoughts that took me off track for days or even a week. Many of the mistakes I made were simply because my level of thinking was far lower last year than it is today. Other mistakes could repeat themselves again if I don’t learn the lesson.
The sum total of lessons I’ve learned could probably be best expressed by reading through the archives of this website. Over a hundred lessons learned and more being learned every day. I can’t possibly repeat all the essential things I have learned this year, but I think there are a few recurring themes in my own life that really stick out from the past year.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Polonius definitely knew what he was talking about, or maybe it was just Shakespear, but the lesson about being true to yourself has to be the biggest stumbling block I’ve faced in this past year. Seeing as this isn’t a personal blog, but an outlet for me to provide personal development articles, I sometimes feel bad that you don’t really get to see the whole picture of myself. I’m often far more relaxed and humorous in person, so trying to inject more of my own attitude into my writing can sometimes be difficult.
The other issue is that in being both young and growing so much I find it hard to present a consistent image of myself. Adolescence and young-adulthood are often hard for people trying to decide upon their identity. Changing that identity by growing constantly doesn’t help. Deciding upon my own identity and presenting myself consistently both privately and publicly is really the key. Maybe that is both the gift and curse of youth, you have a relatively clean slate, but that also means less comfort in deciding exactly who that slate is…
Trust Your Intuition
I got a chance to read every journal entry I made in the past year as part of my yearly review. One surprising insight I found is that most the time when I had made an incorrect decision, my intuition preceded it. Although my intuition was not infallible, it was astonishingly more accurate than my own logical predictions. There were many times when I should have scrapped projects, taken more chances or abandoned goals and my intuition told me in advance, but I trusted my own rational mind instead.
Generally the only time my intuition was incorrect was when my rational mind wasn’t close either. The conclusion I can draw from this is that I should put a lot more weight into what my intuition is telling me. Sometimes my higher levels of intuition are clouded by lower level emotions such as fear, doubt or optimism, but I can generally perceive the difference.
Achieving Goals Doesn’t Make You Happy
This is another truth I learned the hard way. Achieving goals won’t make you happy. The only benefit a goal has is that it makes you feel happier while you are working towards it. If your goals don’t provide you with growth and happiness in the present, they won’t provide you any happiness when accomplished. So if your goal doesn’t make you grow, scrap it immediately. Although persistence is important, it can be dangerous if it keeps you going towards a worthless goal.
As great as this year has been, I expect the next year to be even greater. I am moving to attend University, so aside from living on my own hundreds of miles from home, I will be in a completely new environment that is rich with opportunities. I have heard many people say that their University years were the best of their lives, and despite my belief that you should always be making your future years even better than the past, it does make going sound more exciting.
This next year will be significantly less goal-heavy than the current year. Goal setting is definitely a good practice, but I am planning on using the next year to act upon opportunities as they come rather than the ones I see in advance. I may set short-term goals, but setting too many long-term goals will likely cut me off from opportunities as they come.
The reason for setting fewer goals is that I want to focus on lateral growth in the upcoming year. Lateral growth comes from pursuing opportunities that you were previously unaware of. Setting goals for lateral growth is ridiculous because you wouldn’t know what goals to set. Vertical growth assumes you already know where you are going to grow. As a result I am going to have to develop completely new tools and strategies to maximize this kind of growth.
Despite my openness to pursuing new opportunities, there are several areas that I plan to pursue while away. Of course, these areas will probably reflect in the types of posts I write as I tend to write about what issues I am currently involved in. Some of those areas are:
Relationships – Until the past year or so I have been a pretty solid introvert. I’ve made huge progress towards becoming more extroverted, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I’m hoping to use the next year to meet a lot of new people and get better at forming relationships. I am also looking to pursue a romantic relationship, so the readers already in long-term relationships will have to excuse me if I somehow end up writing an article on dating. 😉
Groups – Aside from Toastmasters, which I plan to continue in the fall, and some school functions most of my personal growth has been strictly personal. Seeing as I will be moving from a town less than ten thousand to a campus of over forty thousand, I think there will be considerably more variety and opportunity to enter into groups. Some ideas that interest me include martial arts, improv comedy and cooking, but I’m always open to new ideas.
Financial – Although my financial goals are long-term enough to afford me some flexibility, I am hoping to continue working hard towards them. Working on this website and even pursuing new ideas will hopefully move me forward. Being the age of majority I will probably read more about investing and get a credit card to start building my credit rating.
Well, I’m off to celebrate my birthday. Although health is normally a strict focus, I’m afraid that I am also a part of the rituals in our culture. Seeing as I live in Canada where the legal drinking age is 18, I’m obliged to get a few drinks with some friends. Looking back I can see I have plenty to celebrate and seeing ahead I am sure that I have much to look forward to. Thanks for letting me steal this blog from the regular articles for a moment, I promise I’ll stop talking about myself and get back to writing!