Goals, Identity, And Self Care — Some Thoughts On What I’m Trying To Do In 2020

I don’t remember exactly where I saw this, maybe it was in the Netflix bio thing on Bill Gates, or maybe it was in a random interview of him I watched on youtube, but somewhere out there on the internet I heard Bill Gates say that no matter what, even if he hates it, he finishes every book he starts because he knows if he let himself quit one book, he’d quit them all.

This guy finishes ever book he starts.

This really resonated with me, not only because I too finish every book I start, but also because when I look at myself, I see things that at first appear to be goals, but are really part of my identity.

So does this guy

For example, I see myself as a person who, no matter what, reads 52 books a year. Its nonnegotiable. I do it, every year, and completing it has certainly become part of my self-identity.


This got me thinking about other things that I’d like to become part of my self-identity. If I internalized things about my exercise and food choices and my spiritual/intellectual life not as goals, but as things that make me who I am, what more could I accomplish? For example, if instead of saying “I’d like to run 2000 miles a year” I said “I run 2000 miles a year” what would that do to my fitness, and my self-identity as a serious runner?


Digging in to this question is what I am going to experiment with this year. Its part of a plan I’ve been working on to build a revised and updated middle aged 3.0 version of Sean. I’m still toying with what form this will take, exactly, but I’ll use 2020 to experiment with broadening my personal identity to include things like “I eat a plant-based diet” and “I run 2000 miles a year” and “I study Hebrew”.

In the last couple of years, I’ve moved away from personal updates on this blog, but I might bring it back this year. I’m excited for 2020, for experimenting, for learning, and for building a better version of myself. Maybe I’ll document it here, maybe not. We’ll see.

The Year That Was

About a week ago I was doing a loop around the park when I was passed by a member of my running club.  In the summer of 2011, when I was running strong and setting PRs, he and I were just about the same speed.  Perhaps I was even a little faster.  Now, he was smoking me.

As he cruised past, I thought about what an awful year 2012 has been for my running.  I started the year coming off of an injury and then, like an idiot, I ramped the miles up too quickly and ended up with a case of Achilles Tendonitis so bad I could barely walk.  It took months to get that straightened out.  By the time I was healthy again I was in terrible shape.  I have spent the last four months building up my miles, and bringing down my average pace very, very slowly.  I’m determined this time to be smart, to take my time, and to get through a whole year without a running injury.

All told, I ran 761 miles in 2012 in a total of 124:59:57 hours.  Not a great showing, but at least I can say I learned a lot about myself, and this sport.  I did not set a single PR, in fact, I did not run a single race but I did stick with it, and there is some small consolation in that.

Other than running, my fitness pursuits this year were all over the map.  I dabbled in many different forms of exercise, two of which, body weight training and rock climbing, I put a fair amount of time into and are things I hope to pursue more seriously in the coming year.

Oh, and the Hebrew.  How I wish this language would just work its way into my mind all on its own.  Alas, it continues to torment me and demands more time than I have to give.  I made serious gains in my ability to read the language this year, but my comprehension is still virtually zero.  More work, more hours, and that will change.

This all sounds like a downer, but it isn’t.  I’m finally back in decent shape, running well and finding time here and there for Hebrew study.  While my running was garbage this year, and my other activities and studies did not live up to what I had hoped, my real live, actual, life was pretty fucking awesome.

In January I started at a new firm, which has been challenging and rewarding in ways I never could have imagined.  I have a legit career which is something the twenty year old me could never have imagined.

I also had the time of my life in Turkey and Greece with the love of my life, E, and less than a week ago, we bought an apartment in a building with a gym in the basement.  All in all, life is looking pretty good.  I’m entering the New Year ready to get in some miles, crack open some books, and unpack some boxes.  More on the specifics of what I plan to do in a future post.