Brain Pickings

I’m so excited about this website that I can’t even draft a legitimate post about it. I just want to keep exploring its depths and listening to its audio files. Most importantly, it has inspired me to get busy on my own passions, and any time I stumble across something that gets me moving, I am eternally grateful. And not honoring that ambition is an affront to the source of inspiration, so without procrastination, here is Brain Pickings, a rich blog full of interesting posts and insightful articles that will help launch your 2014 resolutions into full gear.

If you’re not sure where to start, I highly recommend listening to this talk from Debbie Millman, a short, encouraging piece on doing what you love.

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Finding Your Passion

My productive morning of cleaning was followed by an afternoon of listless soul-searching and Internet research. Lately I’ve been reading career books like What Color Is Your Parachute?, Do What You Are, and Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. I’ve also been taking several career tests, such as this Career Interest Game that uses Holland codes to help you assess what kinds of jobs might interest you. It’s not really much of a game so much as a scenario. Given descriptions of six different groups of people at a party, you are asked to pick the top three groups you would gravitate toward. Your choices reveal your three-letter Holland code and the associated careers for that code, giving you some insight into other jobs you might like to pursue. I also found a Holland code quiz that is a bit more straightforward, and perhaps more accurate—with the game, I selected IAR (Investigative, Artistic, Realistic); with the quiz, my result was IAC (Investigative, Artistic, Conventional). Either way, the top two were IA, and some further research on a Myers-Briggs personality type forum revealed that testing highly as “investigative” is a common thread among those with my personality type (INTJ).

Why all this searching? In general, I like what I do, but I can’t seem to shake that feeling of wanting more—a career that’s a bit more challenging and innovative, that lets me constantly learn and develop, and allows me to make some positive impact on the world, in some way changing lives for the better. Is this too ambitious? I don’t think so, and after I viewed this mesmerizing TED talk from economist Larry Smith, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. I may still be stumbling and groping blindly in the dark, but at least I know there’s a light switch somewhere around here. And with enough effort, I’m bound to strike it.

Getting It Done

I started writing a post about a week ago, only to shelve it after feeling like I wasn’t quite striking the right tone. I worked on it again a few days later, and then set it aside once more because something came up. Whatever it was, I don’t recall—Colin coming home, dinner being ready, nature calling dutifully—some unspecified detail of daily life imposed itself right at that moment and the post was forgotten about as other tasks took precedence.

I didn’t touch the post again, when it dawned on me that what I was lacking was a deadline. That without deadlines, absolutely nothing would get done, ever. At work, our team only manages to get any projects finished because of some hard external deadline. Otherwise, there would always be something else to improve about it, something to tweak, or re-do, or this, or that. Some excuse to cling to it and never let it go.

(Let me just admit that right now as I was writing this post, Colin came home and whisked me away to the bedroom for snuggles, a little chat about our day, and discussions of tonight’s dinner. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but things always seem to come up and my good intentions for this blog don’t always match up with the unexpected turns of reality.)

It’s not just because there’s a paycheck hanging in the balance; I always stuck to deadlines at school as well. It’s that there’s an external motivator forcing me to do the best that I can with the time that I have—a principle that is so easy to lose sight of. Daily life presses in with dental appointments, expired car inspection stickers, mounds of dirty laundry—things we need to Take Care Of, things we need to cross off our To Do list. Things that don’t need to be perfect, but just need to get done. That’s how we survive. We jump from one task to another, one goal to the next, journeying step by step through the days, months, years, decades. Why not start setting goals for the things we actually want to do, before our time on this planet is eaten up?

Everest App

There’s an app called Everest that lets you set goals for yourself, with deadlines, and then add the steps you’ll take along the way to accomplish those goals. My goals range from relatively humble fitness ambitions to more lifelong travel and financial goals.

Everest App Life Goals

I’ve given myself a few years to accomplish my goal of owning a vintage camper, and who knows—as 2017 gets closer, perhaps my priorities will have changed and I won’t want one anymore. For now, that vintage-inspired Scamp camper is still on my radar, and I’ve given myself some wiggle room to feel out my goal, a few years to make it a reality.

My goals are mainly long-term, but I think it’s time to start extending my goal-setting to more immediate means of gratification. Time to start making goals of getting a massage once a month, or publishing my writing 3 times a week. Because no matter how much time I spend writing blog posts, if I never publish them, what good does it do? Time just keeps whipping by without a second look back. So here’s to deadlines! Here’s to turning dreams into reality by taking positive steps to make them happen. And if there’s something you’ve been meaning to do in your life, ask yourself why you haven’t yet shuffled your feet to make it happen. Then, start moving.

Off the Wagon

Lately, I’ve been thinking about life choices a great deal. About what is worth spending time on and what isn’t. What enriches your experience on this planet, and what robs you of it. For example, surfing the internet. Here’s an activity that we’re all guilty of doing for hours at a time, and what do we get out of it? It is easy to be lulled into the numbing amusements, but when I look back on my life, I will never cherish the hours I threw away looking at memes or perusing my Facebook feed. So why not sink that time into something worthwhile?

Because habits are hard to make. Immediately after making my HabitRPG account, I stopped using it. Why? It seemed like a good idea, but when I thought of a website that was going to punish me for not using it, I realized I had another internet-based amusement that was going to rob me of my time instead of allow me to use it to the greatest advantage. I didn’t want to spend time logging activities I was already doing, or feeling guilty about the things I wasn’t doing.

I also fell off the Fitocracy wagon at this time. I was working out a little bit anyway, but not nearly as much as I was when I was logging my activities. That was a bit of an eye opener. I realized that without some outside motivator, even something as silly as gaining points and leveling up, it was particularly difficult to stick with exercise. And not having concrete goals was an absolute killer. What was I running for if not to nab that badge saying I’ve run 200 miles in my lifetime? Measuring progress in a defined way is key. So I’m back to logging my activities on Fitocracy, one rep/lap/day at a time.

And surprisingly, I’m doing better than I was before I took the break. It’s not just the mere act of logging the activities. I’ve signed up for a 5k in July, and this is a huge push for me to get it in gear and truly become a runner. These past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the person I am and the person I want to be, and the gap between the two. It’s completely true that nothing ever happens unless you make it happen. I’m learning that if I don’t want to be a slug, I need to push myself out of my comfort zone, and surround myself with people who challenge me. This past weekend I did a dance-walk-a-thon to raise money for a local animal shelter. I never would have done this if my friend hadn’t been one of the organizers, and I will have memories of singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at full blast in the heart of Monument Square for the rest of my life. How many people can say that?

Well, there’s that one guy with the headphones, who has since taken to whistling. The company may be questionable, but hey, at least we’re not stuck in a Wikipedia hole.

HabitRPG

I’ve officially tumbled into nerddom: I got a HabitRPG account.

HabitRPG Avatar

That’s my wee level 2 avatar, ready to gain xp or take hit-point damage depending on how well I stick to my habits. I can assign tasks/habits to myself depending on three categories:

Habits—things I want to do multiple times a day or stop myself from doing multiple times a day. Gain a little experience for positive actions (drinking more water) and lose a little experience for negative ones (procrastinating).

Dailies—things I should be doing every day, such as flossing before bed. Dailies that aren’t completed will inflict damage to hit points. (I told you, this is super geeky.)

Todos—one-offs I have to get done eventually. The longer they sit undone, the more experience they’re worth, so I have a motivator to finish up those things I’ve been setting aside, like finishing up my taxes.

Then there are the rewards. You get coins (gold or silver) for completing tasks from any of the three categories above. You can set your own rewards you “pay” for with your earned coins. One of my rewards is treating myself to a massage. Other rewards are in-game, such as purchasing some armor for your avatar. Certain armor has special abilities that will help out your character. For example, leather armor decreases your hit point damage by 4%.

I had the most difficulty coming up with rewards for myself. I generally just treat myself to whatever I want, regardless of whether I’ve “earned” it. This way perhaps I’ll be more mindful of accomplishing the tasks I need to, and fully appreciating the sweet spoils when I get to indulge. Less guilt over what I think I should be doing is always a good thing.