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Every year the scene remains the same. Somebody lights candles on top of your birthday cake. Friends and/or family then sing you “Happy birthday.” Next someone instructs you to make a wish and blow out the candles. While a nice tradition, let me ask. How are those birthday wishes working out for you?
Actually, allow me to guess. Much like the New Year resolutions you made in January, your birthday wishes fizzle out. Do you want to know how I knew that? Without the magical forces which only exist in the fictional realm, wishes collapse. Mimicking a “Happy Birthday” balloon losing air.
Please do not let my words deflate you. In fact, I am here to instill hope. Although, the first step in that process stands forgetting birthday wishes. Instead, adopt a different birthday tradition. I am talking about a concept I promoted the past half decade, the birthday self-reflection.
Over that time, I developed 11 questions to ask yourself. To encourage you to use your birthday as a time for self-reflection, I will lead by example. Publicly answering my 11 birthday self-reflection questions. Along the way, demonstrating why you should choose self-reflection over mere birthday wishes. Shall we begin?
Entering the Birthday Self-Reflection Zone
Question #1: Compared to a year ago, how are you better off now?
I am better off now compared to a year ago in multiple ways. Professionally, I experienced great strides with my library career. Going from a guaranteed 16 hours a week in circulation to 32 hours a week. Additionally, I underwent training so I can now serve as a substitute at the reference desk.
Besides work, I feel more confident. An increase I attribute to what I call my “I am” affirmations. The Team Fearless YouTube channel introduced me to the thought that the two most powerful words in the English language are, “I am.” As their motivation explains, “Because what comes after I am will shape your life.”
Implementing said philosophy into action, I started fusing the affirmations with my daily set of reverse crunches. Saying to myself before each reverse crunch, “I am strong.” “I am healthy.” “I am positive.” So on and so forth. Fittingly, on my few bad days I found the affirmations taking over. As if on autopilot. Creating my increased confidence.
Question #2: What stands out?
The tremendous support I received from others in my life over the last year stands out to me. Much of this support corresponded with the release of my second memoir Slow and Cerebral. From my parents providing me assistance in preparing for different author events to co-workers, friends, and family showing up to help make those events a success I gained memories to cherish for years to come.
To name a few, helping to set an attendance record for Cuyahoga County Public Library’s monthly self-publishing roundtable event. Signing 28 books at my first ever book signing. Hearing someone exclaim, “I came for Zach!” at a holiday book fair headlined by author, Fox 8 News morning show co-host, and legit local celebrity, Wayne Dawson.
Equally important, the chance to spend quality time with friends and family stands out. Playing hide and seek with my young niece and nephew. Reuniting with my original race buddy Nate and completing the Reindeer Run 5K in December. In January seeing my incredible friend James honored as one of “4 Under 40 Emerging Leaders of United Way of Lake County.” The list could go on.
Question #3: What did you accomplish?
A sense of accomplishment fills me when I think about the reader feedback I received for Slow and Cerebral. At the moment, the book has five ratings on Amazon. All five stars! Plus, two ratings on Goodreads. One five-star and one four-star. I encourage you though to form your own opinion and read Slow and Cerebral for yourself.
Less glamorous, I feel my physical upkeep deserves recognition as an accomplishment. Living with cerebral palsy requires constant physical care. For me that means a good sleep each night and regular stretching and exercise. I imagine these activities will only become more important as I continue to age.
Question #4: What goals did you set?
Honestly, I have lacked in setting goals. At least consistently. A decade ago, I would set goals like blog or exercise regularly. Defining regularly as blogging once a week and exercising twice a week. These days though, I make my way through life on a whim. Still exercising regularly, but rather than using the calendar to ensure I exercise twice every seven days, I exercise when my hamstrings start tightening on me to the point my ability to concentrate gets impaired. Regarding blogging, subscribers know how infrequent I am posting.
About the only consistent goal I continue to set for myself is to do a set of reverse crunches daily. An exercise which helps strengthen my core and maintain my balance. While the goal to do reverse crunches everyday remains on my mind’s forefront, I cannot say I am rising to said challenge every day. More on that though with the next question.
Question #5: What did you do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to achieve your goals?
With my one consistent goal of doing reverse crunches, I found success by taking a proactive approach. Completing my reverse crunches before going to work. If I wait until afterwards, I might feel too tired to meet my goal.
An essential for when those fatigued days happen entails letting the failure go. Keeping a focus on the next day and not yesterday’s mishap. Focusing on moving forward prevents failures from overwhelming me.
Question #6: What went right?
Staying true to my established priorities has helped to keep me on the right path. My number one priority being caring for myself physically. While not exercising as much as I would like, I continue to listen to my body and proceed accordingly. Many times, over the last year I recall facing a choice between working on content or exercising. Feeling my hamstrings tug, I knew I first needed to exercise.
Meanwhile, on the occasions when I could choose content creation, I proceeded focused. Putting my idea into action until seeing the video or post to completion. Avoiding the “idea hopping” behavior I previously identified in a past birthday reflection.
Question #7: What went wrong?
Ironically, answering what went wrong involves going back to something I mentioned when answering how I am better off now compared to a year ago. I touted about my increase to 32 hours a week with my library job. Although positive in various ways, the additional hours created new challenges. For instance, more hours means less free time to blog, vlog, and serve as the CP Vigilante. Plus, working longer hours also means expending more energy, causing increased fatigue.
Please note, I am not complaining. Nor do I regret accepting more hours. Rather I am honestly answering the question. Recognizing the reality and understanding the key to rising to the new challenges involves adapting to my new schedule.
Question #8: What habits hindered you?
As opposed to any habits hindering me, I think a lack of habits hindered me. Earlier I mentioned a proactive approach helped me to achieve my daily reverse crunches goal. Yet fully adopting said proactive approach remained a random process. Happening when the situation allows. Instead, I need to get in the habit of creating the situation. If I work 9-5:30, I should set my alarm 15 minutes earlier to give me time to be proactive and get my crunches done before work.
A similar habit could help me produce more content. Giving myself 30 minutes to an hour a day to work on content would ultimately lead me to releasing content more frequently. I must remember. Small actions taken daily make a habit and long-term, those habits produce results.
Question #9: How would you grade your overall effort and why?
C because my efforts feel average to me. I am doing enough to function properly, but at the same time I know I could do more. Perhaps though, I am just letting my ambitious side grade me too critically.
Question #10: How can you move forward better in the next year?
Through listening to my answers from the above questions I could move forward better and make 36 a remarkable age. That means setting consistent goals. Measurable goals like spending 30 minutes a day creating content and once again exercising twice every seven days.
Additionally, I need to take more proactive actions. For example, waking up 15 minutes earlier to give me time to complete my reverse crunches before work. Or, mapping out my week with daily to-do lists.
Question #11: One year from today what will you look back on and celebrate?
In one year I plan to possess much to look back on and celebrate. I will proudly recall the cerebral palsy Twitter chat I co-host, #CPChatNow, celebrating our 10th anniversary in December 2023. Also, I intend to raise my blog’s ranking on Feedspot’s “Top 35 Cerebral Palsy Blogs and Websites.” Currently, I rank 14th on their list. I am eyeing cracking the top 10. In the process gaining additional honors for my blog.
Beyond celebrating milestones and garnering blog accolades, I will rejoice in becoming more involved with my college alma mater Notre Dame College (NDC). A feat already in motion and which will include my participation and presence at NDC’s Falcon 5K and One-Mile Walk Sunday, April 30th, 2023.
Much Better Than Birthday Wishes, Right?!
As today’s post goes to show, the birthday self-reflection proves more beneficial than making flimsy birthday wishes. An honest reflection will leave you celebrating accomplishments, addressing shortcomings, and designing a metaphorical blueprint to move forward better in the next year. So, forget birthday wishes! Instead embrace the self-reflection birthday tradition. Oh, and happy birthday!
Until next time, remember. Don’t blend in. Blend out!