Goals and Intentions for 2014

intentionNew Year’s is a great time to consider . . . time, and how well we live our lives while we have it.

As a did in 2013, I developed some goals and intentions for the upcoming year. I moved this to the top of my site up here, both to keep me honest and to help me easily recall what I hope to focus upon.

I would not mention these and share them publicly if these were not valuable, doable, and within reach (with some stretching). While I will hope for help and support and positive intentions, these are the things I hope to accomplish in 2014:

1. Engage in Timely Communication

I want to engage in communication, such as via Inbox ZERO (delete, delegate, respond, defer, or do) and Social Media (Twitter replies, Facebook replies, etc.), in a more timely way to better engage in and maintain conversations with networks.

2. Use a Thoughtful, Evidence-Based Approach to How I Use My Time

I completed my PhD in Educational Research in 2013, and as a result I tend to observe things around me in researcher-mode, questioning and seeking to find evidence to guide my actions and beliefs. All this takes time, and I hope to make the best use of it.

3. Approach Nature through Principles of Somatic Experiencing

I feel in many ways I am too removed from nature — food, living, breathing, exercise, living in New York City, etc. I will plan to spend more time directly interacting with the Great Outdoors.

4. Maintain Financial Balance

I want to be more aware of what I spend, and where, in an effort to help me move forward toward meeting my goals.

Let the new year proceed, and may we live in interesting times.

2013 Has Come and Gone; How Did I Do?

The end of 2013 has come and gone, and no better time than the present to consider how I did with my 2013 Intentions for the year. I posted these on the top of my site so they would always be at the ready.

Let’s review what I intended and how well I did.

  1. I Will Finish My Doctoral Thesis (Dissertation) — I passed and was awarded my PhD forthwith on March 25, 2013. I then walked in the graduation ceremony on December 11, 2013.
  2. I will Publish an Article — I have it drafted and am planning to submit it within 2 weeks. Fingers crossed!
  3. I will Build a Consistent Online Presence [Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, ResearchGate and my own professional website — I have revised 75% of my site (most of it on the back-end with template and hosting), and am 80% completed with being consistent across my online life. Once the website is completed, I will take that consistency and apply it to the other social media and networking sites.
  4. I will drink 2 liters of Water Each Day — my dislike of measuring and numbers-without-context means that I have successfully increased my daily water consumption.

Given all this, my verdict is that I am happy with my progress, though not fully satisfied. Perhaps in this the notion of onward and upward, making progress along the way and keeping focused on moving forward is what is most important? To be fair, I am not sure I could ever be fully satisfied, even if I did complete each of the goals / intentions I set. I believe that is the point with these things, they give us something to strive toward.

Some progress is better than none at all!

My First Labyrinth

I have been fascinated with labyrinths since I saw my first one in person on the floor of Chartres Cathedral. Never would have imagined that this passion would have led me to want to build my own, which I did this morning using a smaller version of the Chartres pattern made of flour (ok for the environment AND it allowed me to see what it felt like before I build one next year out of stones.

Thankfully, I was able to walk it a few times before a round of thunder and lightning storms came through and made the pathways disappear. Perhaps there may be a lesson about nature in that.

I wonder how many other people have made something similar, or at least made use of the walking one that somehow seems to clear and focus the mind, body, and spirit?


Goals & Resolutions for 2012

I have been thinking about what New Year’s Resolutions I should grab onto for this year, with an eye toward how easy it is to have so many I readily forget, propose unreachable ones that defeat me before I begin, or even such ideal ones that . . . well let me leave the ideal ones for the Übermensch or somebody else with the time and wherewithal to focus on the unfocusable.

With this said, taking stock of what is realistic and needed, without seeming like work (hey, who gets excited with focusing on work?), I want to try to do something new for 2012. I do not want to focus on giving anything up–that only stays exciting for a day and motivating for about two. I also don’t want to focus on cutting out or stopping anything, as that also feels like I am doing without (and once again, I will not realistically be able to maintain it).

This year I am hoping to take an appreciative inquiry-inspired approach to my 2012 goals. I am planning goals that will advocate doing something positive, rather than not doing something negative. I will reenforce the behavior and direction I want to promote, and leave the bad habits and such alone, as the focus on the good will help to reduce those more unpleasant ones. While I will avoid SMART goals, as that will add a certain amount of pressure that I don’t need (once again, too much like choosing to do work), I am hoping these will still meet those same criteria.

Thus, my 2012 goals and my New Year’s Resolutions are:

1. I Will Finish My Doctoral Thesis (Dissertation)

I have spent nearly all my life in college and university, and have a handful of degrees and such to demonstrate the wide breadth of knowledge and skills and experiences I have had along the way, but now ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I need to finish all of this formal stuff so I can in turn engage in all the nifty research and living that I have been putting on hold. I will finish my PhD (meaning defend it in the viva and fix anything that needs fixing) by the end of 2012.

2. I Will Engage in Fiscal Responsibility

I have never been good with money, and as I am self-funding my PhD now may not be the best time to start this, but I have to learn (or remember) some self-restraint. This does not mean I will get out of debt or stop spending anything (recall the appreciative inquiry above), but I certainly can have some restraint, something I will positively mention as engaging in doing something good, rather than focusing on stopping something not so good. I will focus on being responsible (something good) that still allows me to move about my day given my commitments and situation (cf. thesis work above).

3. I Will be Timely with Communication

Seems simple enough, though I tend to read emails or see Tweets or blog posts or the like, note to myself that I need to reply or post, and then move on. These electronic reminders then sit in my Inbox or in open tabs, while I busy myself with other tasks as I consider my replies and process or debrief what I want to reply to, or not. This means I at times take longer than I prefer to answer or file or delete (cf. Inbox Zero). So, rather than list exactly how long things will remain unanswered or unresponded to (too unbending for my personal life that will make this all feel like work), I will again focus on the positive by following the path of timeliness. Even as I am writing this I am down to only 6 items in my Inbox, so great strides are afoot!.

I have been working on this post for the past few days, and think it is now time to air in public. I know I wish to be around people who focus on these three seemingly unrelated items, and hope this will in turn help me to improve toward that unnamed person!

Out with the Old, or How did we do in 2011?

As we near the end of 2011, I have to wonder about how the year went. No, I do not mean in the news or the international stage or the weather, but rather where am I now? How did I do? How am I doing now? Perhaps looking back to debrief will help me look forward . . . 

I am glad to say I am still employed, as that helps to keep most other things moving along. For those who may not know, I work professionally as a project manager in clinical education for a large home care nursing non-profit organization in New York City. I also teach as an adjunct instructor at Pace University and New York University, though as I am working on my doctoral thesis (aka doctoral dissertation in the US), I have significantly reduced the number of classes I am able to teach (presently teaching only a class on Teaching and Learning at Pace in the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program). I hope to teach more once I have those 3 letters behind my name, which brings me to my highlight of 2011 — my doctoral studies.

I am now engaged in my doctoral thesis in educational research, specifically in a program in E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning, at Lancaster University in the UK. I am researching liminal experiences that occur during doctoral studies related to learning leaps or aha! moments. I have completed my data collection and, now that the transcription was just finished, am doing a final review of the transcripts by re-listening to the interviews while checking the texts before I return to the interviewees for their review.

I travelled to the UK twice in 2011, both times for academic meetings, with only one conference, the British Education Research Association, where I presented my work in 2011. I did take a quick trip to Dublin while on that side of the pond to visit a close friend from college, though otherwise no other travel to speak of.

I spent time with Spencer and Posey (in my arms in this picture), as well as with Michael and his increasingly fascinating work with his books and Christmas ornaments. Some time in the country exploring druidry, reading fantasy and science fiction, trying to make sense of actor-network theory, learning through the #change11 MOOC, and making wine (a hobby I am expanding in 2012, but more about that later).

I am thankful for all these things, and hope to continue all these things into the New Year, with one or two additions. Perhaps I will discuss my resolutions in a follow-up tomorrow . . .

Holidays, Time Off, Fairness, Studies, and Self-Confidence

Have you ever noticed how stressful the winter holidays can be, what with family obligations, spending money, getting off schedule, meeting the expectations of others, and on and on? What about when we see other people who seem to buy or give nicer or more thoughtful gifts, get more time off than we do, or greater bonuses? Don’t even get us started on how even more doctoral student colleagues earn themselves time off with great strides in writing and research and progress! 

Ever make you think that life is not fair, or everybody has it better, or just somehow I am doing the wrong thing? The holidays can certainly bring these emotions and more up in us, and I think it is worth reflecting on.

Well, I started to think about some of these things when I returned from a long holiday weekend (I took a vacation day Friday and Monday was a holiday). The city seems so empty, did everybody really go off to Paris or the South of France, as I imagine happens when somehow the crowds I am used to are not around and I have to go back to work?

Mind you, I like my work and studies and such, though somehow everything seems more difficult when we are alone, and not of our own making.

How about how quiet online communities, such as #phdchat, seem to be during the winter holidays (including Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Year’s, and such), nothing like time to catch up while having nobody to reply back!

Of course, this is simply not true. There are so many people around all the time, in-person as well as online, that it is an exaggeration to claim that nobody is around or I am all alone. Take the winter holidays; even when we seem to have it worse than others, there are always people who have it worse off than we do. Sure, some people may have organizations that give them the entire week off, or supervisors who invite their students for holiday gatherings, though I suppose all that comes at a price, often one that is easy to miss when we feel in a rut. Misery indeed loves company, and the holidays seem to breed both.

After all, even vacation taken now may mean less for the spring or summer!

Even with our endless media telling us what gifts to give or receive, I have still never seen anybody give or receive a Lexus, regardless of the size of the ribbon and how perfect everybody and everything in the ads appear. Hey, Madison Avenue, that is not my life, and quite honestly that is OK.

Can any ad or product or statement or statistic ever fully capture our lives? If no, why do they affect us at times?

Thinking of my research, how often am I convinced that every other doctoral student moves faster through their dissertations or theses than I do, or that everybody else somehow gets better funding packages or has more travel budgets or extra help with supervision? It is so easy to miss that we each move at our own pace, each have different skills, resources, access, and developing understanding of our work. Some people move faster and make better progress, and some don’t.

As a matter of fact, some give or receive better gifts, while other receive less. Or none. Some people have a bonus week off, and some cannot find any work at all. Some make speedy research progress, and some cannot get into a program or afford to stay once they start or have supervisors interested in their work. 

While this may seem a rambling post that has perculatd for the past week, suffice it to say it is really rather focused. Life is not fair, and while we each have our own challenges, we also each have our own benefits. I suppose it is valuable for us to focus more on the latter than the former. It somehow is easier to see what we want and don’t have than what we have that others may not. In other words, we are all different, and in this great diversity life seems to be this exciting experience. We have what we have, and what we do with it is up to us. There will always be people who have more, and there will always be people who have less–financial, educational, social, healthful, etc.

Happy Holidays all, and don’t let Santa, whoever or whatever that may be to you, make you believe that everything else is better; nothing can be further from the truth.

Slavoj Zizek and Rhizomatic Learning

As Dave Cormier is speaking about Rhizomatic learning this week in the #change11 MOOC, I thought about this recent interview Charlie Rose had with the philosopher and cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek.

While I know that Dave’s work on rhizomatic learning does not have the same critical lens that Zizek uses, his way of seamlessly moving from one topic to another, approaching human experience from different perspectives, speaks to me about what may be possible if we extend this discussion (as learning opportunities surround us) to other areas of learning and experiencing the world. In this way it recalls Dave’s thinking:

The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.

I wonder how rhizomatic learning fits with cultural studies, and if in this way it has a certain interdisciplinarity about it?