Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The Year of Commitment

Since meeting the love of my life, I write far less. After all, I have an alternative mechanism for reflecting and processing -- perhaps not achieving the same level of splicing my reality or deleting content from RAM as does the process of writing, but rewarding in different ways for different reasons. It's a balance: still a work in progress. But there is one rigid, inflexible, much-anticipated written ritual for which I *must* carve out time: my New Year's decree.

During the last week of each year since 2005, I open my electronic file of New Year's Resolution documents. I review each and every one of them, taking the time to re-inhabit where I "was" when I wrote them. What was important to me? What did I believe? What did I dream? How did I relate to the world around me? Who was I? What has endured, and what has changed? Then, I take stock of these previous goals in the context of the present: Did I achieve them? Did I fail? Why or why not? And does it matter, to the Present Me? And after reviewing and re-evaluating every single resolution I've ever set, I carve out an action plan for the year ahead -- informed by my previous values, achievements, failures, and lessons, transformed into the context of my present values.

On the eve of New Year's Eve 2009, I can reflect with confidence that I kept each and every one of this year's resolutions (for the second consecutive year, at that). They were informed, thoughtful, and behavior-oriented. I didn't aim to "be" a certain way; I aimed to "do." And at the time that I set out these "doing" aims, I had specific, step-by-step actions carved out to prepare and enable myself to do so. It was the best resolution-setting operation I'd ever undertaken, faciliated by preparing a "New Year's Empowerment" Spinning ride that proved to be the most [permission to be arrogant self-granted] creative and important contribution I've ever made as a coach.

Building on 2006 ("The Year of Change" - leaving my stimulating/rewarding career after appreciating how significantly it drained my creativity, self-advocacy, and ambition), 2007 ("The Year of Discovery" - dabbling in new experiences from which I abstracted no meaning until the year was over), and 2008 ("The Year of Putting it All Together"), I embarked upon 2009 with goals of establishing a sense of feeling "complete." Assembling the missing pieces, acquiring the opportunities and experiences I sought to learn from, and charging forward along an ever-evolving path. Along the way, I tapped into the metaphor of a red blood cell undergoing hematopoetic differentiation: influenced by "growth factors" along the way, maturing and developing in a certain direction, accelerating on its journey without possibility of going back. In effect, 2009 became "The Year of Commitment." (Only fitting that I would meet the love of my life two months from said year's conclusion, of course.)
In 2009, I carved out an existence that completely fused the values and experiences that were important to me as a physician-in-training, a coach, an athlete, a writer, a human being.

I learned how to apply my experiences in one realm of life to another, to find synchronicity and meaning and balance, and to connect with and inspire the same in other people.

I learned how to use my tools and resources to structure my experiences exactly as I need them.
I learned that by putting aside my perceived awkwardness and inadequacy and enduring but a moment (ok, a looooooong moment) of discomfort, I can and will achieve exactly what I want.

I learned how to critically evaluate how I measure up to my own standards, and when to re-evaluate those standards in the first place.

I learned how important it is to me to be "training for something," to be pursuing improvement - even for the satisfaction of improvement alone. I learned how critical it is to define "improvement" on a case-by-case basis.

I learned how to optimally learn from my experiences. Nothing is by accident. When I feel proud, or strong, or afraid, or incompetent, it's all for a reason. It's my job to identify that reason, internalize it, incorporate it into my processing of all future incoming stimuli, and to call myself out on it when I identify prospective challenges to upholding a given "life policy."

I learned how to splice and shape a story to tell myself, an edited version of reality that means more than its composite details.

And above all, I learned to experience myself as committed to a journey. A journey that evolves every day, a journey with no specific requirements other than to persist. I've ranged from blind optimism to epic doubt, to a (reasonably) quiet confidence that everything is exactly as it is "supposed" to be. And I've come to appreciate that, as harsh the reality of privilege that comes along with it, it's a pretty sweet journey indeed.

So now what?

2010 is the Year of Being Present on my journey.

What does it take to "be present?"

I will listen better, without anticipating or interrupting.
In my 2008 reflection document, I praised myself for becoming a better listener and dedicating myself to improvement to that end. I may be more perceptive now, I may ask more thoughtful questions - I may have a better sense for what I don't know and need to know in order to inhabit one's existence. But I'm not a better listener. I anticipate too much, think too much, track too much. Interrupt too much. In 2010, I will shut up and listen.

Since I anticipate interrupting myself every 30 seconds, I will establish a mechanism for re-focusing .
It's the same as I coach people to do in Spinning classes -- closing one's eyes, finding one's breath, and tapping into some detail -- any detail -- until the connection takes hold.

I will establish a reliable system for managing my commitments while protecting my RAM. RAM is reserved for medicine.
A predictable side effect of my 2009 resolution to "take action on new ideas within 24 hours of conception" (vs. sitting on them forever) is that I made a lot of internal commitments this year -- all of them meaningful, all of them rewarding. All of them time- and energy-consuming. Most of them exhausting. While I'm proud of myself for structuring a reality where I actually DO the things I think about, I need to be more mindful of my resources. I'm getting older: I have less energy, I need more sleep. I need more (as my boyfriend says) "nothing box" time. Instead, I consume all available RAM tracking these grandiose projects I start (and am committed to -- commitments are commitments, and entirely unbreakable no matter what). Since all available RAM is spent tracking work to do, there is no RAM available to actually DO the work. Hence my perpetual state of "pending." This is not to say that I get nothing done. I get more done in a given day than most people do in a month. But I have so many projects looming that inspire so much anxiety for no reason. If I would just DO them, they'd be complete. I already made time to devour a great book earlier this week: "Getting Things Done," by David Allen, which advocates a practice by which I lived in late 2006: keeping EVERY thought I had on a 8x14 legal pad, structured according to context and priority. I was far more productive, creative, and peaceful -- and I lost my keys far less frequently. I've already dumped my "pendings" of all realms of my life onto a legal pad, absolving my dorsolateral cortex from having any responsibility for any of it... until I actively seek it out. In 2010, I will protect my RAM and use it to be "present."

I will complete data analysis, write up, and publish my Psychological Effects of Heart Rate Training study.
'Nough said. The procrastination has reached levels of absurdity.

I will blog more.

This is a separate mechanism for "dumping" content from RAM. If I don't, I do not have the capacity to think the way I need to be able to think.

I will be more reasonable, realistic, and flexible in my self-negotiations.
Blog entries do not need to be novels. Data analysis for 226 subjects x 10 entirely open-ended questions does not need to be done in a single day. Articles do not need to be theses. I just need to DO things. The only way to enhance self-efficacy to DO things is to... DO things.

I will conquer new athletic exploits to build confidence and calmness.
This was one of the most important things I learned in 2009. So, must keep going. Legitimate transition to clipless pedals on my bike. First sprint triathlon in August 2010.

I will learn to appreciate that right now is "enough."
Commitment to continuous improvement is a great thing. That's why I have "Kaizen" tattooed on my back, after all. But here, now, this moment... by the end of 2010, I will find a way for complete satisfaction with the present to mutually coexist with the pursuit of something more.

Here we go.
2010: Best Year of My Life...


JJ said...

Your resolutions have been approved. Please proceed until apprehended! Good luck, MM! ~j junkin

Lane said...

Melissa said:

I will blog more.
This is a separate mechanism for "dumping" content from RAM. If I don't, I do not have the capacity to think the way I need to be able to think.

It is amazing how well this works. If I can't sleep, I get up and starting writing down the thoughts that keep me awake.

I'm looking forward to your 2010 blog posts.