Every birthday, I take some personal time out and evaluate my progress over the last year.

I turned 22 today, and figured I may as well post this evaluation on the website. Assuming the site continues until next year, this might help me “standardise” the process so I’m following a more consistent template and can track progress. I’ll include some related thoughts, which hopefully you can get some value from. Most importantly, simply airing my personal evaluation and goals for the future will help me live with a little more honesty, openness, and accountability.

I’m not quite sure how long I’ve had this birthday evaluation process – perhaps four years now. It arose organically when I started scheduling “me time” on my birthdays to satisfy my natural introversion and get some quiet time to recharge for the year ahead. Being alone with your thoughts on a milestone day (by social custom, at least) leads fairly quickly to self-appraisal, and a relatively ambitious and analytical mindset then lends itself to writing down conclusions from this process.

My efforts to actually track and stay cognizant of these conclusions have been relatively weak in the past. I have systems in place to keep track of my personal development generally (in fact, my self-improvement is now virtually concentrated into a single spreadsheet), but these goals and lessons merely get integrated into those systems alongside other priorities; they haven’t been particularly highlighted above others, which I’ll seek to fix this year.

With that said, my “birthday resolutions” do tend to stick with me far better than any New Year’s Resolutions I make in addition (although I did get some good work done on becoming interesting). One possible reason for this is that since my birthday is in November, my NYRs can tend to be seem novel and exciting, having covered much the same content only two months ago. Another reason is that ‘everyone’ makes NYRs, so I get caught with the double whammy of going through a less personal (and thus meaningful) process, then seeing it become socially acceptable to fail or forget those resolutions.

Hopefully, on January 1st of 2016, I’ll remember my commitment here to the birthday evaluation process and come back to these goals instead of making entirely new resolutions. My goal setting is fine – it’s my goal cognizance that needs improvement. This could actually be an example of too much metacognition – perhaps I think too much about new and better ways to set goals, instead of just arbitrarily picking one and focusing on keeping those goals prominent in my mind. We’ll see!

Anyway, here goes…


Attitude My mental state this year could generally be characterised by happiness to the point of occasional apathy. I’ve been very resilient and able to take any failures and obstacles in my stride, even using them as a springboard to even greater happiness. The downside of this ability to remain virtually constantly happy is that I’ve come to rely on it too much as a “safety net” – knowing that I can still be happy even if I fail a subject, or don’t progress in my debating, for example, has sometimes undermined my imperatives to actually try hard at those pursuits.

Subsequent failure – or at least, lack of progress – hasn’t really made me unhappy (which would have proven my confidence unfounded and destroyed that apathy), but does give me a vague sense of dissatisfaction and age beyond my accomplishments. I need to find ways to let my confidence “slip” in beneficial ways, and tie it more to my tangible pursuits, but am concerned that this would be taking a step backwards in some regards.

Beliefs – The largest challenge I am currently facing is a bit of an existential crisis; my studies are aligned towards a career as an astronaut / engineer, but all my extracurriculars and hobbies are pointed in different directions (most noticeably towards diplomacy and politics). I think I can resolve this crisis simply by “reimpulsing” my physics studies (i.e. rediscovering the reasons I love it as a short-term activity, not just a means to an end) and finding some engineering extracurriculars that I enjoy, but I should consider setting criteria that will determine if engineering is still my preferred career or not.

My belief that both self-improvement and self-acceptance are valuable for confidence, but the latter is more desirable, has remained constant. Perhaps driven by seeing others “specialise” around me (while maintaining an eccentric mix of hobbies for myself), I’m shifting more towards a belief that a strong and coherent identity is essential for confidence. Formlessness and ego death are valuable reactionary responses to challenges, but they shouldn’t be the status quo in the meantime.

Character – I’ve become a lot more comfortable and passionate about giving to others, which I’m proud of, and assume more of a responsibility for keeping others upbeat and happy. Regardless of my work ethic towards my personal goals, I’ve been very willing to step up and help others when the opportunity presents itself. I ended a lengthy relationship with a fair amount of grace, and have only goodwill towards that ex-girlfriend. My friendships, dating, and sex life since have been very positive and ethical.  Overall, I’m fairly confident that I’ve been a “good person” this year.

One flaw is that I haven’t been particularly “present” or “mindful” this year, although this has rebounded in the last month. Improving this would be massive for my own happiness, but also help my social interactions; I haven’t put quite enough effort into remembering names, faces, and events in others’ lives, which can sometimes produce a feeling of distance between myself and others. I need to give more to others not just through my actions, but also simply my presence and investment in every single interaction.

Development – My primary triumph this year has probably been starting Model United Nations and quickly establishing myself as a relatively high quality delegate and general participant in my university’s UN association. It’s been a great fusion of debating and friendlier networking, which is definitely a new skill in my toolbox. Otherwise, my social life has been excellent, my casual language study has continued and is expanding, this project (CoC) is on track, and my fitness peaked earlier this year before a few heart issues. Listing out these accomplishments makes me a little more confident in my ability to keep many plates spinning at once.

That said, my university studies this year have been abysmal and should be my key area of improvement next year. My self-guided rocketry studies (and general reading schedule, for that matter) aren’t particularly necessary, but I would have liked to get more done there. Cleanliness and sleep schedule have been erratic. My debating experience improved, but my actual speaking capability seems to have suffered somewhat – I am not sure how to drag this one back up short of brute forcing my way there through more debating and effort.

Overall… I’m pretty happy with myself as a person, and should stay cognizant that my personal efforts are far more than the average Australian will muster… but I still yearn to do more and hold myself to a higher standard. My key focus should be my work ethic and discipline; improving those further for ALL pursuits (not just really novel ones) should resolve most of the issues I had. Secondary to that, I should make more of an effort to stay mindful and present.

Age 22 Goals

These are purely my “measurable” goals which I can track in my homemade personal development systems, and which serve as a much more tangible visualisation and motivation cue. I’ll need to stay cognizant of my character goals as well, as listed above.

I should print this table and post it above my computer monitor:

Astronautics Business Debating
Notes on 1 textbook Publish 5 products Break @ Australs
Education Fitness Language
Pass 8 subjects Enter PL competition Fluent Italian
Maturation Model UN Reading
Get off welfare D.A. @ Worlds 12 books

More description:

  • Take full notes for at least one rocketry textbook, typically the unclassified liquid propellant one I started with and seemed high quality. These should be done in LaTeX so I’ll come back and actually use them as a source.
  • Publish at least five products for Concepts of Confidence, ideally a blend of books and the spreadsheets I have planned. Establish it as a business in principle, take care of my marketing and free content, and everything else will follow.
  • Aim to do well at Easters (possibly break?) to establish a good track record, then try my heart out for Australs trials. Don’t crash this time. Cement a good team. Proceed to break. It’s the next logical milestone to cheer me back up.
  • I need to get back to a “proper” full-time schedule at uni (8 subjects), and aim to pass these – ideally with a 5+ GPA – while simultaneously balancing all my other priorities. This is a more realistic goal then my previous straight 7 ambitions.
  • I’ve really learned how to keep a solid diet this year, and my intermediate program seems to work well. If I stay more consistent, I can enter a powerlifting competition and get that experience under my belt (literally). Will help me identify as a “powerlifter” more!
  • I’ll be learning basic Italian for WorldMUN anyway, and can expand this into fluent-ish capacity so I’m basically trilingual. Just as romantic a language, with a similarly interesting culture and history. Go for it!
  • About fucking time I got off welfare. Use the business to do this in a sustainable fashion, use my current part-time work to support me until I get there. Aim for this by the time uni resumes. Do it out of principle!
  • Nab a Diplomacy Award (top award, as far as I know) at WorldMUN. I know Jess is capable of it, and just need to bring my A-game to claim a “world champion” title of sorts. This would be extremely rewarding.
  • Read 12 books next year, at one per month. This is a downgrade from the 52 I’ve previously completed in a year, but is a reasonable goal given my other massive commitments above.

If I can hit maybe 5 or 6 of these goals, I’ve got grounds to call it a really good year with solid development. 7 or 8 would have me completely stoked, and 9 would basically make it a “perfect year” for me. So, Jack… check back on this when you’re 23 and see how you went. If you didn’t reach them, why?

  • Did you put in the effort and just fail? Use more metacognition and plan better next time.
  • Did you fail to put in the effort, and still haven’t fixed your work ethic? Consider getting more resources (books etc.) to help you fix this problem once and for all. Reconsider your life motivations.
  • Did you just forget your goals? Find ways to stay even more cognizant of them, to the point of obsession. Anything less apparently won’t work.

I know I’m only 22 now, but I’m starting to feel old – “memento mori” is weighing heavily on my mind in a university culture with so many younger, equally ambitious, and equally accomplished people around me. This will decrease the more I step my game up. I’ve already started today, by officially registering Concepts of Confidence as a business… Let’s just keep it going, yeah? Take Seinfield’s approach and just keep crossing off progress each day, and I’m bound to make it. I’m sure as hell smart, skilled, and confident enough.

Happy birthday, me!