This will be the second year that I have publicized my New Year's resolutions and hopefully they will be a lot more realistic than the somewhat idiotic ones I made for 2017. By looking back at how/why I failed in 2017, I came up with four rules that I used to judge my resolutions for 2018.
- The resolution cannot be failed. It should be valid all year and a constant source of motivation.
- Avoid using metrics. The resolution should be abstract such that there is always something to strive for.
- Be realistic. Is the resolution actually something that can be achieved in a single year?
- Be confident. Are you sure you will put the time and effort needed to see the resolution through?
The first two rules deal primarily with judging the success of a resolution. By which I mean you really shouldn't be able to judge if you are succeeding or failing. I found that whenever you start to feel one way or the other you either become complacent or depressed which makes it much easier to quit and stop working towards the resolution.
The last two rules deal with the types of resolutions being made. In 2017 I made numerous resolutions that were near impossible to complete or not truly interested in and simply made the resolutions because I thought they were the right thing to do. Well the road to hell is paved with good intentions and this year I am going to make sure I am always climbing skyward rather than digging myself a pit.
This year the goal is to create abstract resolutions that will be valid all year long regardless of the progress I am making on them. Also these resolutions will not be pie in the sky ones but instead things that I genuinely want to work towards and believe that I can succeed at.
With these four rules in place I sat down and brainstormed seven resolutions that fit the bill.
1. Improve posture and flexibility
I am getting older and when you combine that with sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours a day it is no surprise that my posture and flexibility are in the shitter. I'm even developing the climber's hunch after getting back into bouldering. If I don't take steps to protect myself now I am going to regret it in the future.
So improving my posture and flexibility is my first resolution for 2018.
The most obvious option is to enroll in some yoga classes as was recommended by my doctor (and was even something I wrote in my 2017 resolutions article). But daily stretching is probably something I should get to regardless. Right after I wake up and before I go to bed getting in some good stretches will undoubtably go a long way. Heck I even have a meditation room at work that would be perfect for when I need to take a break from a tough problem and do some stretching to distract myself.
There are lots of ways to see if I am making progress in this resolution: no more lower back pain, able to stand long periods of time before stuff starts hurting, stiffness in the neck is reduced. Heck if I can do the splits by the end of the year I will be over the moon.
2. Increase strength
Last year I had two resolutions that were health oriented. Exercise every day and reach reach 15% body fat. Those two resolutions broke every single one of the rules I set for this year so I took a step back and asked myself what was I really hoping would happen if I reached those goals? One of the answers I came up with was that I would have a lot more muscle mass.
I wrote this almost every month last year but I really do need to increase my strength. It has become painfully obvious that both my inability to lose weight and stagnating bouldering progression are tied to the fact that I am not gaining any muscle.
I tried to think of a resolution that would push me towards gaining muscle and while I could have made it "get better at rock climbing" I felt that was too open ended. An alternative was "reach V5 problems" but that was too specific and goes against my rule for metrics.
I decided upon "increase strength" which I know is really vague but I like it because I can use it to focus on something different every month if I want to. Maybe one month I'll use the fact that I can do harder bouldering problems as a gauge for my strength improving. Perhaps another month will be how many push-ups I can do or how many back extensions I can do. Hell it could be as simply as carrying parcels in from the mail room has gotten easier.
This resolution will easily push me every month and is something that I will be able to work on all year because there is no completing it.
Also another side effect of this resolution should be that it helps me meet a goal that I was constantly writing about during my monthly retrospectives which was to eat better/healthier. It will be essentially impossible for me to increase my strength if I am eating a lot of fatty and sugary foods. I am going to make a much more conscious effort to cook on my own and minimize the amount of unhealthy food that I buy from the grocery story or have delivered by Uber Eats.
3. Pursue programming as a hobby again
One of my resolutions for 2017 was to release an app and I literally did not do a single thing towards that resolution. Hell the most programming I did was this blog and maybe a couple of attempts to create some Xcode project templates.
For 2018 I am going to broaden that resolution to program for a hobby again. It doesn't matter what I program so long as I am doing it for myself and not for work. That could range from working on an iOS app to writing a blog post about mobile app foundations to working on random open source projects.
I used the excuse all last year that after a long, arduous day at work I was too fried to do any programming and I realize now what a stupid excuse that was. Programming for a hobby used to be a defining part of who I am and now I only do it for the money. What is even worse is that I do it for the money so that one day I may not have to program anymore. Ageism is a serious problem in the tech industry that I physically have difficulty imagining myself programming when I am 40 or 50. When I was just getting out of University I thought I would be doing this for the rest of my life and now I can barely see what I will be doing five years out.
Maybe I am wrong and I have outgrown this hobby and it really has just become a job and my primary source of income. But I am going to make sure I take one last serious crack at it in 2018. Try to reinvigorate myself and search for what made me love programming all those years ago. I am probably (hopefully?) not even halfway through my life so to let this current rut in my career poison myself for the future would be an absolutely moronic thing to do.
For every retrospective this year I should be able to talk about something I programmed for fun. There are no more excuses. In the eternal words of Shia LeBeouf it is time to "Just Do It!"
4. Plan out and track my days with Hobonichi Techo journal
Last year I resolved to not indulge in time killing activities which quickly morphed into an absolutely insane resolution where I didn't want to allot myself any leisure time. Every second had to be accounted for and had to be productive. Since I am not a machine this never actually happened and I constantly shamed myself for simply taking much needed breaks.
Like everything in life, moderation is key. Watching TV or reading comics or browsing the Internet should not be considered bad. If that is all I do for a month I should address it but when done in moderation these things are probably helping keep me sane.
My resolution for this year is to make judicious use of my Hobonichi Techo journal and attempt to plan out every day. Jot down a few tasks to complete that day which could include some things that are not "productive". Setting aside some time to play a video game, read a book or watch TV is fine as long as I am also making time to exercise, program, etc. If I do this, at the end of every month I can look back to see how often I met those daily goals as well as how often I got derailed and adjust accordingly. I am not suddenly going to become a master planner and make perfect use of my time. Change like this is going to come slowly through persistence and not from some sweeping declaration.
5. Engage with some aspect of gaming culture every month
I have been obsessed with video games ever since I found ParArena on my Dad's Macintosh SE. I probably played hundreds of different video games throughout my high school and university years and as I entered the working world I feared that I simply wouldn't be able to make time for my hobby anymore. For 2017 I made a resolution that every month I would play a newly released video game to ensure I was keeping up with the latest and greatest the industry had to offer. I quickly realized that this resolution routinely put me into a position where I played a game I didn't really want to and also prevented me from exploring other aspects of gaming culture like board games or pen-and-paper role-playing games.
For 2018 I plan to expand that resolution to include all aspects of "gamer" culture. I still want to force myself to do this every month (which does go against my rules) but this is something that I really to be sure I do with regularity. There were so many things I was interested in trying out last year but skipped on because I felt obligated to play a video game instead.
Some of the things I want to try in 2018 are:
- Play various board games. I already am in the midst of a Kingdom Death: Monster campaign but I would love to try out Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 or even get back into Zombicide with Jarques and Tina.
- Write an article about my favourite game franchise or the cardinal sins of game design.
- Actually read the dozen or so pen-and-paper role-playing books that I have bought. I have barely opened the Rifts or Trudvang Chronicles books that I purchased.
- Building some sort of software or app around Monster Hunter. Elsie and I have been talking about making a Monster Hunter encyclopedia for years now and with the release of Monster Hunter: World just around the corner there really couldn't be a better time.
- Pick a multi-player video game and really practice at it. Dota 2 is probably my first pick for this but I haven't given it that much thought. I just miss the days where I played the same game religiously and got really good at it.
Basically my goal is to continue to keep my pulse on video game culture while also expanding my palette.
6. Read a wide assortment of books
I originally phrased this as "read a significant portion of a book every month" which immediately went against my rule of no metrics but I was having trouble thinking of a better way to phrase it. I tried writing something about "incorporate reading into your daily routine" but that sounded just as strange and was a resolution that would be easily failable.
The point I was trying to get across was that I just wanted to keep reading like I did last year without the explicit metric of finishing a novel every month. When Elsie proofread this article she asked why the resolution could not be "just keep reading" and I honestly couldn't think of a reason why not. I really enjoyed the time I took each month to read something and wanted to ensure that I continued to do it so "just keep reading" seems like it would check all those boxes.
As I chewed on her suggestion I realized that there was one thing I wanted to emphasize and that was about what I chose to read. I was trying to use the work "book" instead of "novel" because, in my mind, reading manga or pen-and-paper role playing books should be considered fair game. Hell there were even a number of technology oriented books that I have wanted to read last year. I bought the Game Engine Black Book: Wolfenstein 3D and never found the time to read it. In 2018 I wanted to make sure I would time and not feel bad about it.
So that lead me to change "just keep reading" to "read a wide assortment of books". Both of them highlight how simply picking up a book and reading it is a success and the later suggests that manga and other books are just as good as the novels I read in 2017.
7. Expand the topics that I write about
I published 71 articles in 2017 and the vast majority of them were either monthly retrospectives or about Japan. A couple of articles about WWDC, E3 and setting up an Ubuntu file server broke that mould but on the whole my writings were very one sided. I originally built this blog because I wanted to share my thoughts on app development and review video games but I haven't done either of those things yet.
In 2018 I want to expand what it is I write about. Not that I don't want to write about WWDC or E3 (I definitely plan to do those articles again this year) but I want to generate original content that comes from deeper reflection on what I have learned throughout my life and not simply reacting to events that are occurring. My thoughts on what make a good video game, mobile app foundations, storytelling tropes that I dislike, these are all topics that I would love to explore.
I also want to get into the habit of sharing things that I find. I added hot linking to my blog and so far the only thing I have linked to was the Ubershaders article by the Dolphin emulator developers. Articles that I've read, podcasts that I've listened to, YouTube videos that I've watched, these are things that I should not be afraid to link on my blog.
Bonus: Attempt to control your anger/frustration
This is a bonus resolution I wanted to throw in because I am not confident that I will be able to make myself aware of it on a daily basis. It is something that I do want to fix and, at the very least, want to ensure I reflect on when I am doing my 2018 retrospective.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am probably a bit too frank when I speak and I don't suffer fools. Putting these two things together mean I can end up rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. While I don't necessarily think that I am totally in the wrong (which in itself may be a problem) I could make a better attempt at getting my point across and collaborating with other people. I have gotten this feedback for most of my working career and want to make sure I call myself out and force myself to reflect on it in 2018.#Resolutions