My Intentions for 2022
💡 Living with Intent
It’s time to look ahead. A few days ago, I posted my personal review of 2021 and received lots of positive feedback for it. Thanks! It didn’t expect that, because the year felt more like a transition year to me, full of compromise. Probably I’m not the only one there, as this whole pandemic era seems to be a global transition. Many people are confused, unsure about the future, more careful to be optimistic. This might be why some replies to my review stressed how it was a refreshing read during that particular time. The most used word was a variation of “inspiring”, and that made me very happy. Now I have already answered part of the next question.
🎯 Why Goals?
Or, more general, just Why with a capital W. The nominalization of that word has become popular and is now often used as in “But what’s your Why?” Some also refer to it as their North Star.
In this last year in particular, it occurred to me that my Why is changing. When I started setting public goals at the beginning of 2017, now five years ago, it was solely an end to itself. A bit of curious experimentation, but mostly a way of motivating myself and holding myself accountable for things I wanted to do but feared I wouldn’t follow through on otherwise.
Now, as my kids are slowly growing into young adults and me setting a positive example makes an even larger impression on them, but also as my visibility has apparently grown, I am more and more interested in looking outwardly instead of focussing on my own growth here. Giving advice when asked for it, helping where I can, providing whatever I can offer. I don’t know if there was a trigger moment, I feel like I slipped into thinking this way. And if one of the things I can give is inspiration, I’m happy about that.
🧘 Goals → Intents
One of the challenges of setting hard goals like I want to run 3,000 km in 2022 is the high chance of failure and a negative interpretation of the unsuccessful result if it’s the case. Even though you might have made it to 2,600, which would be amazing, you could come out of it frustrated.
Words matter and set the tone for everything. So why not replace the word Goal with Intent? “I intend to run 3,000 km in 2022” helps to frame it optimistically no matter the outcome. You’re not as likely to give up completely when it becomes clear you won’t be able to reach 100% this time.
Intent can be applied in a broader way, too. Any activity will be more satisfying and lead to better results when done with intent. For me, it will be a combination of both goals and intents in 2022. In addition to a new Theme of the Year. A trinity of sorts.
🔎 Searching for a Theme
Continuing with the idea of having an overarching theme for a certain timespan which is supposed to help with decision making is one of the things which get me excited during the year. In 2021 I went with Stability, as explained in my goals post and analyzed in the review of the year.
While a great theme for the time being, starting in the fall season I grew out of it. Daily life felt like managing the status quo day in and day out. The days slipped into one another without much to differentiate them. That is the definition of stability and clearly better than a deterioration of any of the aspects, but it also can feel like stasis. Which it did. Sophie and I had quite a few talks about this during the end of the year and contemplated the reasons and possible solutions. What do we want from life? How would a perfect day look like in theory?
Trying to answer these questions is a good exercise, but it’s also just one aspect. If you write down what you could imagine your life to look like five years from now, it’ll just be a snapshot of what you want it to look like from the perspective of your present self. It makes you forget that things are in motion and always flowing. Between now and that imaginary day five years from now, so much can and will change. This doesn’t mean that we’re passively watching ourselves develop into one or the other direction, quite the contrary.
Looking at the progress we can make over a longer timespan of more than a year can be surprising. It’s part of the reason I started with Goals for the Decade in 2020. Recently I came across this fitting quote by Bill Gates, sometimes it’s also attributed to Tony Robbins.
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
Setting a theme for the whole decade is a task I’m not ready for yet, though. It requires answering the question “Who do I want to be?” so far into the future. Too daunting.
Even a whole year is a long time. 365 or 366 days can make a huge difference. Learning a difficult skill with intent every day for a year will make you very capable at it. But it’s also overwhelming at times.
Which is why I will now divide the year 2022 into its four seasons with their own goals, intents, and maybe even their own themes. Four digestible 90 day bites. Winter, which is January to March for my purposes, gets a new theme.
🗺 The Season of Exploration
With stability as my theme, the downside was that I was missing out on the enthusiasm of trying new things. Leaving your comfort zone, whatever you might call it. When every day is feeling similar and lacks enthusiasm, this can leave a lasting negative impact on us. Always being on an emotional baseline level without the exciting peaks needed to change.
Side note, last year I learned that you should never let anyone rob you of your enthusiasm, including yourself. Unless you’re Hitler, of course.
Exploration for me means looking at all the options, even finding new ones, trying some of them out, questioning them all, doing some things differently and finding new ways. On a more specific level, in a business context, this means saying yes a lot more often. A practice which has made Sir Richard Branson – nicknamed Dr. YES – one of the most successful people in history, when measured by wealth. That’s not my intent, it would be silly, but you can’t deny the guy has done some impressive and fun things with his life and radiates positivity. This can lead to an increased workload, but if it is a Yes to the correct questions, that workload will feel lighter.
With my company, this meant daring to build, publish, and now market a new software tool – a diversion from our usual commissioned client work. That new tool is called inSites.app and is a browser-based website analytics software without cookies or privacy issues, but instead with an algorithm to calculate and offset the carbon emissions of your website for you. 📊🔐🌳 – statistics, privacy, environment. I’m proud of it and it’s exciting to make this a new pillar of our company in 2022.
Additionally, later in 2021 I was approached by my inspiring friend Michael Mankus who is close with the team of German print and online magazine Runner’s World, a localized version of the US original, to follow through with a new project named 42_16. Explore all 16 German federal states by running a marathon in each of them. Of course, this was a Yes I gave early on in the process, even though it meant increasing my workload possibly by a lot.
As a family, we have enjoyed a lot of freedom in the last decade, which we mainly used for travel. Now, this has become a problem not only because of the travel restrictions, but because of Sophie’s strict timetables and little vacation variability at the hospital. We are actively pursuing changes in this regard, mainly in order to live and work abroad for a longer timespan in the future.
Exploration means excitement for me. It means searching for additions to my life which will get me to be more fast-thinking, fast-acting, to enjoy to adapt to new surroundings, to sharpen my skills on improvisation, and, in general, to experience more. I would like to evolve into a person who has a big bucket to draw from.
⌛️ Endurance Sports
An activity which ticks all the boxes and continues to provide joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and even ways to explore, is obviously set in stone as my intent for the new year, as it has been for a while. Some say, endurance sports will help with finding yourself and is cheaper than therapy – which might be true to some, but to me, achieving that tranquility is just a nice side effect.
In a psychology book I’m reading at the moment, I came across this statement.
The value you receive from a pursuit is often proportional to the energy invested.
Which leads to the question, do we trick our brains into thinking endurance sports has value just because the energy invested is rather high compared to other tasks? And if so, does it matter?
For me, the answer is that using information like this as a tool should be actively encouraged. We’re tricking ourselves all the time when it comes to our needs. Because after all, what do we really need apart from oxygen, water, food, shelter, love?
If we trick our brains into thinking an activity has been worthwhile and satisfying even though the measured outcome doesn’t further any cause in a productive sense, but on the other hand it’s also hurting nobody, then why not? Perceived value or real value, where’s the difference.
🦁 What I Intend to Do in 2022
- 🏃📚 12 & 12, of course. If you’re not familiar, to me this means running 12 marathons and reading 12 books. At least. I’m aiming for a lot more in both areas, especially since the 42_16 project alone would in theory get the marathon count up to 16. And 18 books last year didn’t feel like a lot – my list of interesting books is long, so that could be easily higher as well.
- ⛰ Endurance Trail des Templiers. This 106.5 kilometer long ultramarathon contains 4,820 meters of vertical gain and will be my main event in 2022. I’m looking forward to a long day in southern France, not too far away from Montpellier, at the end of October. If I’m lucky, it’ll go as well as Mozart 100 last year. It’s also a qualifier race for my Goal of the Decade, finishing the Western States 100 Endurance Run in California.
- 💨 Run a marathon in less than three hours. I feel like this is the year for it. In a few days, my new training plan for the flat and rather fast Hamburg Marathon at the end of April will commence. It is going to be very tough for me, but if I fail I will just try again for a fast marathon in September.
Those are the three mains, all of them hard goals with measurable outcomes. Successful completion or failure. We’ll see at the end of the year.
Additionally, there are a few soft intents which are important to me. Those are not as measurable, or I haven’t had a useful idea for making them measurable.
- Less digital distractions in my free time. This is tough to do because I work in a digital business, but here I mean the stuff we now do for non work related reasons, like Instagram doom scrolling. Also YouTube watching or getting notifications for everything all the time. Less of it.
- Emphasizing spending time working with my hands. I used to build things and that’s a very satisfying activity. Lately I have found excuses to not invest the time into it, but I think in retrospect that’s a bad decision. The positive effects and perceived value I get out of it is worth it.
- I recharge by being alone. With an office at home and four kids, that time is limited and usually needs to be filled with work. Sports check multiple boxes, including my need for solitude, but I will make more of an effort to find that alone time to gain more energy.
- Increase the time I spend sleeping. I’m bad at this at the moment, because there are so many interesting things to pursue all the time, especially in the evenings when the kids require no attention, but I realize the consequences of not getting enough sleep are no joke. Sophie and I recently looked at some pictures of us from three years ago and both noticed how much we have visually aged in the period since then. We’re looking exhausted in comparison. The way I look isn’t important to me, but as a symptom it is. Sleep will clearly help.
🎖 Using Challenges to Build Rituals
For these first 90 days of the year, I have come up with a bunch of daily activities I would like to explore, fitting my theme. In a recent episode of the Rich Roll Podcast I have learned another better way of naming these sort of habits. A ritual instead of a routine. If you call it a routine, it implies a passive recurring task that might even be an annoyance to you. A ritual is something you prepare for, you take your time, you value and enjoy it.
From January 1st to March 31st, I am:
- 🔋 Drinking zero alcohol; extended until April 24th, the day of the Hamburg Marathon.
- 💪 Doing strength work every day; consisting of just 20 push-ups and 2 minutes of planking to set the bar low.
- 🎽 Doing at least half an hour of endurance sports like running, biking, or swimming every day. Yoga counts, too.
- 🛍 Not buying anything non-essential.
Additionally, in January:
- 🏃 I’m doing a streak running month, which usually means running at least 1.6 kilometers per day. For me, the minimum is 5 kilometers.
- ✍️ And I intend to finish making a printed book out of the 28 EU capital marathon races I did between 2011 and 2018.
- 🧘 Meditate on every single day. Always wanted to, never got into it. Making it a ritual to see how that feels.
- 📹 Since reading the book The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou, I wanted to do a book summary as a video of it, because I think it’s brilliant. I abandoned that project halfway finished during summer of last year. So that’s happening in that month now.
- 🧼 And here’s a different one, I’m doing all the family washing in February. As if in a classic 1950s husband and wife setup, it’s been too long since I did the washing, so I’m currently learning everything from Sophie to take over for a month and make her life easier. I feel like I have to emphasize that it’s been my own idea. ☝️
And finally, in March:
- 😮💨 I want to do Wim Hof breathing exercises on every single day. Did it a few times, thought it felt good, making it a new ritual to explore.
- 📵 Aiming for less than one hour total screen time per day on my phone. Only exception is the kindle app, because reading is worth it.
We’ll see how far I got at the end of March!