Every year, I do an annual review where I look back at the past year and write down what I did well, what I could have done better, and a couple of lessons to distill from the journey. I also take a look at my personal / professional goals that I set the year before, and score how well I did on them.
Why do I do this? Two reasons:
- It reminds me about what I’ve accomplished in the past year. We often forget or undervalue our accomplishments especially when life gets crazy, and it’s good to take time off to appreciate what we’ve achieved.
- It helps me tease out lessons and patterns which I can apply for the future. For example, in understanding where my strengths and weaknesses are, I can set more focused goals for the New Year
I’ve been doing this for the past 2 years, and it’s always been a super useful exercise. If you haven’t done some sort of annual review, I’d definitely encourage you to take some time off to do it, even if it only exists on your computer. (Case in point: I published my 2015 annual review, but my 2016 review remains only on my Evernote because, well, I forgot to publish it here.)
Soooo without further ado, let’s get this party started:
What I Did Well
Spirituality:This year, I made a conscious effort to allow God to permeate through my entire life: How I spend my time, how I make decisions, how I spend my money. I wasn’t successful 100% of the time, but I do see a noticeable change in how I act and view the world. I also went on a wonderful pilgrimage to Israel with 30+ young adults which re-kindled my faith, and challenged me to give more of my life to Christ. (Sometimes, it feels like Jesus is a typical Asian parent – He has this slightly annoying tendency to always hold me to a higher standard)
Travel: I travelled a lot this year: Croatia and Greece for my honeymoon, London for 6 weeks (including weekend trips to Bath, the Cotswolds, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Oxford and Brussels), Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Penang, and my pilgrimage to Israel. I also had the privilege of finally flying the Singapore Airlines Suites, a dream I’ve had for 6 years now. It’s funny: Last year, I started saving up for the possibility of taking a 6-month sabbatical to travel around the world. But God had other plans: He allowed me to experience that wonder without me having to quit my job. My biggest takeaway? To never lose my childlike excitement and gratitude for how wonderful the world is.
Work: Two years in, I’ve picked up a couple of skills in my full-time job and am now working a good pace of growth and contribution. A big highlight this year was ramping up on public speaking opportunities: I started the year attending the excellent Dale Carnegie public speaking course. I then had the privilege of applying those skills speaking at 7 events and workshops around the world. I truly believe that public speaking is one of the easiest superpowers to learn, and I’m super grateful for opportunity to practice and hone my skills this year.
Money: My saving, spending and investment systems continue to crunch on, funnelling money to where I wanted it to go. I also finally managed to optimise my wife’s savings and invest the bulk of it this year. I was very grateful that despite all the travel we did, God miraculously still allowed our net worth to grow by a decent amount. We paid off more of our mortgage debt, and grew a little closer to our goal of financial independence. It’s funny though: The more progress we make towards FI, the less important of a goal it becomes. Financial independence is still a worthy goal, but it’s no longer the most important one.
What I Could Have Improved
cheerfulegg: With all the travel this year, my contributions to this blog suffered. I didn’t post as often as I liked, and there was a big project which I didn’t manage to launch this year. A couple of reasons: 1) I’m very self-critical about what I publish, so posts either take a long time or don’t get published at all; and 2) I’ve been working through the “identity” of cheerfulegg – is this a personal finance blog? A self-development blog? A place to dump all my random thoughts and ramblings? I haven’t really answered those questions yet, though I hope to get a bit more clarity in 2018 as I continue to push out more content.
Fitness: I started the year well, with a personal training regime that yielded some great results. However, once I left for London, I stopped the program and never got back to that same training intensity, save for a brief period when I managed to train up for an IPPT Gold. My big takeaway from fitness is that I need to train enough to feel good (and not be embarrassed to wear a T-shirt), but I don’t necessarily need gigantic pecs and a six-pack. I have some ideas on how I can re-dedicate my commitment to fitness in 2018, and I’ll be testing them out in Q1.
Social skills: Somewhere in the past couple of years, I stopped being able to have great conversations. I often get impatient if the topic gets too boring or if I’m annoyed at the person I’m talking to. I also often struggle to find things to talk about, even with people I’m comfortable with. I made some attempts to improve my social skills this year, but without a deliberate, dedicated effort, it kinda fell by the wayside. Improving this aspect of my life will be a big theme for me in 2018.
Data science: Sometime this year, I read the book Everybody Lies (highly, highly recommended!) and got really interested in data science and machine learning. I started doing lessons on Dataquest, and even got to an intermediate level of coding in Python. However, like everything else, life got in the way and I let myself slip back into mediocrity. Data science is a bit of a conundrum to me: I’m excited by AI and analytics, but I also recognise that it takes a huge amount of time and practice to get proficient. And I don’t know if I’m prepared to sacrifice all of my other projects for it. I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day!
Lessons From The Journey
I can do anything, but I can’t do everything: With deliberate practice, I can get better at almost anything I set my mind to. The DOWNSIDE is that I also have to give up other areas/projects that might also seem worthwhile. For example, my focus on fitness and data science suffered this year simply because I was spending my time travelling and growing my spirituality. The key is being able to decide on 1-2 key priorities, and then saying “No” to everything else even if they sound exciting and worthwhile.
God is full of surprises: I started out 2017 with very specific goals on what I wanted to achieve, but I never expected travel and spirituality to play such a big role this year. On hindsight, they made my year much happier than I would have anticipated on 31 Dec 2016, even though I did have to sacrifice some of my goals to get there. It’s still something I need to figure out: That delicate balance between achieving my pre-defined goals and being open to God’s surprises.
Thaaaat’s it for this year. Let’s rock this, 2018!