So it’s the end of the month and the beginning of the “new” year – Chinese New Year (close enough, it was like 3 days ago) and I thought I’d take some time to reflect on my study abroad goals and the progress I’ve made so far.
A quick review, for study abroad my goals are to:
- Try new things – things outside my comfort zone
- Build good habits and reprioritize
- Learn about the world and develop a global mindset
I dubbed this year as the “Year of Mindfulness” as all my goals center around being present, in the moment, aware of my emotions, thoughts, behaviors, actions in these different areas. Additionally, mindfulness in these areas means growing with purpose, with a goal in mind.
So how am I doing?
Goal #1: Try new things – things outside my comfort zone
With this goal, I’m hoping to stretch myself to grow, become more open minded and comfortable with the unknown, and just learn… about anything! Overall, I think I’m doing pretty well; I’ve amassed quite a list of “new things” and only anticipate this list growing. Most of the “new things” on my list are health related (gym classes, foods) and leisure (trips, attractions), and the experiences have a 70/30 split. 70% of the “new things” I’ve done have surpass expectations, the other 30% not so much. From challenging myself to experience “new things,” I’ve found a new hobby (mixing cocktails!) and built new skills (programming in terminal).
However, I realized that constantly seeking out new experiences is VERY draining, rough on my schedule, and could be undermining my ability to work towards my other goals. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I feel that only perform at a certain level once certain basic needs are satisfied. So if my schedule is constantly in flux, it’s much harder for me to set aside time to study/sleep/workout (Goal #2) than if I had a set schedule with set events. Additionally, my current progress towards this goal isn’t particularly pro-active. Most of the “new things” I’ve experienced are things that have happened to me, not things that I’ve sought out.
So in the coming month, I’m going to try to focus this goal: do more seeking (of new events, experiences) and less passive receiving; sign up for events in advance so my schedule is a little more set; and slow down this fervent searching for newness (AKA pace myself). I’m still going to try to hit my goal of at least ONE new thing a day, but the new things I do might be less about events/attractions (like visiting Edinburgh Castle) and more about small projects – a book I read, a conversation I had, a new route I discovered etc.
Goal #2: Build good habits and reprioritize
I like tables. I like Excel. So it might not be too surprising to hear that after I identified 7 areas (Purpose/Impact, Physical Health, Emotional Health, People, Learning, Career, Materialism and Finances) of my life I want to improve, ranked them, and planned out actionable steps, I made a habit chart for me to track various days. What’s the big fuss with habits? I think Will Durant said it best when he said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The most lasting way to improve the 7 areas of my life is to make the improvements a habit, because then I don’t need to think about making things a priority… they just will be. e.g. if working out becomes a habit then it’ll be second nature for me to work out and stay fit.
According to my chart I’m making progress but 10 new habits is way too much to focus on at once – especially if they’re really disjointed – and I don’t need to bite off so much at once. My goal of building habits extends for the whole year so I’m cutting down on a few habits (for now) and will add more after each month (unless I feel that I haven’t made significant progress on a certain habit). So for this month it’ll be: Exercising daily, guarding sleep*, thinking about the one thing* and reflecting daily, eating healthy, mindfulness in spending, learning everyday, reading and writing daily*
* means it’s a new habit that I’ve made a priority
More on the “one thing” – I think this will really help me achieve my goals so I’m adding it to my habits list. My close friend Marissa gave me a book called the “one thing.” One of the points the book iterates over and over again is that everything boils doing to doing ONE THING. By finding and completing the ONE THING (which you’re supposed to define btw) in each area of your life daily, you should see dramatic improvements. Essentially the book is talking about the power of purposeful prioritization. I think by taking the long list of 7 areas I have above, and thinking about the ONE THING I could do in each area every day (in the morning) and then reflecting at night about that day, I will make/see more progress on my goals.
Goal #3: Learn about the world and develop a global mindset
Similar to the first study abroad goal of trying new things, most this learning just “happens” to me. I wish I was more purposefully seeking out people from different cultures and having long 1:1 conversations about different processes and structures in our home countries, but most of the time I just meet someone at an event and ask them questions, which is always fun but doesn’t happen very frequently. I’m going to visit Tandem – which is an event where people of all nationalities come and learn other languages, and ask a bunch of questions (maybe they’ll make me ask in their native tongue though). Additionally, MORE day trips! (Long bus rides are actually the best for conversation) and MORE reading! Maybe we will see more progress once I’ve done a couple out-of-city trips.
Overall I’m pretty happy with the goals I’ve set and the progress I’ve made with the first two (third not so much). After writing this post, I’m definitely re-motivated to work towards these goals with more vigor (this was a great focusing exercise). I appreciate anyone who’s taken the time to read this post (or any of my posts) and if you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this post, congrats! I am v impressed!
Always open to hearing any feedback or advice!
See you in my next video,