I write annual reports on my life.
I send them out to quite a lot of people and share them publicly online. You can see the three most recent ones here. My annual reports started in 2010 as a 3 page holiday greeting letter and it have since grown into a 40+ page annual report with photos.
This might seem like peculiar behavior to some. But I've found that summarizing my experiences each year has helped me with personal goals, realizations and how I want to spend my time and efforts in the upcoming year.
One of my primary goals in life is to grow as a human. Spiritually, intellectually, emotionally. To learn new things, broaden horizons, but also to go deep towards mastery in some aspects.
In taking steps towards growth, I find it extremely helpful to stop and reflect, to examine my life and what I'm doing, to go beyond the events and look into the causes and how I responded in different situations and ask: What have I learned?
A few people have questioned if going to such extremes is really helpful for personal growth. I have spent more than one full time week creating these past reports. Perhaps I could gain the same learnings with a little less effort. But what most people challenge is why I share it so widely. Last year I sent a copy of the report to more than 1,600 people. Why do I share my personal journey so widely? And who am I to think that I'm so special that people will read a 40 page report on me?
In attempt to answer this expected question, this brings me to another one of my goals: to support other people in their personal growth stories. Therefore my secondary intention, after assessing what I've learned, with sharing the annual report is not necessarily for people to read about me (Some people care. Others don't. Most people just skim it quickly) but rather to set an example that others can follow.
Most people I meet have grown up in cultures where focusing on the self is seen as narcissistic, self-indulgent and is generally frowned upon. This is particularly true for Denmark, which is where I grew up. Most people in Denmark feel silly or even ashamed to spend time reflecting on their own lives, where they are and where they want to go.
And so I want my reports to be an example, not just for my culture but for any other person interested in self-reflection. Through my own example, t gives permission for others to do the same (in their own way and version, of course). If I can be ridiculous and write 40 pages about myself, then it's suddenly relatively safe to write a short 3 page letter, even if the only one who reads it is you.
And people do that. Every year I get responses from people who felt compelled to do something similar but on a smaller scale.
What I hope is that over time, fewer people will read about my life and that more people will spend the time reflecting and perhaps even writing and sharing their own lives. Of course there will always be people out there who will insist that my project is excessive or stupid. But I'm okay with that. I need to stay honest with myself and whenever someone challenges the purity of my intentions, I am only forced to go deeper. To really feel if it is true. And maybe one day it will no longer feel right and I will stop. But so long as I feel that I'm doing it for the right reasons, I will keep on.
Which is the ultimate lesson about what our intentions really look like: If you're doing something that might seem odd to others, make sure you are honest with yourself about your reasons and don't let the opinions of others stop you. You never know how your actions might help someone else in a way you don't expect.
Want to practice intention this year? Come to our Intentions & Habit Building Workshop on January 20th!
Mathias Vestergaard helps leaders, creatives and entrepreneurs think clearly and tackle tough challenges. He loves bread and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and baby son.
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