As my flight ascended into the sky, the Chicago cityscape blurred into fuzzy yellow and white lights while the sky morphed from orange to pink to red. My flight was set for San Francisco, where I would return home after a weekend with my family celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
Once we reached the set elevation, the flight attendant’s voice announced that passengers could take out laptops and other personal items. Wanting to be productive over the next four hours, I quickly took out my laptop. Dismay overcame me, though, when I saw how much more expensive United’s WiFi was compared to Southwest’s $8 WiFi I was accustomed to. Feeling frustrated, I was without WiFi, without a book, and without a neck pillow for a comfortable nap.
But my mind was still thinking and ideas were still generating.
The Jewish New Year falls during a symbolic time. Each year around September and October, Jews around the world have a “reset.” We celebrate Rosh Hashanah for a sweet new year, and we then observe Yom Kippur to repent for what we have done wrong and ask to be sealed in the book of life. Integrating the divine with the mundane, this time also marks the start of a new season and anniversaries for many--whether it be their job or move to a new city.
Without any WiFi, I opened a blank word document on my laptop. At first, my fingers typed away on the keyboard, almost like my stream of consciousness. I wrote about gratitude, excitement, and dreams. My thoughts became hurriedly strung together words that then became choppy sentences.
Despite my word document becoming cluttered with text, there was no substance to what I was writing. My goals needed to dive deeper. I needed to reflect more intentionally.
Self Over Time
I asked myself the following questions:“Who am I? What do I do? Why do I do what I do?” I then answered these questions through a past (the last two years), present (today), and future (next two years) lens. The “past” Hannah was written in stone--almost like fact. The “present” Hannah is observation of what affects me today. The “future” Hannah is the person I’d like to become--a mix of dreams and wishes.
Who am I? These are the values and principles I follow as well as the characteristics that close friends and loved ones use to describe me. What do I do? This is how I spend my time--whether my professional work, organizational involvement, and hobbies. Why do I do what I do? This is my sense of purpose.
After my big picture reflection of myself over time, I decided to set goals through design thinking. Design thinking is a creative approach to problem-solving. Applying this concept to my goal setting, I focused on that of which I could control--not what was out of my control. This meant that I targeted the “how” and not the “what.” In determining the “how,” I ensured I was open-minded while also able to control the outcome.
For example, a weakly designed goal would be to achieve a promotion in my job within the next six months. Lots of politics and red tape influence this decision, resulting in a large portion of this goal being out of my control. However, what I can control is the relationship I build with my career counselor who advocates for me to company leadership, the impact story I tell of my past year of client work, and internal satisfaction of knowing that I tried my best to be an all star analyst.
My 20s can be organized into three buckets: professional development, personal growth, and wellness. Professional development encompasses my career goals, achievements, and ambitions, Personal growth encompasses my relationships with others, communities I belong to, and sense of purpose. Wellness encompasses my physical and mental health. When I set goals for myself, I map them to at least one of these buckets.
Within this framework, I write down all of my goals. If they can be measured through quantification or qualification, I measure them. If not, I keep them vague. I strive to write down everything that is top of mind. However, I know that realistically, I will not achieve everything I set. And that is okay. Similar to Google’s Objective Key Results (OKR) philosophy in managing their business, I don’t yearn to achieve 100% of what I set out to do. Rather, I’m aiming for a 60 - 70%. This is because if I am achieving at a 100% rate, then I’m not challenging myself enough. For instance, my physical health goals typically involve eating healthy and regularly exercising. Most recently, I’ve done a great job developing a consistent exercise routine; however, I’ve struggled at perfecting my willpower and always eating healthy.
Pausing to give my mind a rest, I peered out the plane window. I saw through the darkness muted stars and the Iowa and Nebraska cornfields. Adjusting my gaze, I also saw myself--a reminder to know when to quiet my thoughts and come back to the present.