A Meaningful Birthday Celebration

A Meaningful Birthday Celebration

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Birthdays offer a time to celebrate. Opportunity to gather with family and friends. Perhaps enjoying a good meal. Not to mention some cake. While an occasion to indulge in a good time, your birthday celebration also offers a chance for more. One birthday tradition assists with this. I am talking about the birthday self-reflection.

Naturally, such self-reflection works best when alone. Giving yourself a moment to look back at the last 365 days. By honestly reflecting on what went well and what did not go so well, you allow yourself to learn from the past year. Preparing you to make the most from your next 365 days, which you can do by answering the following 11 self-reflection birthday questions. I will even lead by example and answer them publicly. A task I do because I want to encourage you to make your birthday celebration meaningful.

So, let the meaningful birthday celebration begin!  

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

Compared to a year ago, I see myself as better off now in two specific ways. First, I feel healthier. An incredible feat considering how aging with cerebral palsy proves challenging. Yet I am managing to set personal bests in my athletic endeavors while also keeping pace with my finish times from up to seven years ago!

Secondly, I am wiser. Continuously learning from my life experiences. Both with my successes and failures. Details I will surely delve into as my birthday self-reflection progresses.        

Question #2: What stands out?

If you ask my co-workers, they may say I stand out as I adopted a more colorful wardrobe since June. Seriously though, many highlights from the past 12 months come to mind. Just to name a few, receiving a standing ovation from around 500 people after reading my poem “Colleagues” at my employer’s staff development day in October. Also in October, I served on a panel for the screening of Shadow, part of the 2023 ReelAbilities Film Festival Cleveland and Akron. Then in September I participated in STEPtember for the first time, achieving both my personal step goal for the month and fundraising goal.      

An example of my newly adopted colorful wardrobe.

Besides the positives, a lingering negative emotion stands out. Frustration. One area where I grew frustrated involved my leadership with the cerebral palsy X chat #CPChatNow. I find my waning reliability with the weekly recaps and lacking action towards expanding the group onto an additional platform bugging me.   

Question #3: What did you accomplish?

While I find myself frustrated over my leadership with #CPChatNow, the chat did celebrate our 10-year anniversary back in December. Considering how I am an original co-founder for the community, a decade in existence feels like a big accomplishment. One achieved through a team effort. After all, without people joining in on X Wednesday nights, I would just be talking to myself.

Additionally, I mentioned earlier setting new personal bests in my athletic endeavors. That includes enjoying my most active race season, completing nine different races in the last 12 months (six 5Ks, a quarter marathon, and two half marathons). Plus setting a personal record for my finish time with the challenging Lake View Cemetery Run Through History 5K course. In 2023 I finished the course in 57 minutes and 42 seconds. A 43-second improvement over my previous Run Through History 5K best! Too, quite the drastic improvement over my original hour-plus finish time from 2015. Those who read my memoir Slow and Cerebral will recall the Run Through History’s significance to me.

One more accomplishment I will tout here in my birthday celebration reflection stems from feedback a reader sent me. The reader explained Slow and Cerebral inspired him to complete his first half marathon. This fulfills my goal with the book, to truly inspire others to tackle challenging pursuits in their own lives.

A reader of Slow and Cerebral wrote me to say, in-part, "Reading your book last year made a huge impact on me, and was the thing I needed to finally take the step to train for and run my first half-marathon (which was hard as hell)."

Question #4: What goals did you set?

To hold myself accountable and answer this question honestly, you and I can revisit my 2023 birthday reflection. In that post, “Forget Birthday Wishes. Do This Instead,” I suggested I should set habit-based goals, writing, “Giving myself 30 minutes to an hour a day to work on content would ultimately lead me to releasing content more frequently.”     

Elsewhere in my prior year reflection, I stated, “I intend to raise my blog’s ranking on Feedspot’s ‘Top 35 Cerebral Palsy Blogs and Websites.’” At the time I ranked 14th on the list. Filled with ambition, I stated, “I am eyeing cracking the top 10.”

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

Rather than assuming I achieved all my goals, perhaps I need to revise my birthday reflection questions to first ask, “Did you achieve your goals?” Then go into what I did on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to do so.

With my first goal mentioned, setting habit-based goals, I found myself achieving the goals some days and missing many others. My reoccurring goals included reading 30 minutes a day and working on my “Cerebral Palsy Vigilante” (CPV) content an hour a day. Reading wise I would do well until I finished a book. Afterwards indecision would hit as I tried to determine what from my “to-read” list to read next.    

Regarding my content goal, I tended to achieve my goal when I tasked myself with specifics. Outlining what I want to say in a post or creating certain graphics to share on social media. However, when I did not specify what exactly I should work on, indecision once again overpowered me.

Yet, I proved successful enough to increase my rank on Feedspot’s “Top 35 Cerebral Palsy Blogs and Websites” from 14 to 11. Just missing out on my goal to crack the top 10.

Question #6: What went right?

A lot went right in the past 12 months. A few different friends stepped up to join me for races, which enabled me to complete my previously mentioned most active race season yet. Two races I completed, the B’Nai B’Rith Health Run 5K and the Fight for Fording 5K, I learned about from co-workers. Meaning I am gaining a reputation leading to information finding me.

With my STEPtember success, taking a strategic approach helped set me on the right path. For example, September saw me travel to Dayton, Ohio to participate in the 5K and half marathon portions of the 2023 Air Force Marathon. Traveling by Greyhound bus meant dealing with two days where hitting my daily step goal would remain unlikely. To counteract that, I focused on getting off to a good start in September. Overachieving in those early days helped me compensate for my less active travel days.     

Besides my physical activities, taking action worked in my favor. In discussing what stood out about the last year, I mentioned the standing ovation I received after reading my poem “Colleagues” at my employer’s staff development day. Getting close to 500 peers to stand on their feet in applause began a month-and-a-half prior when I read my poem for about 60 people at a workplace talent show. That smaller audience included two company leaders who approached me afterwards and asked me to read “Colleagues” at staff development day.     

Question #7: What went wrong?

To use a baseball analogy, I let the game speed up on me. For those unfamiliar with baseball, commentators use that phrase to describe why a player struggles at the Major League level. In the metaphor the game refers to life.

Between working 40 hours most weeks, caring for my physical wellbeing, staying active walking, co-hosting #CPChatNow Wednesday evenings, producing content, maintaining a presence on social media, and grasping to possess a little social life the days, weeks, and months soared by. Leaving me thinking, “I still need to do this and this.” A potentially deflating feeling without the right mindset.

Question #8: What habits hindered you?

Filling my daily to-do lists with broad tasks hindered me. Earlier I referenced a waning reliability in recapping the weekly #CPChatNow chats. From April through December, I assured our community the recaps would return. Yet week after week time ran out for me to make that a reality. At least until January when I used the New Year to refocus. No longer seeing “Complete #CPChatNow recap” as a sufficient task to finish in one day. Rather breaking down the task into “Collect #CPChatNow highlights” done on Sundays, “Write #CPChatNow recap” completed Tuesdays before work, and “Edit & publish recap” done Wednesday mornings before work.    

The recap situation remains similar to what I mentioned in question five about setting a goal to work on content for one hour. When my to-do list read, “One-hour CPV content,” indecision hit. Frozen by the question, “What do I work on?” Leading me to fail at staying productive. However, with a specific task, like “brainstorm CP related riddles to put in Riddler video,” content slowly came to fruition.

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

Assessing my overall effort from the last 12 months, I would give myself a B grade. I feel my efforts exceed average. Simultaneously, I recognized I could do better. Particularly, filling my daily and weekly to-do lists with specific tasks more consistently.  

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

Repeating what I just said, consistently filling my daily and weekly to-do lists with specific tasks. No more writing “One-hour CPV content.” Instead, I must specify what I will do. Whether brainstorming 10 different video and blog subjects, creating an image to share on Instagram, or outlining what points to make in my next video/post.

On a related note, regarding reading I should develop a rotation for the books I read. Rotating books by why I am reading them, albeit for self-improvement, learning about other cultures, to review for this blog, or personal enjoyment. Setting such a rotation could lessen the indecision I experience once I finish a book.      

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

One year from today I will look back and celebrate a year marked by consistency. To define what that looks like in specifics, writing and publishing one blog post a month. Planning, recording, and publishing one YouTube video a month. Feats I believe possible if I keep filling my daily and weekly to-do lists with specific tasks.

Admittedly, those goals do not sound overly ambitious. Yet, if I am truthful, those numbers would double the content I produced each of the last two years. Increasing my reach and growing my presence as The Cerebral Palsy Vigilante.   

Time to make your birthday celebration meaningful!

Through reflecting back on the last 365 days, I recognized past achievements, learned from life experiences, and set new goals to give my life purpose. Hopefully, demonstrating to you the power behind the birthday self-reflection. Enticing you to add the tradition to your birthday celebration festivities. You may just find the reflection will make every day one worth celebrating. Not just your birthday!

Please go ahead and help me celebrate my birthday by liking this post and sharing. Until next time, remember. Don’t blend in. Blend out!


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