Stretching into new territory helped me enrich myself as a designer.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not big on “New Year’s Resolutions”. Life is in a constant state of flux, and I prefer to set my goals when I’m inspired (not clouded by the overwhelming feeling of bloat that comes from spending a week over-indulging in pie and mashed potatoes).
Instead of resolutions, I enjoy reflecting on the events of the year and taking some time to be introspective. What did I accomplish? How did I learn from those things? What new skills did I develop? I try not to let myself dwell on the didn’ts, should’ves, or what-ifs, because I’m not going back in a time-machine any time soon, and no good ever comes from over-thinking the past…
2017: My year of All The Things
I’m not sure why or how it happened this way, but as each month of the year passed, I kept challenging myself to take a giant dive outside of my comfort zone into uncharted territory. Some opportunity to do a thing would present itself, I’d fill my head with excuse for why I shouldn’t do that thing, and then at the very last minute I’d do the thing anyway.
Here are some of the experiences that came out of this phenomenon:
- Taught my first weekly recurring series of dance technique classes to a full room of amazing human beings who absolutely killed it.
- Earned my instructor license for Doonya: The Bollywood Workout (there was no class to attend in Upstate NY so I had to become an instructor to make one)
- Started shopping for a home
- Made my new website live after stalling for way too long
- Became certified in CPR/First Aid/AED.
- Wrote things and posted them on the Internet for all to see, and then shared them on social media so that some people would actually see them
- Signed up for my ACE Group Fitness Course and certification test (we’ll see how that goes come February)
All of these activities and milestones had a central theme, which was: Some part of me was scared completely shitless to do them.
Yet they all shared a common outcome: I want to do it again! *gets back in line for another ride on the roller coaster*
I wish I could say that my enthusiasm came from the satisfaction of crossing things off of my “to-do” list, but I was piling more on faster than I could cross them off. I still haven’t crossed them all off.
I was addicted to feeling like a beginner again. Addicted to learning like one. While I’ve never been content to stagnate, it’s also true that I’m a sucker for placing safe bets. I might wade into freezing cold water knowing it’s going to be uncomfortable, but I won’t dive into the deep end of a pool because all I can think about are the terrible things that might happen.
It was trendy for a while to wax poetic on “failure” and how we should all do more of it. I didn’t necessarily disagree at the time, but I was a little burnt out on the whole thing back then. However, every time I stretched myself into something new last year, I was forced to think about what “failure” really meant to me, and why I ever cared so much about it.
The beauty of learning like a beginner again, is that you don’t know enough about what you don’t know to be terrified.
Case in point: I thought I was a pretty good multitasker before I was performing an hour of dance choreographies to Bollywood music while verbally and physically cuing the next move for the class, watching an entire room full of people follow along to make sure everyone’s safe, encouraging them to smile and do their best, putting a smile on my own face, and trying not to slip in my own sweat puddle.
Did I do it perfectly? Of course not. I made mistakes, and I smiled and kept going because I couldn’t believe that this bubbly person up in the front of the room leading a Bollywood-inspired dance fitness class was me, because I was having a blast.
Mistakes became my inspiration and motivation to learn and do better. Success (of any kind) was celebrated. Failure had been demoted to mean “not showing up”.
My next level up as a designer… wasn’t design.
As I said earlier, I’ve never been content to stagnate. Improving professionally and personally has always been a priority, but as a professional designer in tech (who frequently article-hops on Twitter and jumps down rabbit holes on Medium), it’s way too easy to assume the sage wisdom you seek is wrapped up in that world, and that world only. That you find it by staring at more screens, and doing more of what other people are doing.
2017 was the year that I accidentally became a better student, mentor, multitasker, writer, thinker, artist, business person, and mindful human, by developing new skills in the most unlikely places.
I’m excited for where 2018 will take me.
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Is the turn of the year significant to you in terms of setting goals and investing in self-development? How do you like to honor this time of year? Please consider sharing your traditions with us in the comments!