- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I working towards?
Last year, I took James Clear’s questions and applied them to the three main life areas that I track. Back then, these life areas were named:
- Personal transition
- My mission
As I developed a better understanding of how the right categories can be used to sharpen our thinking, I have decided to settle on the following names, all of which capture the same concepts I used last year but in a broader level. The new names are:
Why I chose these words to capture the broad areas I want to keep track of in my life will be explained in a different post. For now, it will suffice to say that I use health to refer to mental, physical, and social wellbeing; sustenance to refer to all kinds of actions I need to take to keep myself alive through material and financial resources; and meaning to refer to everything I do to flourish.
Feel free to use my format to write your own Annual Review.
1. What went well this year?
- I continue to maintain a daily meditation practice, carrying over this healthy habit from last year and a few years back then.
- I completed all five days of a sitting meditation retreat last November. In previous years, I was only able to finish at most three days. But this year, I was finally able to stay until the end and with great reward!
- I was able to quit coffee and alcohol for more than one month and my sleep immediately improved. I have returned to drinking coffee in the morning only.
- I was able to improve my sleep for about a month while quitting coffee and alcohol.
- I have added a new habit to my morning routine. After drinking two glasses of water, I immediately take one tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar. It has an immediate mental kick, which I find stronger than coffee! Plus, it has a lot of health benefits.
- I’m going strong with my five-minute journal practice. For almost two years now, I have been writing gratitude entries and setting intentions in the morning while reviewing my day in the evening.
- In the second half of the year, I went through a grieving process, which I continue to go through until now. While the process is painful, it was a great learning experience. I learned a lot about how to cope with grief in a healthy way and how to prepare for the inevitable losses that all of us will ultimately face. It’s a lesson I haven’t learned even after going through depression so I am grateful that I experienced it this year.
- While in the grieving process, I deepened my relationship with two friends. I was also able to cultivate existing but forsaken friendships with four people. What’s more, I was able to start a few more friendships. It’s easy for me to count my friends because I try to connect with people in a really deep level. When you are my friend, it isn’t fleeting stuff. We’ll be sharing our deepest thoughts. That’s just who I am. And the people drawn to me seem to be like that too. Awesome.
- I didn’t stress myself a lot about money this year because my savings are pretty intact. By the end of the year, I took on more work that I did the past months to recover the savings I used up. But for the most part of this year, I dedicated my energy to studying philosophy, grieving, and exploring other art forms like poetry, photography, and translation.
- While I am yet to really dig it, my exposure to Austrian Economics was really helpful in improving my understanding of money and the material world.
- I invested on a wireless hair clipper and I taught myself to shave my own hair. I have chosen a haircut that I can do myself (the buzz cut), and I have been cutting myself for at least three months now. As long as I take good care of my hair clipper and keep a simple haircut, I will be saving around one million pesos until the day I die. This and other similar decisions were inspired by Jacob Lund Fisker and the Early Retirement Extreme book and community, which is really a resource about extreme frugality more than it is a resource on early retirement.
- I also invested on a bike repair toolbox, which I used to learn fixing my own bike. I ride my bike almost every day as a form of exercise and meditation. I also use it as my form of transportation when visiting our place in Santa Barbara. While I still ride public transportation for longer trips, I don’t own a car and will never own one. If I will own any vehicle, it will be always be the bike. Learning to repair it myself is another form of investment that lessens my dependence on the money economy in the long term.
- I dug a lot of podcast episodes this year, and I shared a few of my favorite podcasts.
- I read a few important books this year, which I shared with you in my previous post.
- I have started writing poetry, and every time I write a poem I really feel replenished creatively. It’s a practice I will continue to deepen in 2019.
- I have also started writing translations both in Filipino and in Pangasinan.
- I took a lot of photographs this year, which also means I took a lot of afternoon walks and bike rides.
- Earlier this year, I set myself out to study philosophy independently. While the field is so wide and there is a lot more to study, I feel like I did a lot of important work this year with regards to improving the way I think about things.
- I was able to keep a consistent newsletter publishing routine earlier this year and people really loved it! I took a few months break but I’m back to writing them again, because I enjoy sharing stuff and my friends love reading them. If you haven’t subscribed, please do so here.
2. What didn’t go so well this year?
- I began tapering my psychiatric medications early this year but have to return to my previous dose to support my grieving in the second half of the year. While it was the right decision to pause tapering, it would have been great to end the year with lesser dependence on these drugs. I’ll try again this 2019.
- While, I was able to experiment on sleeping better, I’m still not sleeping enough this year.
- I quit coffee and alcohol and drank only pure water for more than a month. But for the most part this year, my diet isn’t as great as I want it to be.
- Because I repaired my bike, I think I moved better this year than I did last year. But I still have to keep my physical activity more consistent.
- While I did well developing my relationships this year, my state of social health is not yet flourishing as I want it to be. The biggest challenge is geography really. My people are miles away from me. Scheduling time with the people I love needs more effort to be consistent and improve in this area.
- My goal entering 2018 was to volunteer in farms, practice extreme frugality, and advocate for gift economics. This plan has to pause and be reassessed after I realized I really wanted to focus on philosophy this year. While not really a failure (because I invite trial-and-error in my lifestyle), this change caused me a little stress this year. Luckily, through some advice from a friend and personal reflection, I was able to continue studying philosophy without stressing much about money this year.
- Because I worked less this year, my savings dropped. Also, I noticed that during the grieving process I tend to spend more money for food and entertainment. I wasn’t too hard on myself during this difficult time. Luckily, as my emotions got more stable, so was my spending. Slowly, I’m going back to being more mindful with how I use my money.
- This year was a great creative year. I tend to use art as my refuge when I’m going through a tough time. This means I spent most of the year at home doing stuff. So if there’s anything that didn’t go so well this year, which I did more often in previous years, it’s probably traveling. It’s not that bad. I mean, while traveling can fuel creativity, it can also disturb routines that build creativity. So not traveling a lot this year was okay. But next year, I hope to travel more especially with friends.
3. What am I working towards?
- In the coming year, I will continue to grieve, I will give myself enough time to do that.
- I will also be working on my habits again using James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Specifically, I will be targeting sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
- Since I have to let go of this area in 2018 so I can focus on doing philosophy last year, I’ll slowly get back to working on my material needs and finances. For starters, I plan on creating a personal economic plan using concepts and tools that I already know and use. I also plan to share these concepts and tools to my readers and friends because a lot of us really need it. If I can finish creating a book or a course on this subject, I’ll let you know as soon as I start creating it.
- After my exposure to philosophy last year, this 2019 I will take my project to the next level by writing more about what I am learning here in the website. My ultimate goal is to write a book about my personal philosophy of living. Before I could take on that monumental task, I need to do a lot of research, reflection, and preliminary writing. As always, I will be using this website to create the work I want to create.
- Aside from continuing to build my worldview, I plan to continue all the other art forms I started exploring during the second half of last year (poetry and translations).
- I also plan to explore more music. In fact, I have started a musical diary which I learned from Austin Kleon. I’ll be creating two diaries: one for international music and one for original Pilipino music (OPM). My OPM 2019 playlist is up on Spotify.
- I also plan to start a hobby this year. While I’m open to all options, drawing is something that is really starting to call me. I used to draw really well when I was younger. Now I have completely forgotten how to draw. It’s probably time to get back to doing it.
- I’ll be publishing more consistently in this website and in my email newsletter.
- I don’t want to set hard goals, never did. So another creative project I might start this year is a podcast/oral history project which will feature interviews with Filipino friends and people living not-so-conventional lives. I enjoy deep conversations and this is probably a good opportunity to make myself accountable for doing creative work while engaging in something that I really love.
Bonus question: What did I learn this year?
James Clear actually changed his third question (What am I working towards) with this new question (What did I learn this year?). While I still think the old question is useful for an annual review because it prepares one for the coming year, I find the new question interesting so I’ll give it a try.
Here are some of the many lessons I learned this year.
Marry well. It’s a phrase I’m borrowing from Austin Kleon and will use it the way he used it, broadly. A creative needs to choose who to associate him/herself with whether that’s a life partner, a creative partner, a client, everyone, wisely.
Life is a big game of grieving. Almost everything in life involves change. Change, in turn, involves lost. While we were taught how to “have” things, we were almost never taught how to “let them go.” There is probably no skill more critical in life than learning to grieve and to let go.
The best people to be with are not necessarily the people I have similar interests or philosophies with. The best people to be with are those I can be completely myself with, without judgment. I notice that I become really relaxed and genuine when I’m with high school friends. These people do not share the passions and the identities that I have accumulated through the years. But that’s where the magic happens; what I share with them is that piece of me unchanged throughout the years. That’s why hanging out with this people is really refreshing.
If we let go of our beliefs on what is objectively good or objectively bad, we see the world clearly, we see others as they really are and not as we think they are. This is Eastern philosophy’s “non-judgment” and Western philosophy’s “amoralism.” The more we let go of wanting others to act a certain way, the better our chance of really connecting with them, and thus the better our chance of achieving peace.
Focus on the fundamentals. In philosophy, this is logic. Get your logic wrong and the rest of your thinking will be flawed. Believe in logical contradiction and your entire worldview will be irrational. The same goes with building habits. To master behavior change, focus on the tiny actions you take every day and let go of the grand goals.
And that’s everything for now. Here’s for a better year ahead for all of us! As always, thank you for reading.