0530 – first monthly review

So the first month of 2016 is over. I’ve done a few good things. I’ve met some friends- I remember 4 specific meetups in particular. I’ve worked out, broke a PR or two, even went for a (crappy) run. I watched a couple of good movies and even an entire TV show with the wife. We had a couple of dates, which were pleasant. Woke up early a few times. Didn’t read any new books, but did some re-reading. Kept track of maybe half of the things I wanted to keep track of- diet, books, Internet habits. I think I spent a little less time on Reddit and Imgur and FB. Had a productive and challenging meeting with the boss. Feeling challenged in a good way about the month(s) ahead.

What didn’t go so well- I didn’t read or write as much as I would’ve liked. I feel like I could’ve been more productive at work, which will be my 3rd priority this month after health and writing. I’m going to try and publish a vomit every day for the month of Feb. I’m going to be out of the country for a week so that means I’ll have to do double the writing in another week.

I’d like to keep doing monthly reviews for the remainder of the year, and subsequently for the rest of my life. I’ve been circling around this for as long as I’ve been writing. I did it when I was blogging as a teenager, I did it in my notebooks when I was a conscript. I think the idea was- I’m pretty Smart, so if my life isn’t the way I want it to be, I should be able to Smart my way out of it. It’s been taking a lot longer than I hoped, but I’ve definitely made significant, substantial progress. Old friends have told me so, and it’s really nice to see your development through the eyes of others.

So what’s next? Same as it has been for a long time: thinking and working towards becoming a more effective, powerful individual who’s able to skillfully navigate reality. To make life an adventure rather than an ordeal. Doing regular reviews is going to be critical for that, especially for me because I’m so haphazard and sloppy.

I’d like to be able to say in 2017 that I’m the opposite of haphazard and sloppy. That I approach my life like a warrior, king, ninja, samurai, Man, Christian, whatever positive adjective- the label doesn’t really matter.

I’d like to read less crap and spend less time responding and reacting to crap. To tend to my ‘mind-garden’, to build relationships with people that make me happy. To eliminate obligation-debt. To be more disciplined, and yet to avoid the trap of fetishizing it. I think I spent a lot of time in that trap. Feeling anxious and guilty about not meeting unfairly high standards, and then collapsing and giving up altogether. The challenge is the same as always- baby steps, incremental progress. To have manageable gradients rather than an insurmountable, discouraging cliff. [1]

I ended this vomit here, but I think I can pick up where I left off. It’s now the end of the first week of February 2016. I think I’m doing okay. I just need to keep revitalizing myself. It’s okay to slip up as long as I get back on track. And I think every weekend is an opportunity to survey the past week and get back on track, and to make corrections and adjustments accordingly. I will definitely continue doing monthly reviews. On a personal level I think I’m going to do weekly reviews too, but I don’t want to get too brazen about it and jinx it. I’ll just quietly keep track of how I’m doing week on week and see how that works out.

I guess I’m really just feeling this thundering passage of time. Facebook reminded me that it’s been 3 years since I started work. And how much has changed since then? A lot, and not much. I’m definitely a little more self-aware then I was then. I’m less reactive, less brash, more composed, more able to control myself, to wait before I respond. I respond to fewer things.

I recognize that fewer things deserve my time and energy. Earlier on the Uber ride home I was scanning through Facebook for a few minutes and I noticed things that, 3 years ago, I would have tediously responded to. Take the latest current affairs in Singapore– that a 14 year old teenage boy committed suicide by jumping to his death after being accused of molesting a girl, and being questioned for 3 hours by the police. I don’t know the details. I don’t know what actually happened. I know that it’s complex and complicated. And I know that people are emotional, hurting, upset. I know that there are political points to be scored, essays to be written. But I’m not going to be getting involved in that. It’s not that I don’t care anymore. I do. But I now recognize that it’s much better for me, and by extension, for the people I care about, and everything else that I want to achieve, if I start by focusing on the things that I can make a substantial, lasting difference to.

I wonder if my past self would look at me now and think of me as some sort of sellout. But I’m not eschewing my fundamental beliefs or anything like that. I’m not saying or doing things that I don’t believe in just so I can get money or fame or anything of the sort. I’m just prioritizing. (Is this rationalizing? That’s for future me to reflect on.)

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[1] I initially used the word “demoralizing” and decided “discouraging” was a better fit. It’s interesting to contemplate the subtle distinction between the two. Morale is about mood, morals are about ethics. Courage is about heart, conviction. We use the two somewhat interchangeably but there’s some nuance in the distinction. To discourage someone doesn’t seem as bad as to demoralize someone. Actually, on retrospect, demoralize might’ve been the better word.

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