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April 2017 Retrospective

April was a decent rebound month after the hell that was March 2017. However, there were a lot of two steps forward, one step back type situations for the majority of my resolutions. The overall theme seems to be that I need to set more specific goals that work towards the resolutions. Otherwise, it is just too easy to slip into the "this is enough" mindset and not challenge myself.

Health

I finally got off my ass and started lifting weights. The Strong app has been a decent motivator because having a concrete list of exercises to complete makes it very easy to push through the "I'm tired and I want to stop" phase of exercising. The app also shows the records from your previous workouts so you can visualize your progress and get hints as to how to push yourself.

I started going for actual runs outside (not just using the elliptical or treadmill) because a colleague has taken up running again and keeping up with him is another good motivator. Hearing him say "I ran X miles this weekend" gets me thinking "I can do that as well can't I?" and it makes me want to run more.

The opposite end of this spectrum would be what is happening to my yoga habits. I have essentially given it up because it requires so much internal motivation. Since I was doing all of my yoga in my apartment by following YouTube videos it was difficult to judge my progress which really made it hard to choose doing yoga over going for a run or lifting some weights. Yoga still remains a very important part of my health because I do need to focus on improving my flexibility.

The central theme of all of these attempts at exercising seem to be that I am horrible at motivating myself and need to come up with external sources of motivation that not only get me exercising but help push myself to achieve new goals. I have not lost any weight or body fat percentage this month so while exercising is making me feel good and energized it is not helping me achieve my resolution. I need to take things to the next level where I am no longer happy with just exercising. I am debating joining a gym where someone can force me to do specific routines so not only am I sure my form is correct but I will have someone else watching over me ensuring I don't slack off.

With respects to food this is where I have taken a step back by giving up cooking entirely. I have gone to a grocery store by our apartment every night for dinner this past month (or even worse, ordered delivery). The saving grace is that I am not getting pizza or fried chicken every night. It is relatively healthy meals such as sandwiches, wraps or salads, that are of decent portion sizes. I still feel that I am eating less than I was before but I have not shown total restraint with respects to buying snacks so I am sure there is much room for improvement in this regard.

MyFitnessPal became useless pretty quick because I found 99% of the stuff I was eating was not on their list so I was spending a lot of time trying to find something comparable or manually entering in the calories and fat content. It got to the point where tracking detailed calories felt like it did not matter as much as cutting back on my portion sizes which is what I have been attempting to do.

For May I really need to double down on not just controlling my portion sizes but to stop indulging in treats such as fries with a meal or a cookie after dinner. These are all just comfort foods that I can go without if I can showcase any self restraint.

Read a book

I finished reading The Sparrow and can now whole heartily recommend that everyone should read it. The later half of the story was very gripping and satisfying. It was refreshing to not have a black and white, cut and dry, good versus evil story involving space aliens. There are undoubtedly some parts of The Sparrow that will repulse people but I hope that readers will think harder about the situation presented in the book and how not everything is as obvious as it seems.

I had planned to start reading another book, either The Sparrow's sequel Children of God or The Dresden Files but unfortunately Persona 5 took over my life. I choose to spend the vast majority of my evenings playing Persona right up until bedtime which should have actually been an hour earlier. I am making decent progress in Persona and will probably finish it before the end of May so I will definitely get back on the book reading bandwagon. I plan to make book one of The Dresden Files my book to read in May.

Play a video game

I finally beat Breath of the Wild and it was as anti-climatic as a Zelda game could be. I don't want to spoil anything but I can say that Breath of the Wild does not end when you beat Calamity Ganon. It ends when you get bored of the game and put it down and forget to pick it back up, whenever that may be for you. If you are playing Breath of the Wild do not strive to beat Ganon because it is absolutely nothing special. Pick random goals in the game and complete them. When you start to get bored put the game down, take a break and come back to it later. Do not do what I did and focus on conquering the big bad because it literally has no baring on anything other than it shows you the end credits.

Persona 5 came out this month and took up so much of my time. It is the current frontrunner for my game of the year and I honestly can't see what could supplant it. I'm sure Horizon Zero Dawn, Nier: Automata, Injustice 2, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Destiny 2, Dauntless, whatever is announced at E3 are all going to be fun games but I cannot imagine they will be better than Persona 5.

Persona 4 Golden is the only other Persona game I have played but Persona 5 improves upon it in almost every way. From little quality of life improvements to the combat system and social link building to the amazing graphics and hyper stylized UI, everything about Persona 5 just pulls me in. The story has been engaging and has me saying "just one more day" because there is always something I want to do or investigate. It seems much better than Persona 4 in that regard because I remember having a lot of time to kill in-between dungeons where in Persona 5 there are so many side quests that are just as engaging as the main story.

The one place I would say where Persona 4 outshines 5 so far is in the characters. While I am enjoying the story and it is pulling me along I am not yet a fan of any of the main party characters. For some reason they are much more polarizing to me in 5 and I haven't had the same close attachment I had to characters like Yosuke, Kanji or Teddie.

Regardless, Persona 5 is an absolute blast and I cannot wait to play more of it. I'm almost 40 hours in and probably about halfway through the game. I hope to beat it in the next couple weeks and since May is turning out to be a fairly quiet month for video game release I will probably either start Nier: Automata or Injustice 2.

Release an app

I am paralyzed by choice. There are so many things that I could start to work on to make progress towards my ultimate goal that it just becomes easier to say "fuck it" and start playing video games or waste time on Reddit. I need to make it so that when I sit down to work towards this resolution there is no ability for me to overanalyze.

If I don't set very specific goals I am never going to make a dent in this resolution. So for May I am redefining success to be if I publish an article on "Mobile App Foundations" and then a follow up article about testing and continuous integration. If I can get those two things done in May I am making good progress.

Do not indulge in time killing activities

I minimized some of my time killing activities by being completely smitten with Persona 5 but I still did spend too much time on Reddit or watching YouTube. Hopefully my specific goals for releasing an app as well as picking up a new book will allow me to channel my energy towards them and away from Reddit and YouTube.

Conclusions

April was a step in the right direction. After the horrible month of March I can look back and say I made good choices and have laid a solid foundation. If I continue to build upon what I did in April then May has the potential to be much more fruitful.

I closed the rings on my Apple Watch every day, started weight lifting and running, wrote articles on the 1 year anniversary of my trip to Japan, played an amazing game in Persona 5, finished reading a great book, did some spring cleaning of my apartment and threw out a lot of junk. Baby steps forwards. Now it is time to really focus on exercising, write more articles about app development, continue enjoying my video games and books and staying off the useless time sink that is Reddit and YouTube.

Excelsior!

#MonthlyRetrospective

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