I want to try something different this year. Rather than trying to create a bunch of goals for the year I want to try and focus on two big ideas; creating a manageable set of "quests" and implementing a system that sets a time for accomplishing tasks.


Time to go on an adventure!

I think most of us are paradoxically motivated and not motivated by end results. We spend a lot of time thinking and hoping for end results but we are not motivated to do the work that makes those goals possible. So rather than trying to lose weight as the goal I want to set a goal of skill acquisition that will hopefully result in losing weight. If I can set up a goal where the work itself is enjoyable and doable then the byproduct of that work should be the goal that I seek to attain.

While I wish I were more internally motivated the fact that this is something that I am capable of sharing and showing off also helps motivate the routine in a way that doesn't exist when it is just to focus on the end goal. I saw that with the marathon training; picturing being able to share pictures of crossing the finish line motivated me when I was cramping and tired.

This desire to signal my competence isn't my best feature but I do recognize that about myself and I think that if I can take advantage and leverage that vain part of myself (I'm not sure vain is the best word to describe it but I am going to use it for now) it will be to my benefit.

I've started my reading quest with the Shakespeare reading. The fact that I have made a kind of public commitment to reading all of his work has kept it at the forefront of my mind. So now at night I find my brain seeks out time to do the reading even though I might rather read comic books or something a bit easier.

I probably shouldn't try to tackle too many quests at once but my expectation is that if these quests are different enough in terms of physical versus mental that it won't be too taxing. I am also trying to keep these quests "fun" relatively speaking. Jumping rope for 15 minutes a day isn't too difficult and it is fun when I get myself down to it.

Physical Quest - fight camp

97 rounds with these gents out to put some hair on my chops!

Marathon training really taught me something about myself in terms of maintaining motivation. There is something about a public commitment and a "no backing out now" that helps motivate me. So this year I will find at least one commitment every 4-6 months down the road and sign up for that challenge.

My intuition is telling me that if I set myself up to do a kind of "fight camp" where I spend about 2-3 months training for a fight and then I switch to training 2-3 months for the next marathon that will work with my desire for novelty and still be enough time to see noticeable improvement in both of those skills.

For fight camp I am going to focus on jumping rope, uphill sprints and shadowboxing. Jumping rope is fun and metabolically active. The skill acquisition component will hopefully motivate me as I see improvement in my technique. As I see improvement in my technique I will hopefully be motivated to continue to improve which will lead to a virtuous cycle. The uphill sprints will be for metabolic conditioning and the shadowboxing will be the skill component for the fight.

If I lose weight in the process that will be a bonus but I am sure that spending 2-3 months doing a combination of shadowboxing, calisthenics and jump rope will be good training for explosive metabolic conditioning. If I can sign up for a white collar boxing match before I get serious about my training then I will have no choice but to either train or get my butt whipped on fight day!

I think that will synergistically work well for the winter when I will primarily be working out indoors. In the spring I can focus on running and devote time to different physical goals.

Skill Quest - portrait sketching

I signed up for a one month trial of domestika, an online program that focuses on drawing and creative arts. By the end of the month I will have completed at least one course on portrait sketching and will compare my first work to whatever I complete. I will decide then whether I want to move on to something different creatively or if I want to keep focusing on portraits.

The thing that motivates me is the goal of making realistic sketches of my sons. I would love to be able to draw them and capture their likeness. That motivates me to improve even though as a skill this is a relaxing hobby.

For accountability I am putting my portraits up on a new Instagram account. I don't love that I value the external validation but I am willing to use that motivation if it drives me to continue to draw. The more people that view these and offer feedback the better!


Reading Quest - Shakespeare

I've outlined my game plan for reading all the works of Shakespeare. It is moving along nicely. There is a nice parallel to marathon training in that I am just reading 5-10 pages of Shakespeare a night. If I am tired and am not into it then I can drop it after 5 pages. If I am into it I will go as far as 15 pages. I don't want to do much more because I know that I will overdo it and then excuse myself from reading for a week or more.


Basically I need to put things into a schedule. I don't miss my session with my trainer because it is put into my schedule. That means nothing else I might want to do can supersede that pre-arranged time.

But lots of smaller things that I need to do fall to the wayside because I don't put them into a schedule. So I think that if I put things into my schedule then I will be more likely to accomplish them.

The things I would like to put into my schedule are; writing, sketching, working out, grading.

The good thing about putting them into a schedule is that I don't need to put tons of time in for these things. I can put 20 minutes into my schedule for grading every day and that will mean I have spent about 2 hours a week grading. That will go a long way for me to maintain grades (this doesn't count right after an exam I just mean all the other things that fall to the wayside).

So to recap - my plan is to focus on three quests and setting up a schedule to keep me from going to my YouTube default.

Anticipated problems

I tend to be super gung ho about ideas and then they fall to the wayside. Part of that is taking on too much. I definitely see that happening right now. My hope is that because I am only making small and sustainable commitments to each quest (I can get a lot done with 20-30 minutes of focus) that this will work.

The other hope is that this continues to be fun in my mind. Right now I am having more fun writing this blog post than I am falling down the YouTube rabbit hole. If I can keep my brain thinking about this as "play" then it should be pretty sustainable.

I think that might be the key concept I was searching for as I write this out. If I can transform all of my goal seeking into a set of games for myself then I will sustain my interest and continue to do these things for long enough to see the kind of progress that makes these activities self sustaining.

I definitely don't know if this is going to work. But this feels like a much different set of strategies than I have tried in the past to motivate myself. I am cautiously optimistic that a new approach, coupled with built in accountability devices, can work well this year!