my word for 2016: moxie

a dragon with moxie? nashville, TN.
what could have more moxie than a dragon? nashville, TN.

As I mentioned in my recent DCIG webinar, I’ve decided to pick a word to guide my year. It’s something that a lot of the crafty lifestyle bloggers I follow do, and while part of me feels a little silly, I learned last year the power of focusing in on a concept (visibility as applied to Research Data Services). Having a word creates focus, an overarching purpose, and helps me know that if the things I am up to feed that objective I’m doing just fine.

So this year my word is moxie.

: the ability to be active

: courage or determination

I thought about calmer words but I think I need a bit of forcefulness behind my word. Mostly I just love moxie because it has that gritty yet playful spark I need. I want to thrive in the messiness of it all as I work my way toward orderliness. I want to be an analytical powerhouse without losing my creativity. Also it feels super retro, bonus!

When I think about what I want this next year in all parts of my life I think about the things holding me back. Here are a few of the psychological barriers I’d like to power through.

Keep doing things that are uncomfortable and new and scary. You get into a job and sometimes it’s all too easy to become complacent, so I do my best to continue to push myself. Now more than I ever I know I need to keep my hunger, keep myself out on the edge. That where the useful stuff is, more often than not. The serendipitous stuff.

Iterate quickly and stay on the move. The driving force behind my ability to work well is momentum. I am more productive when I feel like I’m building toward something. The slumps I fell into last year often coincided with projects I just could not get answers on or push forward.  This is why I now recognize the value in having simultaneous projects with different levels of complexity, scope, risk, and potential payoff.

Prioritize the essentials. Last year I read the book Essentialism and it had a profound affect on me. Why focus on a ton of little things that we end up not doing well and don’t satisfy us when we could focus on the heavy hitters? This means sticking with my gut and picking a direction and going with it until it no longer feels right. Saying no. Frequent gut checks about the path I’m on.

Set my own deadlines. This is a subset of my focus on rapid iteration. I need deadlines otherwise things don’t get done! A lot of my work is self-directed or comes with a fairly flexible timeline. I don’t usually have tasks with hard deadlines, so I’ve been creating a habit of setting these myself. They’re often arbitrary but that doesn’t matter; all that matters is that they exist. Otherwise the time gets eaten away by other tasks and I end up doing things just before they need to get done. I feel like a productive person, don’t get me wrong – but I could be better. When I imagine what I could do if I just locked myself in the office overnight and set to getting things done…

Allow myself to be bad at things. I saved the NUMBER ONE thing I want to prioritize for last. This is my PRIMARY struggle. On a small scale, it means I turn away from things I don’t like, that are for whatever reason unpleasant or not to my taste – and then they fester away until eventually I deal with them. Because of course they don’t just disappear! An email that requires a complex answer, a multi-step task that’s inconvenient. It all gets dealt with, so that’s not really the issue – the issue is how heavily things weigh on you in this scenario. Avoidance breeds power that it shouldn’t have and I find that it has a profound effect on my energy toward totally unrelated tasks. I recently discovered that psychologists refer to this as “attentional residue.” How’s that for a visual? Really though, I think it does a good job conveying the lingering weight that procrastination creates. 

When you’re a kid you don’t worry about judging yourself against others, appearing this way or that way. You lose yourself wholly to your passions. There’s a period of time where you are pretty bad at something, and not always in a comfortable, enjoyable way. I’d love to move back to that place. Interestingly enough, I think I’m actually better at being “bad” at things in my work life than my personal life. When it comes to my creative endeavors I don’t feel as free as I want to feel. I feel sort of panicky and unable to begin because my mind fixates at how unready I am, that it’s not the right time, that I’ll feel more ready and therefore have a better end result at some unspecified later date… and of course that’s all utter BS because the best time to start something is right now. We all get that intellectually but our brains trick us – and I’m quite susceptible.

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So those are a few things that have been on my mind lately. To me they also provoke some interesting experiments in productivity and service building, too – what’s the tension between iterating quickly and doing uncomfortable new things, for instance? How do you keep static priorities while embracing those new tendrils of possibility that introduce themselves unannounced and can be the most worthy to pursue?

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