A new focus

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha

I have learned a lot these past few weeks. Sure I’ve gained a lot of development experience, including some really cool tricks. One of these days I’ll be sharing some of it, but that day is not today. Instead I am sharing my latest experience on growth.

Many times while learning something new, and difficult, we forget the most important part of our growth lives within ourselves. Last year I was in charge of a local conference, as well as redesigning an application in a new mapping platform. It was fun and a great opportunity to do this work, but the time commitment was so demanding that I didn’t take any time to focus on myself and my needs.  It not only affected my work, but me as an individual, colleague, and friend. What I learned is, that if we focus too hard on an objective, we can lose sight of other things that are important. Sometimes when this happens, things can go south quickly, kind of like what may have happened with this little guy:

Image source: unknown
Image source: unknown

A few weeks ago I read an article that changed all of that, and helped me bring the focus back to myself. Since this latest self-discovery, I have felt more empowered than I ever have in my life, accomplished more than I thought was possible, improved my personal and professional relationships, and have a better lifestyle as a result. The article itself isn’t important, it only helped me realize more about myself, so I could focus on who I am as an individual and how I can be a better colleague and friend by being me.

So I ask you the following: Who are you and why are you, you? Who, and what makes you happy? Who, and/or what makes you upset? These are not always easy answers, but they are critical to ask along your journey.

You may be thinking, “What the #$%@ are you taking about, Kitty!?” I know, I was right there with you a few weeks ago. But seriously, do this activity:

What is today’s date? Now, take a year off of today’s date. Think of where you were, what you were doing, who you were, and how you felt.

A lot has happened, right? Are you the same person you were last year? What have you learned? What have you accomplished?

For me this exercise taught me a great deal about myself and my journey. Since July 2014 I have managed a local GIS conference, rewritten a good portion of my mapping applications using a new platform, learned new libraries, made my first GitHub commit and pull request, toured around the Last Frontier, learned to say ‘no’, and countless other amazing things!

Image source: Eric Peterson
Image source: Eric Peterson

So going forward, what can you do? Below I have a list of a few things that I changed recently that helped me over the last few weeks. Will they work for you? Maybe. Maybe not. Just like the tools and solutions you and I use may differ, the same holds true for what you can do to better yourself. But hopefully the steps listed below can help guide you along your journey.

1. Set a routine: 

Optimize a schedule that fits you. What works best for you? Change your routine to reflect your personality.  But remember, it can take two to eight months for a habit to become part of a routine, so be ready for some initial struggles. Don’t give up on something just because it seems difficult right away. Give things a chance to fall into place. Most importantly don’t confuse a routine with exploration and embracing the unknown. It is important to continue to strive for your dreams and live without limits to encourage innovation.

For me setting a routine meant to focus on the hard things first and to do the mundane tasks at the end of the day. To do this, I flipped my day around, trying to tackle harder coding problems as soon as I arrive at my desk and saving routine e-mails, time tracking, and meetings for later in the day. The result? The feeling of accomplishment right away in the day, and a better attitude when ‘issues’ present themselves later on in the day.

2. Love what you do:

Find something at which you excel and make it your own. Who are you? What do you want to be? Customize your work and responsibilities to better fit your motives, strengths, and passion. Some of what you can get done in a day won’t be part of your work, but makes up the part of you that makes you special. Make those items matter. The best way to achieve success is to have selfless motives. Ask not what your job can do for you, but what you can do with your job.

 3. Lastly, and most importantly, never forget these three simple rules:

  • If you don’t go after what you want, you will never have it.
  • If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.
  • If you don’t step forward, you will always be in the same spot.

Now it’s your turn. So tell me, what has happened to you in the last 365 days? What have you learned? What have you accomplished?

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