I structured this around potentially helpful life lessons paired with the typical "this is what I did last year," so I hope this would prove useful to you as it did for me.

August 14, 2020
5 minutes

I wasn't sure if I was the type to write Year-In-Reviews. But I figured since it's been a wild year, so much has happened that it dwarfs my previous years, that it would be a good time as any to get started.

Plus, there's a saying that consciously writing self-reflections, similar to journaling can help with self-awareness and bolster confidence, which is essential to improvement and self-growth, characteristics that I heavily invest in.

I structured this around potentially helpful life lessons paired with the typical "this is what I did last year," so I hope this would prove useful to you as it did for me.

Try to Understand and Cater to Your Preferences

I never like cars; I never had a reason to put the effort in thinking about them more than the minimal idea that it takes me from A to B. I didn't find it enjoyable: anxiety oozed driving on the highway, and maintenance often ignored because it not my favorite subject to indulge.

I had a beat up, 3rd-owner 1999 Camry in gold and it was on it's way out in July. It overheated in the middle of the highway in 90-degree weather, and the horrible experience and the amount I spent on fixing something I didn't favor seemed like, at that time, was the last nail on the coffin-- "I hate cars, I hate driving," I said to myself.

But, as an adult, I had to get to work. So, three months of agonizing, exhausting, and research-intensive months later, I bought a new ride-- a 2018 Mazda3 and I love it, and love driving it.

During those three months of researching and trying out different vehicles made me realize a few things: unsurprisingly, because my previous car lacked in my preferred driving experience, I was giving the whole thing an unfavorable view.

Driving one that had the experience I preferred (which was the no lag, fast acceleration of the engine, comfort, and safety features amongst other small QoL like Bluetooth integration and Apple CarPlay), made me not only confident but enthusiastic about driving.

Try to find out why you feel a certain way. Don't look for it outwards, but look for it within yourself. Reflect, and you may find the right reason, which for me was: the driving experience I had with my 1999 Camry was an unfit experience.

Once I tended to my preferences in experiences, did I find that I enjoyed driving.

Know Your Favorite Feelings

There are two feelings I hope everyone experiences in their lifetime:

1. When something clicks, and you say to yourself "Oh, I like this. This is perfect."

2. Being grateful.

These give me a small, but potent dose of dopamine every time. They're mood boosters, but not insignificant and temporary like eating sugar. To me, this feeling has depth and feed into the mind and soul.

2018 held my first full-time job in the corporate space (Aptiv). There was a day where everything clicked for me: having challenging, worthwhile problems to solve as a career, coworkers who opened your mind and potential, teams working towards a common goal, and the comforts to cushion them (flexibility, pay, and morale).

This revelation happened as I walked back to my desk one day. I said to myself: "This is good. I like this". Smiling was something of abundance — almost as much as Amazon's famous Banana Stand.

Knowing what and which feelings feed into doing your best and being aware of what ignites them is like realizing the formula for (your) happiness.

See The Best in Everyone

We all have something or someone we love, hate, and everything in between. But why do we perceive a person and or thing to fit in only one of these? Why do we only have hate for Nickleback and love exclusively for Childish Gambino?

If we think about it a little more, it all comes down to realizing that we tend to have an overall feeling about something, and the other characteristics (that you may or may not have consciously considered) come short in comparison.

The key here is to not forget the other characteristics.

You have a coworker who is known to be assertive during meetings has double-downed on wanting a particular behavior to happen in a feature. There are on the surface, issues that arise that you identify, and so do other members of the team. Together you try to find proper solutions to the need, but it circles back to the same issues, which then makes the team circle back to scramble for the answer. The cycle seems endless.

It seems natural to turn the otherwise normal frustration to bias and conscious contempt.  After all, in your eyes, that coworker makes things more complicated than it needs to be, and the team can't progress because of it. The anger surely is justified.

Negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and impatience are typical in a collaboration setting, especially in rising intensity. But it should be temporary, and even ideally, fleeting.

Feeling helpless because people are talking over you is alright to have, but it should dissolve within a few minutes, perhaps after the meeting, even after a short brisk walk. You can also see if confronting (appropriately, internally or externally,) the source of this emotion would help dispell it the fastest, as this works for me the best. It shouldn't live in your head to simmer over time, lest you want to feel the wrath of unproductive, perpetual unhappiness.

I especially like to tackle the negative perceptions head-on, as it can serve as a dual purpose towards my next step: paying attention to the other characteristics and see if this changes anything I think about this person. Remember that my goal is to turn any slight I felt and turn into something productive.

Coming back to that coworker, I try to understand the persistence, where it stems from, and see if I can accept it (or not). Usually, the fastest way to do this is, in fact, asking them directly. I hope to give off two things to the receiver:

1. Respect: I don't mull around and create assumptions about this person when in fact, I want to understand them. Approaching them with an open mind and ear signifies that you respect what they have to say.

2. We're a team: working together is all about delivering as one. We may agree and disagree on things, but at the end of the day, we need to build a product. Sacrifices expected, compromises implemented and backlogs are created, but we do it as one.

The point here is to be open to them, and avoid rigidity. You want to extract the opinions, considerations, struggles, uncertainties, and even confidence they have regarding the issue. At some point, it all starts to come together, and you begin to paint a picture that is their perspective.

Sound familiar? It's practicing empathy. Empathy should exist not only for our users but those who we work with, too.

The truth of the matter is that people are generally good, and their intentions genuine. It just so happens other people have different goals and definition of success, so we must work together to strike a balance for the business, our users, and ourselves.

This is No 30-Day Solution

There's a lot to be said about growth. There's no lack of podcasts, books, Medium articles, and life advice from loved ones-- we've all heard it before. But actually practicing them is half the battle. I know because I struggle with this, too.

All of those are for naught if you lack self-awareness. Always ask yourself why you did what you did,  why you what you said, and why you feel that way opens up opportunities glance at your soul. Once you the eye for looking at yourself, those life lessons start to kick in-- and in turn, you begin to have inner dialogues and eventually have the motivation to note self-reflections, just like what this year-in-review did for me.

But this requires patience. One thing I would say about self-reflection is that people have different speeds at which they can realize something about themselves. It varies, even more, when they want to do something as a result of it. You can't have a full handle on your social anxiety in 30 days, and you can't magically allocate your limited energy to the right things after reading  Mark Mason’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

No, it doesn't work that way. Why? Why not? Well, seeing that you know yourself best, you tell me.