On Setting Personal Goals

When I started this website, I had a reasonable goal: publish something interesting, each month.

It’s the end of the month, I’m exhausted and I didn’t publish anything this month. Or last month. I have essays I want to write: on the social implications of AI, on the newest and interesting climate tech I’ve been learning about in the last few months, on working in a few wildly different professional environments & my advice for impact-oriented individuals. This cool idea of writing a collaborative essay with other impact-oriented friends on our experiences wrestling value-oriented professional careers.

But in the last couple months, life has been exhausting. Work has ramped up in an exciting, but energy draining way. My parents went through a crisis and I pivoted all social energy towards helping, spending time with, and worrying about them. Weekends have been full of joyful social events, and I’ve lost the time and mental energy required for reflection and writing. I have a word document on my computer of bullet points of multiple ideas. But I find myself starting at a blinking cursor, while cuddling my dog, and letting the creative spark fade.

And you know, that’s ok.

I didn’t hit my goal for September, and this barely counts as October.

But I’m going to publish this anyway, because I want to post again in November, and I don’t want the chasm to widen until it feels non-traversable.

So while I haven’t hit this personal goal as of late, I’m going to allow it. If you’ve made it this far, some of what I’ve been doing the last couple months:

  • Reading Enlightenment Now, by Steven Pinker, as gifted by a friend. It’s introduced me to the concept of “Conditional Optimism”, which is so drastically clashing with my core fatalism against the world, I find myself needing to take breaks to reconsider my core beliefs, and attempt to integrate a philosophy of rational, data-based optimism (especially concerning violence, social justice, and climate change).
    • Complacent optimism: You are optimistic and believe the best will happen, but you don’t do anything to move it along. I.e. your birthday is tomorrow, and you hope you get a bunch of presents.
    • Conditional optimism: You are optimistic, and take control of your own life to ensure a positive outcome. I.e. you believe we can improve our world, and you dedicate your career and your life to making it happen.
      • “We cannot be complacently optimistic about climate change, but we can be conditionally optimistic.  We have some practicable ways to prevent the harms and we have the means to learn more.  Problems are solvable.  That does not mean that they will solve themselves, but it does mean that we can solve them if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far…” (p. 154-155)
  • Expanding my reading horizons. After 6 months of serious books, I read my first romance novel, a mystery novel set in rural India, and a compendium of magical realism/science fiction short stories. The most beautiful story I read: State Change, by Ken Liu.
  • Exploring secular, non-religious, spirituality with the Unitarian Universalists and meditation. This will eventually spin out into something through-provoking. Or potentially self-reverential. Likely something in the middle.
  • Watching movies with friends, playing games, and leaning into the joy of community.