Growing another year wise by answering birthday reflection questions.

Birthday Reflection: Another Year Older and Wiser

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Your favorite cake sits before you. Radiating a delicious glow. Or, maybe that glow comes from the flickering candles on top the cake’s surface. “Make a wish” your loved one encourages.

To risk coming across as rude, let me interrupt here. Wishes work best in fairy tales. You and I do not live in a fairy tale world. No genie or magical entity appears to grant birthday wishes. Wishing does nothing.

Blunt, I know. Yet I mean well. I want the best for you. So, oppose to making a birthday wish let me suggest using your birthday to reflect. First though, feel free to blow out those candles.       

Now over the years I promoted the birthday reflection concept. To the point you and I collectively compiled 11 questions to ask ourselves come birthday time. Questions which help you develop an action plan. A blueprint to ensure a more successful year ahead. Shall I demonstrate?

Join me as I answer our 11 birthday reflection questions. Hopefully after reading, you will feel inspired to answer them too.

My 2020 Birthday Reflection

Question #1: Compared to a year ago, how are you better off now?

Compared to a year ago, I am better off now multiple ways. I gained accolades. Since my last birthday Expertido named my blog among the “23 Best Cerebral Palsy Blogs.” Additionally Wiki Ezvid highlighted me in their video “Five Inspiring Writers Advocating for Those with Disabilities.” Such recognition leaves me better off by attaching further credibility to my name.

Expertido.org badge for being one of the best cerebral palsy blogs.

Delving deeper, I endured many challenges the past 12 months. Challenges I admittedly instigated through keeping an overwhelming schedule. Consequently, I failed to publish blog posts and Youtube videos as frequently as I wanted. Worsening the situation, I would idea hop. Get an idea. Start a post or video script. Then another idea came to me. Abandoning my in-progress project, I began working on my new idea.

Repeating the above enough times left me feeling defeated. Days, weeks, and months passed. Nevertheless, I possessed little to show for my time. Exasperated, one day I asked myself “What am I doing with my time?” That question led me to identify my idea hopping ways. To resolve the problem habit, I rediscovered my focus. Becoming refocused certainly makes me better off now versus a year ago!                       

Question #2: What stands out?

A few different moments from the last 12 months stands out to me. Helping to raise funds for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Greater Cleveland by captaining Team CP Vigilante at the 2019 Race to Empower event. My team included family, friends, and my childhood physical therapist! Two friends and my PT kept my pace, completing the 10k alongside me. Cool side note, the event marked the first 10k for all three!

Team CP Vigilante stands together at the finish line.
Team CP Vigilante at UCP of Greater Cleveland’s 2019 Race to Empower

About a month later I visited Cincinnati, Ohio. While there I spent quality time with fellow CP kin Daryl Perry and Hannah Pike. Daryl had me on his podcast, The Daryl Perry Podcast. Meanwhile Daryl joined me for a video to discuss what the phrase “Don’t blend in. Blend out!” means to him.  Hannah also joined me for a video, where she discussed social media’s positives. She and I met years ago thanks to the cerebral palsy Twitter chat #CPChatNow. However, this visit served as our first in-person meeting. Hannah even gave me a great keepsake.  An original artwork reading “#CPChatNow.”    

Rounding out last year’s highlight reel, I must mention a long overdue feat. Publishing Off Balanced in paperback form! The paperback release happened in February. With paperback copies Off Balanced becomes available to a larger audience. Plus, opens me up to greater opportunities. Exciting stuff!

Question #3: What did you accomplish? 

Likely you will agree, releasing Off Balanced in paperback format qualifies as an accomplishment. Elsewhere a stealthier achievement entailed maintaining a positive mindset amid frustrating times. Frustrations related to changes happening at my “Clark Kent” job. Not to mention, frustrations accompanying my infrequent posting blogs and videos. 

In case you did not know, I work part-time at a library. Thus, the explanation behind my “Clark Kent” job reference. Between new policies implemented and the years wearing away the position’s novelty, temptation to grow disgruntled emerged.

Oppose to letting the irritation consume me, I fought to stay optimistic. Reminding myself to appreciate the positive elements I started to take for granted. To name a couple, my co-workers respect my physical challenges and happily accommodate me. Furthermore, I enjoy a consistent but flexible schedule. Providing convenience most jobs lack. Rather than continuing naming positives, let me move to the next birthday reflection question.

Question #4: What goals did you set?

New goals I had set the last 12 months varied. Release Off Balanced in paperback form. Finish the manuscript for my next book. Update my website to meet revised Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations.

Notice I called the aforementioned new goals. A key distinction given I also sought to maintain goals previously set. Exercise twice a week. Publish my recaps for #CPChatNow at least 24 hours prior to the next chat. Update my website’s information annually. Blog once a week. Release a new Youtube video every Sunday.         

Question #5: What did you do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to achieve your goals?

Strangely, what I did to achieve my goals adhered to no strict calendar basis. Instead I found success in an organized and focused approach. Take for instance prepping Off Balanced’s paperback release. Approaching the goal as a singular task “Get Off Balanced in paperback” overwhelmed me. How do I turn my e-book cover into a full-fledged book cover complete with a back and spine? How do I know how much space to leave for the spine? Should I buy my own ISBN number or use a free Amazon ISBN? How do they differ?

Such questions froze me in uncertainty. Well, until I wrote everything down. Once written down, I developed a to-do list I could easily manage. Research difference between ISBN numbers. Search Youtube for how-to videos about making book covers. Create book cover and etcetera.

Separating the bigger goal into smaller tasks tremendously influenced my progress daily and weekly. Enabling me to focus on different tasks day-to-day as needed. Ultimately leading to a mission accomplished.

Zachary proudly holding a paperback copy of his book Off Balanced.
Mission accomplished!

Question #6: What went right?

In answering birthday reflection question number five, I indicated what went right. Adopting an organized and focused approach. An approach made possible courtesy my tendency to talk to myself. Without exasperatedly asking “What am I doing with my time?” perhaps I never pinpoint my problematic idea hopping habit. Recognizing a problem equals the first step towards developing a solution.       

As already alluded to, my solution involved writing everything down. Sounds simple indeed. Nonetheless the particulars may differ. For example, with tasks related to Off Balanced’s paperback release I utilized pen and paper to literally write everything down.

Contrastingly when updating my website, I allowed WordPress to do the writing. Visiting zacharyfenell.com’s all-time site stats to strategically implement my updates. Addressing my most viewed pages first and working down the list from there.         

Question #7: What went wrong?  

Honestly, I went wrong by not accounting for life’s continuous nature. A truth exemplified in my attempt to finish my next book. Back in December I set a goal to write 800 words every day throughout January and February. I went as far as creating handmade calendars for the months to track my progression.

Quickly my practical plan to write 800 words a day derailed. A temporary increase in hours at my “Clark Kent” job causing the havoc. Alternative to readjusting my plan, I simply became beaten. Allowing the word total I must reach accumulate to unachievable heights.         

Question #8: What habits hindered you?

One hindering habit I already mentioned multiple times, idea hopping. To avoid sounding repetitive, I will move on and discuss another hindering habit. Waking up whimsically.

Outside the few mornings I worked at the library, I completely ignored my alarm clock. Over and over setting my alarm for 6:30am or 7am. Then over and over dismissing the alarm to snooze a little longer.

Ultimately the extra sleep equates to stealing from myself. Taking anywhere in-between an hour to two hours a day away from my CP Vigilante efforts. Add up the stolen hours for a week. I am robbing myself anywhere between seven to 14 hours! Imagine what more I could get done with an extra seven to 14 hours a week!

Question #9: How would you grade your overall effort and why?

Birthday reflection question number nine asks "How would you grade your overall effort and why?"

Overall, I would grade my effort the past 12 months a C. I arrived at the C grade by grading my effort on each individual goal I had and averaging them together. Some goals I aced, seeing them to fruition. Other goals I struggled with. Although considering I still eked out progress, I would not say I entirely failed.

Question #10: How can you move forward better in the next year?

I could move forward better in the next year by applying the lessons I learned in my birthday reflection to everyday life. Continue talking to myself to check I am sustaining my focused and organized approach to tasks. Write to-do lists to turn overwhelming large goals into manageable activities. Whenever life sparks havoc, reassess plans and adjust appropriately. To maximize the precious commodity known as time, obey my alarm clock.           

Question #11: One year from today what will you look back on and celebrate?

One year from today, when I am working on my 2021 birthday reflection, I intend to celebrate two major milestones. First and foremost, publishing my next book. Stay tuned in the coming months for details on that.

Secondly, I am seeking to complete my third marathon. Again, I will most likely share about that here too. If you want to stay updated, subscribe. You may do so below.

Until next time, remember. Don’t blend in. Blend out!

-Zachary   

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