Showing posts with label goals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label goals. Show all posts

Monday, March 13, 2017

Goals Check-In 2017 - 2 Months In

March 1 marks the 2-month point into the year and rather than wait until next year to think about my progress (or digress?) from my yearly goals, I thought I'd take a gander at where I am today.  I put forward a good amount of goals for 2017 and well, I'm middle of the ground on progress on some of them and others, not as much.  2016 was a decent year in goal-setting and achieving and I'm hoping this year I will be able to do better. So let's do the run down:  

Word cloud of 2017.
Original image for word cloud shape provided by

Complete a Triathlon

Ok, this goal hasn't been met and I haven't been swimming as much but now that I'm back into the rhythm of the semester and over a recent cold, I will be back on track with this, hopefully.  Ideally, the triathlon will be completed during the summer, so I've got some time on this.  

15000 a day

I deserve a gold star for this one.  Despite the busy schedule and getting a cold, I've hit 15,000 steps every day thus far for 2017.  

15 more pounds

Progress is in the making.  I'm down five pounds, so ten pounds to go.  That's not too bad considering the aforementioned cold that knocked me out for 3 weeks and January/February having its fair share of temptations.  

Stay on Target for Running

I was doing steady with my running until the cold and then largely avoided it for 3 weeks.  I'm back on the treadmill and feel I'll be back up to speed soon.  Beyond that, I need to determine which races I want to sign up for in the ensuing year.  

Complete the Book

Ok, chapters are getting done (1.5 to be specific), so progress is in the making.  I'm hoping to be done with chapter 2 soon and then only the next.  

Less Mindlessness

We'll call this one a work in progress.  I've been more away mindless scrolling on Facebook and eating.  But this is also a skill that will forever need tweaking and developing, so I feel like as long as I can keep bringing my attention back to the moment, I should be fine.

Focus on the Breath

I'm getting better at this one but like the mindlessness, I have some distance to come and know it's a longer journey; not a destination.  I can do it with the bigger things and when it's clear that I've gone past the moment of agitation into frustration.  But I'd like to bring it forward more to bear when I hit agitation and circumvent moving into frustration.  It's not that I am avoiding frustration but at times, the things causing frustration are not necessarily worth getting frustrated over or I could better use my energy in other capacities.  I want to be more aware of my agitation and examine what's underpinning it.  So, I need to take some more breaths.  

Figure Out My Dissertation

This one seems to be on target.  I had a brain-blast in January and have written about it here.  I feel like this could be the direction that works best for me and pulls together the different aspects of my interest.  We'll see if it lasts past the next year of work on it.  

More Politically Active

This is the tough one.  Time is limited with work and the program, but I have done a mixture of letter writing, calling, attending rallies or town halls, and other activities.  I want to have a more focused lens on this but am not sure I can do so until other things fall into place and I am not in constant doctoral mode, but I feel like I'm at least heading in the right direction.

So that's the goals and my progress.  It feels like I'm in the right place with things.  What about the rest of you?  Any New Year's Resolutions or goals that you're working towards?  What kind of progress (or otherwise) are you making towards them?  What do you feel needs to be in place to achieve them?

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Goals for a New Year, 2017 Edition

Welcome to 2017!  

Word cloud of this post in the form of 2017

Despite the craziness on the global level, we've arrived at 2017.  Politically, 2016 was a rough year.  Personally, I cannot complain.  I landed a new job, I've made progress in my PhD program, I've lost weight, and I earned personal bests in my running, despite injuries.  Overall, I'm healthy, happy, and loved.  But it's 2017 and I need some goals (for those new to this, you can check out my 2016 goals and how well I did with them).  I feel like these should all be doable this year, but who knows.  In reality, I probably won't hit all of them, but enough of them that like last year, I find this a valuable activity to get me focused on how to progress in the year.  

Give It a Tri

We all know that I have taken to running over the last 5 years.  This past summer, I returned to bicycling as well when my IT band was giving me trouble.  I also started working at college that has a pool, which means I started swimming as well.  My brother and a few other friends have been nudging me to try a triathlon in the last few years.  I always made a point to say that I wouldn't do one because it would require access to a pool and I wouldn't get a gym membership because I don't like the gym (too easy for me to convince myself not to go).  But now that I've got access to a pool and am swimming regularly, I think it's fair to say I should definitely do a triathlon.  Now, they train hardcore for Ironman races, which is NOT what I will be doing this year.  I figure that a few sprints and an Olympic are well within my range.  I figure that I will got for 3 in total for the year and see how it goes.    

15,000 a day

This will be a bit of a stretch goal in that I'm not sure I will be able to do this everyday, but I believe in the aggregate I will be able to meet this goal.  Basically, I want to aim for 15,000 a day.  I do this pretty regularly but feel like making the goal of 15,000 makes it a bit more challenging.  Mostly, I'm curious to see how long of a streak I can maintain if I start with the intention of doing 15,000 a day.  My previous streak was somewhere withing the 50-60 days mark.  

And Another 15

I've lost 15 or so pounds with Weight Watchers.  I actually lost more but the fall semester and winter holiday season got the best of me.  My goal here is to get down to my goal weight and maintain it.  210 is the goal and I feel it's highly doable and of maintaining so long as I take to heart the ideas that Weight Watchers advocates.  

Stay On Target

I'm taking a break from having running goals for this year.  I still plan to regularly run and do a few half-marathons and such, but I feel like a break from the goals is a good idea while working on other physical aspects.  This past year, I hit two personal bests (under 40-minute 5-mile; under 1:55 half-marathon) that I never thought was possible.  I want to appreciate that and enjoy running this year without trying to outdo myself.  Call it a victory lap if you will, but just a year of enjoying running without a strict goal to work towards.  

Focus on the Breath

I've practiced different methods of self-awareness and reflection over the years and I feel like this year, I want to use what I've learned to focus on my breathing.  Much of the literature about mindfulness, self-control, emotional well-being, etc all extol the importances of the breath and I feel like it is speaking to me right now as something important to hold onto and focus upon as this year feels like it has the potential to get increasingly challenging given I'll be going soon into year 3 of the doctoral program and of course, the political craziness that is the US right now.  Working to take the time to notice and practice breathing can only help to center me more in the days to come.  

Less mindlessness

Whether it's eating without being hungry, ceaselssly scrolling Facebook, constantly checking email, etc, I want to take my focus on the breath and use it to help me to shift away from things that feel too unncessary or without direction.  That's not to say I'm giving up social media but just aiming to use it more systematically than I have in years past.  I want to work more to be in tune with what I need, what I'm trying to accomplish, and what I may be trying to avoid.  

Complete the book

So the Teaching History With Comics book still remains unfinished but I am working with the publisher to have a clear and direct plan to get it complete, which is good because I think it will prime me well for the project that will come next.  I feel like I have a good sense of how to move forward with it and will just need to keep myself on a steady production schedule.  

Figure out my dissertation topic

Yeah, this one.  I'm starting to get a sense of what my specific topic might be but feel that I really have to focus it this year.  So, I plan on journaling on it weekly to help me further flesh it out and hopefully be able at this time next year to more substantively say what it is that I'm doing.  

Read more books

I'm making a pack with myself to give up graphic novels for the year (unless they are the few that I subscribe to) in order to clear out the books that are in my to-read pile (and have been for too long).  I have to do a lot of school reading but I want to return to reading books for pleasure and personal interest, so I'm going to drop the graphic novels for a while.  Hopefully then, I can clean out some of my way-to-long- "to read" pile that I've been itching to get to over the past decade or so (maybe finally finish The Wheel of Time series or all of Sara Douglass's books!).  

Politically Activate 

The 2016 election still hurts.  It hurts because it seems to be an utter failure of a healthy and well-informed democratic republic; it hurts because so much of what the new administration represents is not only antithetical to what our country represents in its most idealized form (a nation that fairly and equally represents the interests of its entire citizenry), but because the identity politics war waged so hard and ugly by the right in terms of the people they were willing to disregard as not American and the ways in which they dehumanized so many different groups just boggles the mind of anyone who believes in equity, fairness, and equality.  The election was a wake-up call for many and I hope to be part of the change that will undermine or at least limit the damage that the incoming administration represents.  

So those are the goals for 2017.  Tall order?  Probably.  But that gives me plenty of opportunity to hit, miss, and improve.  I've also decided that one way of staying more on target will be to actually update the blog bi-monthly with where I am with things.  Let's see if I manage to do that, right?  

What about you?  What are some of your goals for 2017?  What would you want to see accomplished by 2018?  

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

About Those 2016 Goals....And the Year in General

At the end of each year, I take some time to look at and consider what are some of the goals I sought out for the year and what have I actually accomplished.  I did this with 2015 and set my goals for 2016.  My goals for 2016 were a mixed bag but my achievements for 2016 went well beyond what I set out in writing.  

Let's first look at what I set out to do:

Giving Thanks

Yes!  I totally nailed this one with a daily practice of giving thanks to different aspects of my life.  I will be writing a longer post on this but I definitely hit this one between the daily practice of acknowledging things to be grateful for and then also writing a letter once a week to thank someone in my life.  

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a thumbs up.

Finish the Book

Well this was flubbed and is part of 2017's goals.  It just didn't happen and I should have prioritized it a bit more than I did.  Here's hoping 2017 isn't a repeat of 2016 in this regard.

Running Goals

So I didn't cross the 1500 threshold as I had an IT band issue that plagued me for months until I had to give up my Vibrams (still sad about that).  However, my two other running goals were totally accomplished.  I not only ran a 1:52 half-marathon in June (followed by a 24:30 5K two weeks later), but I also broke the 40-minute mark on my 5-miles, coming in at 39:59 on the annual Wild Turkey Run on Thanksgiving.  That win was particularly amazing after not running for a few months because of my injuries.  

Write more

I have gotten about half-way into a short story but have not done as much writing as I had wanted to--though given how much writing I'm doing for my PhD, that isn't entirely surprising and might be a bit of a pipe dream until I complete the dissertation.

Perform more

This didn't happen and like the writing, may not happen in the next few years for the same reasons.

Other Accomplishments

So the following are accomplishments that I didn't set out to do at the beginning of 2016 but picked up along the way.  

50 push ups

After creating a daily reminder towards the end of 2016 to do 10 push ups a day, I slowly increased it by 5 every couple weeks and now can (almost) effortlessly do 50 push ups.  Not a huge goal, but that I have never been able to do this before, it's something I certainly appreciate.  


In taking a new job at a school that has a pool, I've taken to swimming and have been able to build up to swimming freestyle for 1/2 hour which I've never been able to do before as well.

15 pounds lighter

Ok, we'll have to reassess this one after the holidays for sure--hahaha.  But I started Weight Watchers in April and it has been quite useful.  I got down about 20-25 pounds and came back up to the 15-20 during the fall semester and winter break and will resume to a normal routine once life is back to a normal routine.  But it has been a great adaptation that has been quite helpful throughout the last 8 months.  

Most of my accomplishments this year were of a physical nature, which is not entirely surprising in that, it's the one with the most flexibility.  My intellectual goals are largely focused on the PhD program.  However, I am glad that I did manage some emotion goals with regards to learning to be more thankful and appreciative of the things in my life.  My achievements for next year will hopefully be a bit more balanced!  Regardless, I am glad that I was able to accomplish the things that I did and see those that I didn't as just something I need to reconsider and reconfigure to determine why these goals didn't happen this year and can I make it happen for next year.

What about you?  What were some of your goals and achievements for the year?  What are you setting up for 2017?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Goals for 2016--Let's Do This!

Wordcloud of goals for 2016
So I have already covered what I did last year in terms of goals, but what would 2016 be without some clear goals to get me going.  I should mention that I set these goals to give me some direction.  I'm hopefuly I'll meet many of them and usually am ok if I don't.  If nothing else, setting the goals (and doing so publicly) gives me some direction and sense of how I would like to end the year.  I know some of these may seem ambitious and overall, it can seem hard to imagine trying to get them all done, but therein lies the purpose of the goal-setting.  It gives me something specifically to work towards and if I don't, well, there's always next year. 

What do these goals look like?

Giving Thanks

I had tried a gratitude jar a few years ago but did not manage to keep up with it.  This year, I'm going to try something different: a gratitude log.  I've set it up as a nice and clear google form that I can fill out and rather than doing it once a day, I'll do it as it occurs with the hopes of doing it at least once a day.  In addition to logging in my gratitude, I will also look to better express it to others throughout the year.  

Finish the Book

So this needs to happen since there is the contract and everything.  I'm hopefully going to get it in on time (fingers crossed!).  It will also be nice to have this project behind me since there is so much else going on. 

Running Goals

This year, I want to try to get to 1500 miles.  I've crossed the 1250 mile threshold the last year, but I want to kick it up a notch.  Barring any kind of injury, I believe I could make this goal.  I'd need to average about 29 miles per week and I think that is pretty doable.  In additional to the distance, I have three other running goals:  Run under a 40 minute 5-mile; break 1:55 for the half marathon (this may only mean improving by 15 seconds, but I want to make sure my breaking the 2 hour half-marathon wasn't a fluke), and doing 2 marathons and doing reasonably better on them than my last 3 (let's go with breaking 4.5 hours).  

Write more

Beyond the book, I want to write more.  That will include part of my annual project on the blog which I'll post about in a few days, but also try to write a few more creative pieces.  In November, I finished the first short story I've been able to start and finish for probably at least 10 years if not longer.  I want to build up some short stories and do something with them--either look to get them individually published or do an anthology.

Perform more

As some of you know, I had my first go at stand-up comedy and I enjoyed the process and performance.  I want to do more with this.  I've developed new material and feel like I could enjoy performing it at some of the local open-mic nights.  I would ideally like to do this once a month.  

There they are.  I'm sure I'll hit some of them and others I'll miss--it's all part of the journey and I'd rather have goals as it gives me something I value to aim for.  What about you, dear readers?  What are some of your goals for the new year?

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Friday, January 1, 2016

How did 2015 Go?

2014 was quite the year!   So much so that I aimed for an ambitious 2015. Well, how did I end up?  Let's take a look at those goals I set out to pursue:  

Start a Doctoral Program - Mission Accomplished

I have now finished four courses in my doctoral project and am loving it.  It challenges (and at times, frustrates) me, but I can see the growth taking place and appreciate how it is pushing me to think even more broadly than before.  My biggest concern about the doctoral program would be that it wouldn't be rigorous enough.  That may sound a little silly, but there are a good deal of doctoral programs that are less than stellar and it was important to me to find one that would push me and this program definitely does that.  

Break 2 hours on the half-marathon - Mission Accomplished

Watch time:  1:55 for half-marathon
I am so proud of this accomplishment.  Besides struggling for two years to get under the two-hour mark, I thought this was likely a forsaken goal because I had ended up with a hip strain that had me out of running commission for most of July and much of August.  This not only kept from running over the summer but from building up any speed.  However, I bounced back from it and crushed my previous record (2:03) in a half-marathon I ran in September.  I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend, Chuck, who was willing to go for some long runs and had the brilliant idea to run the course about a month before the race to get a full sense of what we were looking at.  This in itself helped me mentally prepare for the race, which advertise itself as the flattest race in the series but had a large hill at the 10.5 mile mark and some inclines in the latter half of the race.  I had hoped to do well, but I didn't think I would do this well.  To the many, running under two hours isn't necessarily a huge feat but for me it best captures my journey on becoming a runner.  It means that I sustained under a 9-minute mile for 13 miles, even though I started in a place where I would run 13-15-minute miles.  Overall, I was happy with my running this year, coming in just over 1270 miles for the year!

1000 Blog Posts - Mission Accomplished

I also achieved this milestone for the year, which I'm quite happy about.  I started blogging without much direction but really just a platform to write miscellaneous things.  In truth, it still serves that purpose pretty regularly.  However, I've also found the blog as a meaningful way to think and reflect, either directly about my life or indirectly.  It's also been a platform to help me further grow, whether through reading a book a day, reading and writing about short stories, or reflecting on photos that I've taken.  Having published over 1000 posts isn't a great accomplishment in itself, but for me it shows me the dedication I have to writing and thinking; it's been clear to me how it has been useful in my day to day life to have this space where I share my thoughts (and people even occasionally respond to them).  Finally, I'm impressed with the traffic.  After several years of blogging, these last two years have showed an upward spike in traffic, averaging just under 10,000 visitors a month.  It's not necessarily huge numbers when contrasted with major blogs, but that's a respectable number for someone just sharing his thoughts.  

Photo a Day - Mission Somewhat Accomplished

Ok, I didn't hit every day.  I came in just about 100 short (which could be conceived as essentially taking weekends off, right?).  I'm fine with not meeting the letter of this goal.  It was more of a guide-post and the bigger goal--to take more photographs, think about them, and write something about them was certainly achieved.  I'm extending this to some degree for 2016 and doing an image of the week to explore.

Publish a Book - Mission In Progress

So besides my 10 Classic Tales of Horror that I published at the end of 2014, this one hasn't quite happened.  But that's ok, I'm in progress with Teaching History with Comics and have an upcoming deadline, so I am hoping to make it happen for 2016.  

Break 4:20 on the marathon - Mission Not Accomplished

This one fell by the wayside after getting the summer injury.  While I was able to build up for the half-marathon, trying to get up to full speed for a full marathon in the fall, just wasn't reasonable going to happen and it didn't.  Again, this is a goal I'm fine with not meeting.  My fall was filled with a many great things and I can just throw this on for next year's goals!

A Book a Week - Mission Not Accomplished

I had hoped to read a physical book a week.  That clearly didn't happen.  I did pass the 220 books mark for 2015, which is always a great accomplishment, but that was a heavy mixture of audiobooks and graphic novels with a handful of books.  Most of my textual reading focused on a lot of articles, which is of no surprise, given my pursuit of the PhD.

So there they are--the hits and the misses.  Regardless of the misses, I feel like it's been another strong year of growth and rising to interesting and exciting challenges.    I'm looking forward to 2016!

How was your 2015?  What kind of goals and accomplishments did you achieve or find challenge with?  What are you thinking about for 2016?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

1001th post!

Word Cloud - By Any Other Nerd 1001 Post
So here it is--my 1001th post.  I'm pretty proud of myself that I made it into blogging this far.  I started it 5 years ago and am still going strong.  In fact, it was less than 3 years ago, that I was celebrating my 200th blog post, so that should tell you something about how much I've taken to blogging.  In fact, I've been pretty impressed in that I get about 10,000 hits a month.  I consider that to be pretty good for a blog that is just a miscellany of my mind.  

While I liked the early years, it's really been the last three years wherein I pushed to challenge myself to regularly write and produce on my blog through 365 Projects and that's helped immensely in getting over the 1000 threshold.  

In looking at my most popular posts, only one of them comes from before the 365 projects.  In fact, there's the breakdown:
  1. Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury
  2. The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket by Yasunari Kawabata
  3. The Sequel, Remake, Redux Edition
  4. The Sacrificial Egg by Chinua Achebe
  5. But Who Can Replace a Man? By Brian Aldiss

Now, what's interesting is not only that a random Ray Bradbury story is my most popular post of all time, but that it still has more visits than if you added spots 2-4 together.  It has over 11,000 hits and for the life of me, I cannot understand why.  

So where has all this blogging lead me to over the years?

In that vein of continuing to hone my writing and enjoying sharing the blog with people, here is a list of my favorite 10 posts on this blog:

  1. Spaceballs: The Value of (Re)Viewing
  2. Beyond the Class; Or What I Hope They Take From My Course
  3. On The Death of a Student
  4. Tales of Running: Resilience & Mules
  5. Tales of Running: The Two Demons I Run With
  6. Tales of Running: That was Hard...Let's Do It Again!
  7. 10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning
  8. On Becoming a Reader – Part 1
  9. On Becoming a Reader – Part 2
  10. Compassion and Fatigue in a Social Media World

From this list, it's pretty clear to see that running has been a big feature of this blog.  When I look at the time I started to running, I know that writing about it--sharing my expereinces and working through the challenges of running--in this blog proved instrumental in formulate my identity as a "runner"--but it's only now that I realize that it also formulated my identity as a blogger.  My ongoing musings about running led into finding other ways of constantly engaging in writing on the blog and coming up with my 365 Projects and such. Teaching and my work in higher education has also been important and this has been a place for me to negotiate and reflect my role as an educator as well.  

Well, I think that's all I have.  It's been a great 1000 posts and I hope to keep going strong.  What about you reader?  Are you blogging?  If so, share over your link.  If not and you're just reading this one, I'd be curious to hear what were some of your favorite posts.

Thanks for reading and see you at the 2000th celebratory post!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 - HOT DAMN What a Year!

2014 was a pretty spectacular year both professionally and personally.  There was a lot going on and it all went pretty well everything considered.  So let's take a look at what 2014 included:

Professional Accomplishments

I finished and received my diploma for my third Master's Degree.  This was a Masters Degree of Education with a focus on Instructional Design.  This finished what I considered to be the hat-trick of education before moving onto a doctorates.  The final project of the program was a focus on hybrid flexible design, which I actually got to try out this past year and will be running it again this year.  Also, I have started applying for to doctoral programs, which I consider a different type of professional accomplishment in that I'm finally heading that path.  I've only been circling it for nearly a decade.  

I secured another position as a social media strategist.  This time, for NEPCA.  I have also taken over as instructor for a social media course at North Shore Community College's Community Education program.   

I attended and presented at a handful of conferences this past year including several for NERCOMP, Suffolk University Technology Symposium, and Massachusetts Colleges Online.  The topics focused on hybrid flexible design, accessibility and universal design, refreshing online courses, and open educational resources.  
2014 North Shore Community College Excellence in Teaching Award for Adjunct Faculty - Lance Eaton

I also joined the Salem State Alumni Board of Directors, which has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience.  It's been good to reconnect with Salem State University and to be involved in ongoing projects that brings together alumni and students.  

I was involved with a team that has helped to launch an open textbook initiative at North Shore Community College.  It's felt great being part of such a great team of colleagues working to make a significant difference in access for college students.  

Finally, I also received an award for teaching.  I was quite pleasantly surprised by this as it wasn't even on my radar.  But after eight years and over 100 courses, it was powerful to be recognized for my various efforts that I have put in over the years.  

Personal Accomplishments

The monthly breakdown.
I ran over 1250 miles this year (1252 to be exact!).  That's about 500 more than last year and probably (with the subtraction of last year), more than I have cumulatively run in my whole life.  This goal was quite important to me (I think I aimed for 1000 originally) as it helped me keep focus when it was clear that my other running goals were not going to happen.  I also learned to find running on a treadmill agreeable (so long as Netflix is on hand--hahaha). 

Despite getting injured with a herniated disc and pinched nerve in the neck, I was still able to run two marathons this year and even achieve a personal best on a half-marathon with just over 2:03.  I didn't do as well as I would have liked on the marathons but know that I'll do better next year.  Of course, I plan to break the 2 hour mark with the half-marathon and we'll see what my marathon time will be next year.  

I completed my 365 project.  This got a little hairy towards the end and I definitely had trouble keeping up with everything else going on.  However, I logged in 365 short story reflections, which I'm quite proud of.  It has been a learning experience in many ways--not the least of which is having to fully read all of Ambrose Bierce's work, which is pretty cool.  
Lance - Christine - Floral Showhouse Niagara Falls 2014

Of course, the big personal accomplishment of 2014 is that I got married to an amazing and wonderful partner.  I proposed to her in April in Niagara Falls (no, not that Niagara Falls!).  We decided to return there for our wedding in October and it was a fantastic adventure with family and friends.  Planning and executing the wedding itself as it was a different approach than most offered its share of challenges but we made a great pair and everyone had a fantastic time (especially us!).  

Indeed, 2014 has been a fantastic year and I look forward to what 2015 will bring.  Keep an eye out for my forthcoming post about my goals and hopes for 2015.  

How was your 2014?  What kind of goals and accomplishments did you achieve or find challenge with?  What are you thinking about for 2015?

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Goals for a New Year

So starts another year filled with who knows what.  The last two years I have started off with a list of goals to accomplish, some of which I never accomplish.  Others, I find I am quite successful at. I've found that the goal setting in general or on an annual basis is a great means by which I can achieve things I find important.  So here are my goals for 2015--I hope it is another stellar year!

Start a Doctoral Program

Applications have been sent and am awaiting to hear back on my top choices.  I have a list of secondary choices too but feel pretty strong about my chances.  We all know I've been heading down this track for years, so I'm pretty excited to actually starting a program.

Break 2 hours on the half-marathon.

I came close this past year with time of just over 2:03.  But I long to break the two hour mark.  In the end, I know it is a bit arbitrary, but like much of my running, it represents a marker of significance in the literal and metaphorical distance I've come with running.

Break 4:20 on the marathon.

Picture of a Finish Line.  Source:
Given this past year's high hopes of breaking 4 hours and recovering from a non-running injury, I also realized this might be a bit ambitious given everything else I'm doing and that 4:20 is a more realistic aim.

Publish a Book

This is a goal that I have been kicking around for a few years now, but I do have two things going for me this year.  The first is that I now have a book contract to write a book, which is often a great motivator to actually writing one.  The second is that I'm finishing up self-publishing a book currently that does not meet with my expectations of publishing a book (it's an edited collection of classic horror stories),  but certainly does inspire the writing bug within me for this year.

1000 Blog Posts

I have been blogging for quite a while now and though the first few years, I usually went for one or two posts a week at most, this past year, I went for a post a day.  This put me in close to 700 when all is said and done.  I'm hoping I can continue this with another 365 Challenge to get me here.

Photo a Day

Reading a book a day or reading and reflecting on a short-story a day were uber-time consuming and don't seem like the ideal project for 2015, given all the other things that I am doing.  However, I do think that a photo a day with some reflection would be an interesting project to pursue.  In part, I think the idea of focusing on looking and viewing might prove useful to the types of projects that I am pursuing this year.  They will all take a certain amount of examining and viewing in different or new ways, so mayhaps this will help me do that.

A Book a Week

There is an article that I'm writing that requires a substantial amount of reading.  Additionally, I will be hopefully starting my graduate program this year.  Both will require some discipline to read physical books that are not available in audio.  Therefore, it might be useful to start the year off by getting into the habit of reading a book a week.  It might also help me to clean up my "To Read" shelf.  To that end, I am likely going to cease requesting new graphic novels to read and stick to only reading those series that I have already been reading and invested in.  

So that's what I'm aiming for in 2015.  My guess is that I shall meet some of these goals, exceed in others, and fall short on some.  But regardless, I'm sure it will be another year of growth and learning.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning

Let's set the scene.

Here's me on Sunday, September 16, 2012.  I'm in the midst of running my first 30K Race.  That's right, I decided that what better way to spend the weekend just after my 33rd birthday, chugging over 18 miles on a warm Sunday afternoon.

Keep in mind:

  • There were no zombies chasing me.
  • There was no grand prize for coming in among the last 1/3 of the herd.
  • I had plenty of other things to do that Sunday.
  • I paid to be here.
Now, let's go back 15 months to June, 2011.  There are no pictures of me running.  Because up to that point, that is, the first 31 years and 9 months of my life, I did not run.  Let me rephrase that I ran only when ultimately forced to.  You know, like at gun point.  The fact is for 31 years, 9 months I had a HATE-HATE MORE relationship with running.  It didn't like me and I sure as hell didn't like it.  Like the student in class I repeated to myself and everyone that would listen, "I'm just not meant to be run.  I'll stick with other things."

But that clearly changed.  Indeed, last year, I ran a marathon and this year, I'll run several more.  Along the many miles I've run over the last few years, I learned to love running a whole lot to the point that I've spent thousands of hours running and thousands of words writing about running.  

In this evolution from non-runner to enthusiastic (almost obsessive, I'll admit) runner, I realized that there is a lot that I've drawn from running that helps me think about learning because somewhere along the line, I learned to run in a way that worked for me.  Here are the 10 ways that running reminds me of the challenges of learning.  

1.  I started slow and I am still slow and that's ok.

I have to run at a pace that works for me.  I can't worry about how fast other people are running.  Sure, I can sometimes look at it as motivation to speed up a little but the focus must be on me and what my body and mind are telling me.  This rings true for learning.  We are often disenchanted with our progress because someone else gets a subject matter much better than we do because it's not our forte or we don't have the right background to approach it as skillfully as others.  

2.  I had to figure out what worked for me.

There's lots of different methods to approach running out there.  Prior to my experience, people told me all sorts of ways to do it.  But I had to figure out what worked and what didn't work for me.  This meant a lot of trial and error.  In fact, this is where many people will abandon running because they can't seem to find the right way to approach it that works for them personally.  In this vein, I think learning is quite similar particularly around certain subject matter.  How some people learn a subject matter is going to be dependent on trying and finding different ways to approach the subject.  

3.  I set a range of goals to indicate levels of success.

Run!  Or even "run a marathon" are way to big for me to tackle.  I had to chunk them it all into manageable pieces.  When I started out and just wanted to get to be able to run, I found a place I could run at (Lake Quannapowitt) and set markers for running such as
  • Run for 10 minutes.
  • Run until you make it to this marker.
  • Run as far around the lake as you did yesterday and 100 feet further.
As I made progress, I set new goals and made sure to have a range.  That might include having a range within a race (my low goal is 30 minutes, my high goal is 25 minutes) or a range over a particular season (run at least 6 half-marathons or longer and 1 full marathon).  The goal was to make sure I had different ways to measure success.  This was helpful because it connected with #2 in that, I needed to see what goals were more motivating for me.  Similarly with learning, if you set to task, "I'm going to learn math."  You're setting up a massive goal.  So why do that or at least consider it a large goal with a long-term plan composed of smaller goals and objectives.  What are the smaller goals that can be stacked to get you to the larger goal?

4.  I set time aside to both think about (write) and do it (run).  

It goes without saying that you need to set time aside to achieve the goal.  That was obvious--though not without its challenges.  Eventually, I went the route of buying a treadmill so that in the harder weather I didn't have to rely on going to the gym and such.  It saved time to have easy and unlimited access to it.  Besides setting aside time to do it, I also made sure to think a lot about the running.  Visualizing myself running the race at top speed in perfect form has contributed to some great breakthroughs in my performance.  For learning, this means you have to set time aside and that time can't be the very last minute.  You have to incorporate it in some clear ways into your life's routine and you also need to think about it.  You shouldn't be thinking about "I need to do it" but you should be engaging with the content in your head--even when you don't have to.  This is where learning can take place through reinforcement.  

5.  I kept track of my progress because nobody else would.

I initially kept track of my runs on my Fitbit monitor but then moved into DailyMile, which has been fun and adds a nice social element to it as well.  I also continued to keep track of progress on this blog of course.  Keeping track is important because so often, we are looking forward and seeing the end goal still rather far away, but we need to look back and appreciate how far we have made it.  It's also important because if I'm trying to get somewhere, I have to know where I am within the big picture, right?  With learning, looking back is also important because it can provide you with a means of reflecting and appreciating where you are within the subject matter and how much progress on the subject that you've made.  

6.  I hit walls; I asked for help.

I most definitely hit some walls and places where I needed help.  I asked for help.  I had no shame in asking for help and encouragement from my friends and social-networks.  My friends and family want me to succeed and want to help me if they can.  The same holds for learning.  When you hit walls (and you will hit walls), reach out for help from friends, family, or people more versed in the subject matter.  Largely, people like helping others--especially if it is something they are vested in.  

7.  I was overwhelmed at times by it all; I wrote about it.

There will always be times when I think about running and am overwhelmed by it.  Overwhelmed by what I've done, overwhelmed by what I'm trying to do, overwhelmed by the mere idea that I am doing it.  Hell, I could even brim with tears at times.  That's all good!  That's a reflection of investment.  If you're so vested in learning something that you're emotionally moved; that's not a bad thing.  It shows how important it is to you.  For me, writing about it helped a lot because it allowed me to sort things out and to stay on focus.  Writing may not work for you (especially, if you're trying to learn writing), but find an outlet to channel the emotions and ideas about the subject matter.

8.  I talked about my running (sometimes, quite excessively).

If running was important to me, then I should be talking about it just like other things that are important to me.  This served two purposes.  
  • It had me talking about running--which is something runners do.  Talking about running reinforced the fact that I ran and was continuing to run.  I had never thought of myself as a "runner" but sure enough, I found that I was.
  • By sharing with other people in my life, it became a point of conversation.  We would talk about running or friends would ask me about my most recent race.  The most amazing moment of talking about running came when people started asking me for advice or told me that my actions were inspiring them to run.
When it comes to learning, the more you talk about and engage in the topic, the more likely you are to think about the subject matter and even gain mastery over it.

9.  I owned my accomplishments and gave room for others to acknowledge them too.

I took pride in what I was able to do.  I won no races, but I had victories at all of my races.  Every time I had a personal best or was just damn happy I showed up, I made note of it.  I blogged about it, I posted in FB and Twitter about it.  I celebrated my progress.  In sharing my victories, many others also provided congratulations which added to the positive feelings I had about running.  I also made sure to give thanks to those who helped.  You need to celebrate the victories that you make--regardless of where others are in their learning.

10.  I valued the experience for the internal value; not just the external benefits (though they were nice).  

I came to recognize that running provided me with many internal benefits that were useful.  The mental health benefits of running are many to count.  The better health reports I get from my doctor are also important.  The respect and admiration I get from friends, family, and colleagues--that's nice too.  I run for me--but that respect and admiration has proven a powerful tool to get me to that point.  For learning, this is the big challenge: the crossover.  That is, the moment when learning the subject is internally valued (you want to learn because it helps you understand your life more) more than extrinsically valued (you want to learn because you want an A on the examine).  

Those are my top 10 ways that running reminds me of learning.  What about you?  How else does running remind you of learning?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, January 6, 2014

End of the Year Part 3: About those Goals....

For those that have been reading this blog, you may remember that last year, I put out some hopeful goals to achieve in this past year.  Well, let's play the accountability game and see where it lands us.

It's time to take a run through the goals and see where I landed.  I achieved less than half the goals that I set out to do, but that's ok in my book as there were other accomplishments this year that warrant mention.  

Do 10 pull ups

Not even close.  I'm still somewhere around 4.  I didn't make as full use of the pull-up bar in my apartment as I should.  I don't think I took this goal as serious as I did others but I do think it is an entirely achievable goal.  I just need to strategize a bit more.

Eat out only once a week.  

This one too quickly fell off the radar as I got busy and distracted.  Again, strategizing can help me improve upon this and I am also shifting more into using a budget so I hope that helps me as well.  

Fill the Good Deed Jar

This goal fell by the wayside by the end of February, if I remember correctly.  I found it hard to keep up with as well as wondering about the nature of what my "good deeds" were.  Is a good deed soemthing that you would do regardless or somewhere you will go out of your way?  If I do it in part because I remember I need to do it so I can record it, does it count?  

Make Significant Progress on the Book

I made some but not much progress on this.  However, it has been folded into my 2014 goals and there is reason for me to believe that it will get accomplished.  Timing didn't work out and there was a lot going on.  However, I have purposely put aside time to focus on writing said book.   

Begin learning programming.

I did take a course on Cascading Style Sheets and Wordpress.  I plan on taking more courses this spring in programming through my college in both the credit and non-credit programs.  So I'll consider that as a reasonable start that I will hopefully continue with through the next year.

Fill the Thankful Jar

I kept this up longer than the Good Deed Jar but fell out of habit with it.  However, I did also follow through in the last few months with a daily reflection of what I am thankful for at the end of each day and identifying those things that made me thankful for that particular day.  

Run a marathon 

I totally nailed this goal and liked it so much I plan on running several in the next year.  I was quite ecstatic that I did this, enjoyed this, and want to do more of this.  To get a fuller picture of how I achieved this goal, check out the blog posts on running on this blog.

Keep regularly blogging. 

I was also successful in this goal in that I have about 70 posts for 2013 which means I averaged more than 1 blog post a week.  I'm happy with that goal and know that I will do even more in 2014 given the projects I have coming up.  

Other Achievements Attained

Beyond the goals I purposely set up, I did end up achieving some secondary goals.  I finished my Master's Degree, which I was pretty happy to be done with.  I also cleaned up my living space significantly, getting rid of stuff I didn't need or no longer had use of.  It felt good to get rid of the excess, though I know there is most likely more to do.  Besides that, I completed several projects at work of which I am proud and have even created a hybrid-flexible course (to which I will have more to say when I teach the course this spring, but that I did it and developed all the videos for the course (over 10 hours) is also a solid accomplishment.  I also read over 400 books this past year, to which I'm pretty happy with and feel that I gained much from that experience.

Ways to Improve Attaining Goals

Vicuna Peak - Source:
How do I get to the top?
In looking at the past year, the successes and the failures with my goals, I think there are clearly some ways that I can better guarantee success.  Granted, these are what work for me but I imagine they are useful to others as well since many of them came from different books on learning and development.

1. Make a visible list.

Having a list on hand that I can regularly refer to has been quite use.  It's a good way to hold myself accountable as well as remind me of what is left to do.  It also means others can see it (which is useful when we get to #3).  

2.  Chunk your goals.

Running a marathon sounded nearly impossible unless I chunked it.  I chunked identifying a variety of other races of shorter distance that I could build up to.  I started with a five mile race in May and ended with a marathon ibn October.  I set markers for where I should be in my training and the goal took care of itself in that I didn't feel too overwhelmed by the task.  I was certainly nervous but comfortable with attaining it.  

3.  Talk/Write about your Goals

It's clear that the goals I wrote about, were the more successfully achieved goals.  Running and Reading (maybe that's what I should rename this blog?) are two things I did a lot in the past year and also wrote about a lot.  That what I write and talk about also help me achieve my goals is not surprise as much of the literature out there tells us that when we speak more to something, we are more likely to achieve it.  Thus, I may end up writing more about my goals throughout 2014.

4.  Reward and appreciate your progress.

I found it also important to celebrate progress towards the goal.  It doesn't have to be huge but giving time and space to recognize that I have made progress helps reinforce the work and keep with it.  

Goals for 2014

So what am I laying out for goals in 2014?  I've got a couple to tackle:

1.  Run at Least 4 Marathons

As I've said elsewhere, I really want to work my way up to doing an double-marathon (50+ miles) in 2015.  The only conceivable way I can think of doing that is by getting in lots of mileage next year and get used to the distance. Regardless of the 4 marathons, I definitely want to try to run 30 miles at least once next year.  But more importantly is just getting in the runs and keeping the distance over the next two years. 

2.  Complete a Half-Marathon in under 2 hours

Equally important, I want to try complete a half-marathon in under 2 hours.  The best I've done thus far is about 2 hours and 6 minutes and I think I can shave off those six minutes.  I would love to get myself under 4 hours for the marathon, but I'm not sure I'll see that year.  We'll call that a secondary goal for now.

3.  Read a short story every day.

I've mentioned this on the blog already, but I aim to read a short story every day for 2014 and write about it here on the blog.  It will be a different challenge than last year's reading challenge. I also have to be care with this one so that it doesn't interfere with Goal #5.  But thus far, I am doing pretty well with this one.

4.  Do 10 pull ups.

I will aim to do this more practically with giving myself a monthly goal and weekly expectations.  I think I underappreciated the challenge of this and didn't take it as serious as other physical challenges I set up for myself.

5.Complete at least 1 book.

I have two that I'm interested in writing.  One is already written but needs serious editing.  The other needs to actually be written.  But again, I've chunked it out this year to more practically achieve it.  

6.  Eat out less.

This time around on this goal, I'm doing more with budget setting and making sure I am holding myself accountable each week.  I know that if I have to account for my spending (even if it's just to myself at the end of the week), then I'm likely to censor my spending a bit more.  I also perceive a less stressful year without having to also work on the Master's Degree that will reduce the need (or rather, want) to eat out.

7.  Meditate More

I got out of habit with this years ago, but the more I've been reading of mindfulness, the more it reminds me of its usefulness and the pleasure I gain from it.  Ideally, I aim to do this for 5-10 minutes a day or at least set that as starting point and see where it takes me.  

Well, there it is.  What about you?  What goals have you set for yourself this year?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.