It’s Winter Solstice – the end of my year as the northern hemisphere experiences its shortest day and longest night, and gets ready to begin tilting back towards the sun. A time to reflect, and review, on the past 12 months.

At the beginning of the year I published a post called Go Talk to the Buddha – Goals and Goal Planning for 2014. It was an exercise that formed the foundations of my annual plan, and it was very, very helpful. In fact it was probably one of the most important things I did all year as far as living intentionally and with meaning goes. Now it’s time to review those goals and my plan, to see how I did, what worked for me, and what didn’t.

Publishing this stuff might seem a little weird. Especially since, with my habit of setting big goals and being a little bombastic in my language at times, it could easily be seen as me trying to boast or show off.

The truth is that I’ve had a big, important year, but it’s been a tough year and one that I feel got away from me. I missed a lot of my goals and I often felt as though I was being carried along chaotically through swirling rapids, out of control and on the verge of capsizing. I will try to be honest share what went well and what didn’t, and the lessons I want to take away and learn from.

Why? Because I’ve benefited so much from reading the occasionally very personal blogs of people like Chris Guillebeu – they are inspiring, they encourage me, and they give me ideas or tools to try out myself. I want to live a full life of my own making, and so I want to join and contribute to the global community of people trying to find their groove, to live with meaning and purpose in a world that’s increasingly open to us, but at the same time increasingly effective at denying us those things.

I’m splitting this process up into two posts. In this one I’ll review the goals I et myself at the beginning of the year. In the next post I’ll make a broader assessment of what went well and what didn’t, and the lessons I need to learn.


Be debt free (excluding bloody student loans) – Failed

I probably could have achieved this but I overspent on travel this year, and I also invested in quite a lot of new camera equipment. I don’t regret the latter, but I have noticed that in recent years the amount of money that I find it acceptable to pay for hotels and travel has steadily increased. I think that’s a result of moving between places far too often, and that’s something I definitely want to address. I also didn’t earn nearly as much as I could have, which is ultimatey a result of my priorities.

Diversify income (articles, speaking engagements, private expeditions) – Some Success

I grew my expedition business but not as much as I perhaps should have, and I got a few paid speaking gigs, but I didn’t write any articles and generally didn’t give this area of my life anywhere near enough attention. I have a penchant for projects that are totally non-commercial and they leave me little time for work that actually pays. I don’t think I’ve got the balance right just yet.


Publish 100 posts on Soulchaser – Failed Miserably!

In retrospect this was a ridiculous target. Two posts a week?! Way too ambitious, and the knowledge that I was failing so miserably was really demotivating. I also think the quality was very hit and miss: I published rush jobs in order to get something onllne, and I occasionally relapsed into my more obnoxious teenage style of writing. But this is a new project and has such a wide brief it was inevitable that I was going to struggle. For 2015 I’m taking a more editorial approach to this and will plan out the whole year in advance.

Write a book – Failed

Urgh. Too many writing projects considering this is the first year in ages that I’ve made a real effort to write again. I know I could bash out a small book in a few weeks but I am such a damn perfectionist I can’t stomach the idea of not writing something perfect and ground breaking! It’s stupid, and something I need to address. I think there may be time in 2015 for this, but I’m happy to wait a bit longer.

Make a short adventure film – Some Success

I made good progress towards this goal, I filmed a fair amount and I did contribute to a film about an expedition I joined. But I didn’t manage to write, film and edit a whole story myself which is something I haven’t done in a few years now. As with the book goal, I just need to start, accept that the first few efforts will be a bit crap, and get better with practice.

Produce first series of Soulchaser Podcasts – Failed

Given the size of the other goals in this list this was, even for me, a ridiculous goal! In the end I was paralysed by options, not least because I’m still struggling to really nail down the identity of the Soulchaser blog. I really want to start a podcast but I had too many good ideas about the theme, decided on multiple podcasts (I think I wanted to start three at one point), and of course inevitably didn’t do any of them. I did make some progress on the concept however, and I recorded interviews for at least one episode.

Launch awesome new project (to be announced later) – Some Success

I started a lot of new projects this year and I made great progress with the one I intended to launch. And I’m still excited by it. It needs a bit more time however, but I fully expect it to be live in 2015.


Take at least 8 weeks actual holiday (I’m self employed, don’t be a hater!) – Failed

I’ve no idea how much holiday I took, but I do know that as a result of my lifestyle and bad habits, work continues to blend into life and as I spent the second half of the year moving to a new place every week, and often more than once a week, my ability to schedule real down time completely evaporated.

Go on at least one big personal adventure of around 4 weeks – Some Success

I had cool adventures this year, but they were short. The idea of this goal was to go on a creative walkabout for a long enough period to really disengage with work and all these other projects and get fully immersed into the experience. I didn’t achieve that. But I did live in a small town in North India for 5 months, in the foothills of the Himalayas, and I built a lot of adventure time into that period so I’m giving myself some kudos for that! I also lived on a narrow boat for 3 weeks (albeit in London!) which was really great, if not amazingly adventurous.

Have at least one mini-adventure a month (awesome weekend type thing) – Success

Two full fledged expeditions to new parts of Borneo; a climbing holiday in Thailand, another trip to the North of Thailand; snorkelling in East Borneo and diving in north Bali; two mountain adventures, a mountain marathon, and a motorbike trip in north India; more recces to new parts of Borneo… I’ve had a busy and adventurous year so I think I can tick this box!

Enter at least 4 races – Failed

I registered for at least 4 but I only actually ran two. I found training while travelling so much simply impossible, but I also found it demotivating to the point where I didn’t even want to do these things, even though they bring me joy and make me feel good about myself. This is important.

Go to at least 1 festival – Failed

Nuff said.

Visit at least 1 new country – Success

Thailand! Twice! Also, while not a new country, India is so bloody big that spending time in a new part of it probably counts as visiting a new country, so I’m taking the big green tick for this one!

Outside the train station in Bangkok, Thailand

Outside the train station in Bangkok, Thailand


Learn a new language: be able to read a Hindi language newspaper (currently I speak zero Hindi) – 20 hours study a month – Failed

Oh man did I fail at this one! I rationalised that I should actually be improving my Indonesian, but I ended up not doing that very much either! I did start to make progress toward the end of the year and I think my goal now is to concentrate on one new language every two years.

Choose one topic a month to study for at least 20 hours (I will likely focus these different topics around some central theme that is important to me – probably Borneo) – Failed

Pretty much failed at this as well. I don’t think I was specific enough and I didn’t plan well enough. I should have identified each month’s topic and listed the books and other reading materials I was to cover, and then built this hour into my schedule a little better.

Learn an instrument (possibly the fiddle…!) – Failed

Again, ’nuff said! Although I did take regular singing lessons while in India which included playing the harmonium, I don’t think that counts!

Do at least one course of at least a week (like multi-pitch rock climbing in Thailand!) – Some Success

I topped up my knowledge of climate change by studying a MOOC, and I refreshed my lead climbing skills in Thailand (but got sick and had to bail on the multipitch lead stuff), but I didn’t really do this one fully. It’ll stay in the list for 2015 though.


Run 10k in under 40 minutes – Failed

Missing this goal annoys me the most. It’s a real, real challenge for me and the training involved was meant to be the cornerstone of so many of the habits I’m trying to develop. And I’m sure I could have hit it. But the non stop travel of the second half of the year just killed it. I tried staying in hotels that have gyms but I barely used them – something about the constant movement just killed my motivation.

Run a marathon in under 3 hours 30 minutes – Some Success

Technically I didn’t achieve this, but while I was in India I trained pretty hard for the 3rd Himalayan XC Marathon, and I smashed my personal goal for that. It was a high altitude race with 1km of height gain across the route. I was the only runner which meant that while I won, I also had to run on my own, but I finished in under 4 hours and beat the course record. I think crossing the finish line was the highlight of my year, and I feel that it was equivalent to a 3:30 time on a flat course.

Up Next: Successes, Failures, and Lessons from 2014 – My Year in Review