For the last couple of years now, I’ve been doing an annual review and making a plan for the upcoming year.
This post is my 2011 review, and it will be followed by my 2012 plan in the coming week or so. To review my year, I go back through all my photos, videos, blog posts, emails, calendar entries and journal to jog my memory about what projects I worked on, the people I spent time with and the places I visited. This year I also made a number of video journals as well as keeping some written notes as to my thoughts and emotions during the last 12 months – these in particular have been really interesting to look over as I can clearly see the emotional peaks and troughs I experienced.
At the start of 2011, I set a number of goals, a summary of which were to…
- provide a meaningful contribution to others,
- show generosity with my time and money,
- improve my honesty with myself and everyone around me,
- be open to new ideas, people and situations,
- manage my time effectively, every day,
- produce my best work. EVER; and
- be elegant.
With some more specific plans to…
- learn 100 mandarin characters (simplified),
- complete 2 short-term consulting jobs to complement my existing client work,
- book flights for my next overseas trip,
- monitor and improve my health; and
- create 1 new source of cash flow.
So how did I do?
Incredibly, I hit everything except the mandarin, but I’m happy to say that I’m well on the way and I also feel like a did a good job of sticking to the principles that I outlined.
Some of the things I did were…
- measured my generosity & did some volunteering,
- exercised regularly and even went so far as to do a couple of experiments with gaining muscle mass,
- built an income producing niche website that is generating a small amount of money (enough to pay my mobile phone bill) each month,
- took a 1 month trip to China and tested if my business was location independent,
- worked with some great people, on projects I found interesting, doing things that played to my strengths,
- worked hard in my business and made enough money to cover my costs,
- continued participating in a Men’s Circle; and
- worked hard with my friend Gideon on a new business idea.
There were also a number of things that came to an end in 2011…
- after 3 years of running The Hive in Brisbane with Mike & Walter, we decided not to continue running the event in 2012; and
- after 2.5 years of meeting monthly with several friends and discussing our goals, we decided mid year that GAS had run it’s course.
But by far and away the 2 biggest things that impacted me were…
- my 3 year relationship with my girlfriend came to an end at the start of 2011; and
- selling everything I own, and leaving Australia to live indefinitely in China in December 2011.
The relationship that ended at the start of 2011 is the longest relationship I’ve had and I had no appreciation for the emotional turmoil that I would experience as a result. After looking over my journal notes, it clearly dominated my emotional state for the first half of the year and I owe my friends a lot for listening to me and giving me support during that period.
Last year there were also several events that happened around me that impacted my thinking and my actions, until now I haven’t really acknowledged or noticed things external to my little bubble but during 2011 I watched my friends face challenges and succeed, time and time again:
- Clint walked the length of the South Island of NZ,
- Mike launched Cupstart,
- Simon completed his PhD,
- Ehon launched Soften The F*&% Up,
- Jen handled a massive life change with amazing character and courage (and still took the time to listen to me),
- Chris went from strength to strength with HSM; and
- Yaro dealt with an incredibly tough year with a degree of emotional maturity that I didn’t think was humanly possible.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by these people and to be able to cheer them on, but it’s also a huge call to ‘step up’ because if they can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t.
However, with this inspiration came a reality check. This year for the first time in my life, I can say that I noticed death:
- a guy I went to uni with died of cancer, he was 25,
- a good friend had her close family friend pass away in her early 30s; and
- my friend’s mother had a stroke in June and she remains in hospital, 7 months on.
I’ve never been to a funeral. I still have 3 of my 4 grandparents above ground and the closest death has come is when my dog died a couple of years ago. For better or worse it’s fair to say I’ve been sheltered.
While none of these events touched me directly, 2 degrees of separation was enough to demonstrate to me that life is unpredictable and we don’t know what’s around the corner. The biggest impact of these events was that I decided to book a 1 way ticket to China, leaving Australia at the start of December, and prioritise learning a 2nd language which is something I’ve been wanting to do for several years, but haven’t pulled the trigger. I’d been waiting for a time when ‘all my ducks were in a row’ and I decided that was a poor line of thought.
The bigger picture
So…. after spending 1/2 a day reflecting on all the above, what speaks loudest about the last 12 months is not so much “look at what I achieved” but instead, “look at how unfocussed I was”. I’ve identified before that I have a habit of trying to do too much, the result of which is that I’m always busy, but it’s not necessarily work that is moving me closer to my goals. 2011 had a lot of that.
Interestingly, I’ve ended the year in a position where I’m very comfortable. Everything in my life is good. A coupe of years ago my focus was on moving away from pain (crappy job, a lack of like-minded friends and my own limiting beliefs) but I feel like I’ve levelled up in the hierarchy of needs to a point where my focus is now on moving closer to the things in life that I want. The only problem with this is that it’s MUCH harder to define these things than it is to define points of pain.
This is perhaps one of the reasons why I’ve been rather scattered – I haven’t had a good answer to “what do I really want” and the default is to do anything and see what works. It’s also really hard if your doing many things that are good or very good, to justify dumping them while you search for the thing that is ‘great’. I’ve encountered this problem before.
Further, after doing these annual reviews for several years, I’m now able to look and see the broader trends within the context of a longer period.
2009 was a year of exploration and discovery, it was the first time I actually took a hiatus from work and thought about whether or not I was on the right track. 2010 was focussed on being honest about the things in my life that weren’t working for me, and then actively removing them
& 2011 looks to have been a year of beginning to move towards the things that are important to me.
I’m incredibly grateful for the last 12 months, as there’s no doubt in my mind that above everything else it’s been a big growth year and it’s given me a lot of clarity on where my time and energy is best spent.
Stay tuned for my 2012 plan.