Ah, February 2nd! This is the day I declare my resolutions for the year in an ongoing attempt to find a sustainable path to creative independence. I’m still not very good at finding this path, as this is the fifteenth year I am trying to find answers to the complicated questions of What am I doing with my life? and How will I find fulfillment, meaning, and purpose in what I am doing? earts.
After 14 years of looking, I am starting to question whether such gratification exists at all. I used to think that the solutions would be in the form of a tidy bulleted list that helped me understand my value to the world so I could make a living of some kind:
- What am I really good at?
- What really makes me happy?
- What do I offer the world?
- What does the world offer me in exchange?
In subsequent years I came to think of the search as the pursuit of a particular state of being:
- How can I create financial stability by pursuing creative activities? I call this creative independence
- How can I find a community of like-minded folks to create a positive interdependence?
More recently, I’ve looked critically at the hypothetical character flaws that stops follow-through on the actions that I want to take. What the heck is wrong with me? I’ve been asking myself:
- Why is it so hard for me to start projects?
- Why do I seem to lack intrinsic motivation, discipline, and sustained follow through?
- Why am I so easily bored?
- Why is my sense of timeliness, responsibility, and competence a source of stress?
In 2020 I was so exasperated that I didn’t even do Groundhog Day Resolutions. No tracking of tasks and time. No weekly reports. Not even any goal setting. Instead, I just said I’d focus on just one thing, and let everything else “just happen”:
- I focused on getting better at software development because I was doing a lot of it. While it’s not what I ultimately want to do, it does pay the bills.
- I backburnered all other projects related to creative independence. This pained me, ,but I had to admit that I really wasn’t able to do more than one things at a time.
- I tried to be more relaxed about the work instead of stressed out with thoughts of not being “enough” to do everything instantly.
The end result was that I DID get better at software development, and felt pretty good about it. And it turned out that having that “singular focus” didn’t stop me from doing other things. They tended to happen organically! The major takeaways:
- I got better at allocating my limited disciplined energy toward a singular goal. That meant I worked more hours and made more money, which has put me in a better position for 2021.
- My fear feeling trapped by singular focus didn’t come to pass. Since my disciplined energy was limited, afterwards I would naturally indulge my curiosity and I would feel fine.
This was very surprising to me, and it worked well enough last year that I’m officially doing it again for the 2021 Groundhog Day Resolutions.
So here is my preliminary plan.
Warming up for 2021
The 2020 No GHDR Experiment seemed to confirm that I had limited ability to focus on a goal in a disciplined way, and that despite these limits I could still be productive. For 2021, I want to try building on that.
Here’s what I’m thinking.
- I’ll continue to do software development, but not as the main focus. I think I may have developed enough new process that it can now run on autopilot, which means that I don’t need to use my limited discipline to do it.
- Instead, I’ll pick a new goal for this year. I asked myself, What is most on my mind?
What is most on my mind these days is the idea of TRANSITION. This has several different personal meanings:
I’ve been seriously investigating my gender identity over the past few years after a lifetime of doubt and concern. This is the largest consumer of my attention, maybe 25-30% of my conscious time. I
While gender identity is important, it alone doesn’t define my conflict. I’m also always wondering where I fit in culturally, socially, and professionally. The lack of surety prevent me from moving with confidence, and that is another form of transition that I’d like to investigate.
Lastly, I have the feeling that this is a moment to transition from existing in my inner world to living in the outside world. As an introvert, I tend to live in my head. To make changes in the outside world, I need to be better able to deal with all kinds of issues.
I feel I just need to make a choice about what I want to do and put it out there in the world. I thought I had overcome the fears that kept me from doing just that, and I have done that in sharing my work and my thoughts on the Internet. However, I’m still deeply uncomfortable in the personal areas of my life. Largely these are worries about “fitting in”, “doing the right thing”, “not disappointing people”. The way I’ve done this is by putting limits on my activities and choosing metrics of success that aren’t dependent on other people. However, I think that I have been avoiding the root causes of this discomfort rather than engineer a comfort zone where I feel safe. Going back to gender identity and the possibility of gender transition, this is inherently about social and real world changes that reflect myself. Internally I have come to peace with myself. Can I also bring that inner peace to the outside world as I have done with my design work and writing?
The first order of business, I think, is envisioning what success in transition might look like, considering both internal feeling and social expression. Qualitatively, I think this is a matter of being more comfortable and confident in just being myself in more areas of life, venturing outside my comfort zone to be beacon of what I stand for.
By setting TRANSITION as this year’s singular focus, I am declaring that my limited disciplined energy will be spent developing the methods and tools that lead to some kind of improvement. I’m not sure what those are yet, so I’ve thought of creating thematic tomes that collect the relevant insights from the last 20-something years so I can see the patterns that already exist and what already works. Then I may be able to discern where the gaps are, and what to do about them.
There are four such tomes on my mind:
The Tome of Habits – To apply my limited discipline efficiently, I need to rebuild some foundational habits. I am really bad at sticking to habits. After reading an interview with Leo Balbauto on Tim Ferriss’ blog, I decided to start the one habit at a time journey, choosing better sleep as the first habit.
The Tome of Demons – There are a lot of old fears and anxieties that I thought I had overcome, but as I said above I’ve just learned to avoid them but they are still there creating negative energy and angry frustration. Instead of trying to SLAY THE DEMONS, perhaps I can instead TAME them.
The Tome of Grace and Humility – One of the insights that got me thinking about transition was that I noticed several negative energies in myself. I was feeling angry and frustrated by having my expectations proven wrong. I’ve notice that some of what I thought was wisdom was instead a form of pride and arrogance. I am not as evolved as I thought I was. I can do better. I think this is a necessary aspect of transition of any kind. I want my heart to be more open instead of being tensed-up by fear and anger.
The Tome of Sri – Sri is the name I have been trying on as a possible new name, replacing the very male-sounding “David” or “Dave”. I have the idea of what the best version of me might be, and also how to most effectively interact with a best version of me. There are dozens of insights I’ve had about this over the years, and I think I’d like to try to document them. I’m not sure what this will look like, but it might be the most important of all the tomes. We’ll see.
I’m thinking of using these tomes as the structure to guide my GHDR activities, writing at least a paragraph in each tome every month. I’m still thinking through this year’s plan, so I’m open to questions and suggestions; just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thanks for reading! I’m getting off to a slow start, but I’m excited to see how this turns out! I am not sure at all how effective this initial approach will be :-)