My Annual Plan is designed to help me stay true to my values, and move towards my goals.

The plan itself acts as a roadmap for the year ahead, helping to schedule and course correct as the months unfold, but the process – if considered carefully and honestly – is invaluable in its own right. It is about much more than achieving new goals each year: it is an appraisal of who I am, and who I am trying to become.

Just to be clear, these aren’t resolutions. I’ve never been a fan and they don’t seem to work for the vast majority of people. I’m going to be talking about goals and habits.

Last year I wrote that finding real personal happiness was the best path to living a good and meaningful life, and joked that if you thought it sounded selfish you should go talk to the Buddha. After a year of trying to practice mindfulness I am now convinced that I actually do want to talk to the Buddha… metaphorically of course. There’s a bunch of other things as well, and so here’s my plan for 2015 and how I arrived at it. I hope it helps you think about the year ahead.

Bat Tree - Tane Olen Long Setulang - Martin Holland

The “Bat Tree” in North Kalimantan, where I will begin my year.

To look forward we need to first look back. I began 2014 by listing the areas of my life that I felt were important (happiness, health, relationships, creativity, etc) and then by setting myself goals for each category. The goals themselves, while fairly arbitrary in their own right, were meant to be both challenging and achievable – the idea being that by working towards, and perhaps achieving those goals, I would be improving those areas of my life.

I scored myself against these goals in My 2014 Goals in Review post, but it felt unsatisfactory, and so I took Chris Guillebaue’s approach and looked at my successes and failures to try to see if I could draw some deeper lessons, and this proved to be a lot more fruitful.

Looking ahead to 2015, and trying to think about what I want to achieve and how, I’ve felt overwhelmed and pretty negative about the task. Perhaps this is my state of mind after allowing myself to get so drawn out over the second half of this year. Perhaps it’s because 2015 could be such a big year for me – potentially involving giant leaps in my business but also lots of change – and I’m simply nervous or apprehensive. Or perhaps it’s a result of my 2014 experience of concentrating so heavily on goals, on the what, without enough grounding in the why.

My reviews were honest, and the last lesson I wrote about was on the need to concentrate on habits (cornerstone habits to be precise) before goals. I think this has been an invaluable insight, not only because developing the right habits make achieving goals much easier, but also because habits are much easier to link to an overall purpose, or meaning.

I can’t say I have figured out my purpose, but you can get a sense of where I’m headed from the mission of this blog:

A place to explore ideas, opportunities, and alternatives to the status quo. It’s about pursuing a low-cost, sustainable, creative, adventurous, love-filled, ethical, fulfilling, and financially independent life.

So, enough introduction, here are my 5 Habits for 2015:

HABIT 1 – BE MINDFUL

The more I practice and read about mindful awareness the more I want to incorporate it into the core of my everyday life. With about a year of intermittent practice behind me I’m still a novice, both in practice and understanding, but this habit gets number one slot because I think it’s by far the most important cornerstone.

Mindfulness Goals

  • 200 hours of meditation practice
  • 10 day silent Vipassana retreat
  • 100 hours of yoga
  • 1 month yoga retreat

HABIT 2 – BE CURIOUS

Cultivating a state of curiosity is helped by mindfulness, but curiosity is also developed through exposure to new places, ideas and people. Providing the mind stays open, the more experiences we have, the more curious we should become, and I do need to re-open my mind to make the most of all the amazing experiences I’m lucky enough to enjoy each year.

Curiosity Goals

  • Read 50 books (themes TBD)
  • Keep a daily diary
  • Use this blog to learn about and share 12 big ideas
  • Join at least 2 active groups, clubs, or societies in my local area
  • Join and contribute to a meaningful online community
  • Become truly conversational in Indonesian and Spanish
  • Investigate something everywhere I travel to

HABIT 3 – BE CREATIVE

Sometimes I wonder about the point of writing, photography, and my other creative outlets. When I’m in a good place I come back to a few very solid reasons: I enjoy these activities and I find them meditative; they force me to consider and reflect on my experience and understanding of the world and ideas much more deeply and honestly; trying to capture an image, or knowing that I am going to write about something later, expands my awareness and appreciation of moments and experiences (this compliments Habit 2 – Be Curious); I get pleasure from thinking other people may find something from my work.

Creativity Goals

  • Write 500 words a day
  • Publish 50 posts on Soulchaser
  • Publish 50 posts on Rainforest Diaries
  • Publish 12 videos on Soulchaser Channel
  • Start a new podcast
  • Pursue a year long photographic project

HABIT 4 – BE INTENTIONAL

I waste a lot of time. I don’t mean that I spend a lot of time doing nothing. That would be fine, if that was what I was really doing and was what I has chosen to do. No. I mean I waste a lot of time procrastinating. Loads of time doing something I don’t really want to be doing (reading the news, Facebook, sitting drinking coffee), purely because I’m either too lazy, too unfocused, too unorganised, or too undisciplined to do what I really ought to be doing.

I also eat stuff, buy stuff, and make other choices that aren’t in line with my ethics or goals, and this is often because I’m being absent minded and I don’t catch myself doing it. I mean really catch myself – catch the self who caught the other self and thought, “ah don’t worry about it, no one will know”. The bastard. Mindfulness will help, but I have a few more direct approaches to this problem.

Intention Goals

  • Record (photograph) all non-biodegradable waste
  • Record and categorise all spending
  • Record all travel and calculate carbon footprint
  • Plan and schedule my year, months, weeks and days
  • Record the time and activity spent on my laptop

I have a few techniques and tools for these that I will share in another post. You’ll notice that I haven’t set targets, which is because I have no baseline. I also know that studies show that merely the act of recording behaviour usually has a positive effect.

HABIT 5 – BE ANIMAL

I couldn’t think of a really suitable verb for this habit, but I’m trying to encapsulate qualities of the physical, athletic, outdoors, tough, and alive human animal inside all of us. The one that evolved over millions of years to survive in a dangerous world, who lived viscerally and totally immersed in the present, devoid of the distractions of what we now experience as consciousness, and that is now tamed and made weak by self-awareness, comfort, ease, computers, desks, pizza deliveries and mass produced beer.

I want to run, climb, swim, surf, survive in the mountains, live in the rainforest. I want to experience those moments where I am one with my body and my environment – moments I have felt rarely since childhood, but that I know once were common, and could be again.

Animal Goals

  • Run 10k in under 40mins
  • 100 nights outdoors
  • Cycle the length of Britain
  • 50 days in the mountains
  • 10 lead climbs (outdoors)
  • Record time spent sitting down

OTHER GOALS

There are a few goals that don’t fit easily under these habits, but that are important nonetheless. Some are drawn from the lessons learned during my Annual Review process, others are a bit more specific.

  • Find a base, and stillness
  • Say “No” more – do less, but better
  • Go a full year without alcohol
  • Get a better mix of posts on Soulchaser – it was never meant to be another self-help blog
  • Write a 10 year vision and a 5 year plan for myself
  • Either commit to growing my business or to writing and photography as a profession

Now I have the awesome task of sitting down with a calendar and scheduling my year to make sure it is the best yet – blocking out periods of time for each goal to make sure that I don’t take on more than I can handle over the course of the year.

I will also use this list as a reference at the beginning of every month, when I plan in detail my goals and activities (I repeat this each week and every day getting more and more detailed as the time periods shrink), and finally I will review my progress after each quarter, and at the end of the year, making changes along the way as seems necessary.

And that’s how I do it. It works for others and it works for me, so I encourage you to try it out this year. Forget resolutions, think goals and habits, and keep it as simple as you need to. If you found this helpful, let me know.


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