After the year that 2020 was, we all had the opportunity to reset our expectations of what a year could be. 2021 started with great trepidation, a little bit of distrust and fatigue.
2021 = Enough
Thus I set my word for the year as Enough. I’d had Enough; I had Enough to be getting on with and the folks around me proved they were more than Enough for whatever was to come.
As much as it was a word for me, I meant it to be a word for anyone approaching me or around me. Approach with caution, approach with care, approach with consideration. In the main, it seems to have worked. 2021 was a rollercoaster, but one where I had time & space to get off when needed. I was able to enjoy the highs and lows, I was blessed enough to scale heights/peaks and balance thrill with fear.
I was somehow able to rotate things on and off my plate, say no when the plate was too full, and rely on my team to take from my plate as they pleased.
I’m thankful that in amongst chairing an £8m funding panel for OfS & Research England and filming 61 episodes of Countdown, I also filmed for the final of Great British Menu, collected an honorary doctorate from Coventry University, *almost* finished final edits of my upcoming She’s in CTRL manuscript, spent time with my Grandma & family, featured in books as a contributor and cartoon, served on the Hamilton Commission, and gave more than 30 virtual, hybrid and physical keynotes.
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I also dared to take annual leave. Disappear for rest and relaxation. I maintained a real fitness regime, hair care regime, reading habits, and prayed more.
Haha – it sounds like I ate my cake and had it.
Of course, I didn’t. I’ve forgiven myself for the bits that didn’t go right. I’ve forgiven myself for the parts of my plate I didn’t see to eat from. I’ve forgiven myself for not making as many investments as I should have (given I got right stuck in on Crypto discussions on the Stack World), not learning Punjabi, losing a very high-value personal piece of jewellery and staying at home instead of attending a cacophony of events. I should have celebrated myself and others a lot more, and made many more phone calls to friends. I’ve also missed a ton of emails, DMs and text messages (sorry!).
It’s important to try. And it’s important to learn from failures. For all the things I didn’t get around to doing, there are lots that I did do, and I’m only a human being.
To err is to human
So, in this vein, I enter 2022 not too dissimilarly from how I entered 2021. When thinking about this year and reflecting, I noted that I try to seek joy in all I do, stay as humble as possible and am always bracing myself for the next level life is taking me to. The overall aim though is Progress, not Perfection.
For 2022, I’m taking that mantra, and the word Progress to heart.
2022 = Progress
Progress isn’t linear. It’s much more complicated than that. Progress is the culmination of small steps, small decisions and small changes. Not all of them individually are necessarily improvements, but collectively they have the potential to move you in a positive direction – whatever you might define that as.
A few years ago, one of my mentors forced me to write some goals down. As much as I admire folks who vision board, goal-set and set milestones for their lives and themselves, I’ve always taken a much more laissez-faire ‘let’s make the most of what comes next’ approach. I say forced, because this mentor looked me dead in the eye and seriously asked me to write a series of goals down – in a way that I couldn’t escape from doing it.
I’ve since kept the short list I mustered up in my bullet journal and every now and then look back at it.
In the hubbub and graft of daily life, these goals don’t define how I work and aren’t my guiding star. Funnily enough, every now and then I hit one, or make serious progress towards one, in an unintentional, but big jump.
The truth is, I’m not following a master plan or on a predefined course. It’s something I’ve been reflecting on quite a lot in the year of Enough. Even though I have this very short list of goals, I don’t expect them to happen, or cling to the promise of any particular ‘milestones’ or ‘firsts’.
What I find more helpful for progress is having my guiding word, an overall vision and processes so I know where I’ve been and where I’m currently at. (Fwiw, my vision is to leave the world in a better state than I found it, by doing all I can to avoid a dystopian Black Mirror/Terminator eventuality because of poor decisions we as technologists make.)
If you’ve heard me speak, you may have heard me urge you to take a Growth Mindset approach to your career, your technical journey…or anything else in your control. That’s the premise of my book entire She’s in CTRL book – small intentional steps outside of one’s comfort zone to build technical literacy and be able to take control of other parts of one’s life as a result.
I’m just trying to get better. I’m just trying to make progress. I’m not aiming to be the biggest expert, or the best or the first. I’m just trying to do better than I did yesterday. I’m trying to step outside of my comfort zone to see what magic happens.
So in 2022, I’m going for progress (not perfection), however messy it might be. What does that mean in practice?
Progress in 10
Well tactically, as you may have guessed, the answer for me is in my Bullet Journal. And in particular, the Level 10 Life & Goals spread. Life is split into 10 areas:
- Family & friends
- Personal Development
- Faith & spirituality
- Career & Business
- Marriage & Relationship
- Fun & Recreation
- Giving & Contribution
- Physical Environment
- Health & Fitness
In your first iteration, you rate yourself out of 10 on each front. Then you set yourself goals to move that rating higher. I set 2 or 3. Then at the beginning of each month as I plan my month, I have a look through the last Level 10 iteration I did and add a goal or two in for that month, alongside any other deadlines or objectives I have.
When I start a new journal (sometimes this is 6 months, other times it’s 12 months) or when I feel like the ratings are no longer reflective of where I’m at, I do another iteration.
In the last 3 years I’ve done it 5 times.
When big decisions come up about new opportunities, I check to see if there’s an obvious answer that aligns with not only my visions, but what’s already on my plate, what can move off my plate and how this might impact across the 10 areas.
I’ve turned down huge opportunities and passed them to others even when it didn’t look like it made sense to those around me. Ultimately, life isn’t perfect and that’s what progress looks like to me.
I’ve also taken on scary big opportunities that might not have been the most obvious for me (no prizes for guessing which they may have been last year). In these cases, I stepped back from other commitments where necessary, because I know that progress comes from outside my comfort zone.
Here’s to Progress in 2022 for me, and for you – whatever that may look like.
– Peace, aimafidon