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A new year, a new tool

It seemed fitting to spend New Years in the home of an accomplished clockmaker and ironic that not a single handcrafted-clock accurately announced the arrival of 2016. What the home lacked in terms of punctuality it made up for in English country charm and wood-burning warmth. It was the perfect place to quietly reflect on an eventful 2015 and prepare for the year ahead. In the company of a very reflective friend with a well-developed set of personal development tools, I attempted to glean some wisdom and adapt his methods to fit my goals.

Until now, I had only two simple processes that I employed to reflect on my year and set future priorities. For the last 6 years I’ve kept track of my happiest moments and tried to identify any patterns, trends or shifts among them. I also regularly set personal themes to guide my actions over a set period of time, which typically lasted 3 months to a year. My friend introduced me to the idea of using radar charts to rate aspects of life on an annual basis, which can be compared over time to identify opportunities for growth, set priorities, even remind yourself what you’ve intentionally chosen not to focus on. Start of Happiness suggests a similar process that resembles a rose chart, includes a set of categories and list of helpful questions as a guide. Many critique radar and rose charts because they make it difficult to compare values across different axes and can present values disproportionately because of area. In my situation, there is no need to compare axes to each other and there is little harm in the values being exaggerated with a simple 0-5 scale. My main goal is to create a unique diagram for each year where values can be compared over time as a tool for reflection and future planning. Oh yeah, and I want it to look pretty too :p.

In order to create a tool that proves continuously useful, it best reflect your values and how you think about life. It should also reference clearly-defined metrics or standards that are both measurable and important to you. There are countless ways to define and categorise the dimensions of life. After some internal debate, the categories I settled on are as follows:

Mental (meditation, reflection, self-love)
Physical (sleep, diet, exercise)
Compass (moral, vision, spiritual)
Sustainability (financial, intensity, documented)

Relationships (family, intimate, friends, community)
Experiences (exploration, culture, learning, creativity)
Impact (contribution, value, scalability, brand)

Let me briefly comment on a couple key characteristics of my categorisation. First, there is no category labeled “career”. This is because I don’t perceive a separation between ‘work’ and ‘life’. I try my best to ensure that the way I make a living is a natural extension of the impact I would like to have in the world. Second, I group my relationships together because I see them as interrelated. Since my family is very small, my friendships and community play an extremely important role in my life.

To compliment this chart, I wrote up standards for each category in order to ensure consistent ratings. For example, my diet standard is: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”, cook weekly, minimise alcohol and sugar, avoid emotional or mindless eating. My culture standard is: enjoy various forms of culture (food, visual arts, performances, writings, etc) at least once a month. My brand standard is: clearly project an authentic personal brand that reflects my vision, gain recognition for efforts which support future endeavours through at least 3 pieces of media coverage per year, write at least 6 blog posts per year. They include both qualitative and quantitative measures whenever possible and often follow best practices for goal writing.

What next? My friend actually presented me with an arsenal of tools to aid in my personal development pursuits, including:

Will share my experience with each of these methods once I’ve had the chance to explore them. For now I’ve selected 3 themes for the year based on my chart above and will build out plans to tackle each of them in the coming weeks. Would love to hear what tools others employ to both reflect and plan!


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