2019 Year-End Reflection: Productivity, Relationships, Health, and Experiments
As 2019 comes to an end, I’m reflecting on what I learned in the past year. And there are so many things! I’m definitely going to come back to this post for future reference, and I hope you might find something useful here as well.
In this reflection, I cover 5 categories:
- Mental Health
- Physical Health
This year, I started using the weekly calendar tool from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s great because it makes sure I accomplish all my weekly priorities while also making me realize I have lots of free time.
Before using this tool, I always felt either busy, like there’s so much to do, or restless, like I should be doing more. After I started using this tool, I felt productive because I knew I accomplished my priorities, so when I have free time, I can enjoy it.
How do I use it? I print out 1 sheet per week. And I keep all the sheets in a binder.
This year, I started using three tools to analyze all my important relationships: The Four Tendencies, Myers-Brigg, and Baseball Cards.
2.1. Four Tendencies
The Four Tendencies explains to me how a person will respond to expectations.
Here’s a super condensed summary of the Four Tendencies:
- Upholders: Readily meets inner and outer expectations. They are like productivity machines. They can be judgmental and put their own priorities ahead of others.
- Obligers: Meets outer but not inner expectations. Very reliable, always helping others. Needs outer accountability to accomplish inner goals.
- Questioners: Meets inner but not outer expectations. Always needs to know why before doing anything, even if the why is supposedly obvious.
- Rebels: Resists all expectations. Needs to feel freedom of choice to do what they want to do at that moment in time. Very authentic people.
For a more detailed summary of the whole book, check out this blog post.
I use the framework to tailor my message to people and to predict their responses. For example, if I want to invite a bunch of friends to a group dinner, I’ll tailor the message like so:
- Upholders and Obligers: Hey, are you free to come for a year-end dinner on Dec 30 at 7PM?
- Questioners: Hey, we should celebrate the year end with a group dinner! Dec 30 at 7PM seems pretty convenient for most people. Are you interested?
- Rebels: Hey, do you want to celebrate the year end with a group dinner? I’m organizing one for Dec 30 at 7PM, but if you need to be a little late that’s also no problem. Please let me know by Dec 28 so I can make the reservation.
The Four Tendencies has really shifted my perspective on relationships in a very helpful way.
I had previously done the Myers-Briggs personality quiz in high school, but I didn’t really understand it or take it seriously back then. But this year, I read Principles by Ray Dalio and he mentioned the Myers-Briggs as a core tool to objectively assess people.
Since then, I’ve been using the Myers-Briggs to analyze all my important relationships. It’s been very helpful for me to learn about people’s personalities from 4 aspects:
- Introverted vs. Extroverted
- Abstract thinkers vs. Concrete thinkers
- Logical vs. Emotional
- Spontaneous vs. Planners
The profiles also mention values, strengths, and weaknesses, like idealistic, sensitive to criticism, loves to debate, etc. The analogy I think of is to imagine you are buying a new machine. Before you make the purchase, you’d want to know its specs. Well, before I interact with others, I want to know their specs so I know how to interact with them optimally.
If I know someone is an abstract thinker and I’m a concrete thinker, I’m going to expect more effort needed during communication. If someone’s spontaneous and I’m a planner, I will know that even if I feel nervous without a plan, they don’t, so I can either follow their spontaneity or take charge myself, but I can’t expect them to take charge of planning.
Like the Four Tendencies, Myers-Briggs has really shifted my perspective on relationships. It’s a bit more work than the Four Tendencies but extremely useful, especially for closer relationships.
2.3. Baseball Cards
For all the really close or important people in my life, I make a baseball card for them so to help remind me of their objective qualities. This helps me accept who they are and plan for better communication.
A baseball card will have their name, their tendency, their Myers-Briggs profile, their values, and their interests.
Then whenever I have trouble in a relationship, I can revisit the baseball card for that person and examine how I can approach the situation better.
3. Mental Health
This year, I’ve had three important teachers towards my mental health: Daniel Goleman, Peter Crone, and Anthony De Mello.
3.1 Daniel Goleman, Author of Emotional Intelligence
Here are my key learnings from his book, which I use frequently:
- If you’re anxious, your body is in a high-arousal state. You need relaxation, like meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, etc. Don’t exercise (I’ve made that mistake before).
- If you’re depressed, your body is in a low-arousal state. You need exercise. Don’t do relaxation activities.
- If you’re angry, venting feels good temporarily but it doesn’t get rid of the anger. The best way to get rid of anger is to reframe the situation in a positive light.
- In relationships fights, men tend to shut off. To be more effective, men need to paraphrase what the woman is saying.
- In relationship fights, women tend to criticize harshly and exaggerate. To be more effective, women need to use “I” statements: “When you did X, I felt Y, and it would really help if you do Z instead next time.”
3.2 Peter Crone, Mind Architect
I’ve listened to all Peter Crone’s public podcasts, and I’m really looking forward to his book, which is coming out in 2020. Here are some key learnings which have really impacted me:
- Our conscious thought arises from our unconscious programming. And most people have in their unconsciousness feelings of inadequacy, of not being wanted, and of fear. Then people develop personality traits to compensate. For example, they become perfectionists or a people-pleaser.
- In order to remove those unhelpful unconscious programming, we need to reflect back on major events from when we were growing up and realize that we made up false stories in our heads*.
- There’s no reason to judgement anyone because if you were them, and you had their DNA, and you were raised by their parents, and you went through their childhood, and their life experiences, and their ups and downs, you’d be doing the exact same thing they are doing right now for which you are judging them for. It just doesn’t make any sense to think that you’re better than them or that they’re not as good as you.
- Judgement is the precursor to all disease because judgment is resisting reality, which is futile. And when you resist reality, you create stress, and stress creates inflammation in the body, and over time, that builds up to result in a weakened immune system.
*Let me give an example. I grew up in a household where money was tight. During high school, I won a business competition and was invited to go to the international finals in the USA. I asked my mom if I could go. She responded by being stressed about money and swung back and forth between yes and no. In my not-yet-mature mind, I unconsciously made up the untrue story that I’m a burden and that she doesn’t want me. But I was not consciously aware of this programming. The compensation mechanism I developed was to become an over-achiever, always doing above what’s necessary so that I’d be wanted rather than not wanted. After I realized this unconscious programming, the unconscious anxiety I always felt reduced substantially.
3.3 Anthony De Mello, Author of Awareness
Anthony was a therapist/counselor who could be described as “awakened”, and in his book, he uses very contemporary language to help others awaken and achieve permanent peace and joy. Some key things I learned from him:
- Stop identifying “I” to impermanent labels, like your thoughts, your body, your career, your religion, etc. For example, don’t say “I am depressed.” Don’t even say, “I have depression.” Let’s be accurate here. “There is depression.” Just like there are different clouds in the sky. When we say “There is depression,” there’s a sense of impermanence, that it will pass.
- You judge him for being selfish, and you think you’re so much better because you’re considerate of others. But why are you considerate of others? Because then you feel good about yourself. So you’re stroking your ego. You’re selfish too. It’s just that your version of selfishness is more refined than theirs. It’s like they’re drinking cheap beer and you’re drinking expensive wine. You’re both selfish. So stop judging them.
- If you want lasting happiness, drop your false ideas. If you had been in touch with reality, you never would’ve been disappointed. But we choose to paint people in glowing colors rather than seeing that everyone is asleep and therefore selfish. So then we pay the price.
- The key to becoming more awakened is through awareness. Observe your self from afar and watch what’s happening (emotionally and events). Understand that the feelings are in YOU, not in the external world. Realize that these feelings come and go, and so they are not part of your identity.
4. Physical Health
This year, I read many books from Anthony Williams, also known as the Medical Medium. The books I read were Medical Medium, Life Changing Foods, Liver Rescue, and Celery Juice. I got interested in his work because I was experiencing something like psoriasis around my lips, and it got so bad at one point that I couldn’t move my mouth and the pain was so bad that I couldn’t sleep.
His information really helped me recover. Here are some key points for anyone suffering from chronic disease.
- Our medical system is amazing for acute problems and emergencies, but it’s way off track for chronic illnesses. They treat they like acute problems, just prescribing medication to suppress symptoms without solving the root cause, and that’s because they don’t even know the root cause.
- Most chronic diseases are caused by two things. First, there’s a foreign pathogen (e.g., virus or bacteria). Second, there’s food for the pathogen. So the pathogen eats the food and reproduces more of itself and releases toxic chemicals in its “poop” that harms the body. So logically, the way to heal is to not eat foods that fuel pathogens and to eat foods that kill pathogens.
- Foods that fuel pathogens: eggs, dairy, gluten, toxic heavy metals. We get heavy metals from air pollution, water pollution, pesticides, cleaning products, etc.
- Foods that kill pathogens and strengthens the body: fruits, vegetables, herbs.
- The sugars in fruit are all binded to essential nutrients, making them different from processed sugars in sweets.
- Our liver is the organ that cleanses our body. Most people’s livers are stagnating because they eat too much fat. When the liver is producing bile to break down fat, it cannot cleanse. To support the liver and the body to cleanse out toxins, eat less fat (don’t need to cut it out, just eat less), and try not to have fat for breakfast.
- Animal protein = fat. Even the leanest cut of meat has hidden fat. Fat is the calorie source for proteins. So to help your liver cleanse for your body, eating less fat also means eating less meat.
- Cleansing takes time, and you may experience detox symptoms. For example, in my case, when the viruses get killed, they basically explode and the leftover residue is still toxic to the body, so I get more of the psoriasis symptoms. So it’s important to cleanse at a moderate pace and really be patient, rather than cleansing aggressively and wishing for the condition to go away in an unreasonable time frame.
Here are the habits I’ve developed for the later half of the year based on Medical Medium’s information:
- In the morning and at night, I drink 16 ounces of lemon honey water. I squeeze the juice from half a lemon and put in 1 big spoon of honey. This helps hydrate the body to eliminate toxic waste through urine.
- In the morning, 30 mins after I drink my honey lemon water, I drink 16 ounces of pure celery juice on an empty stomach. Celery juice helps with almost everything.
- In the morning, 30 mins after I drink my celery juice, I drink a heavy metal detox smoothie with the following ingredients: wild blueberries, spirulina powder, barley grass juice powder, Atlantic dulse, and cilantro. Those are the 5 key ingredients. But I also add banana for taste and a glove of garlic as an immunity booster.
5.1. 100-day Social Media Challenge
I really enjoy sending out my weekly newsletter, where I send out 3 things I learned that week. This year, I thought about posting daily on social media to create positive and inspiring content that would uplift people or motivate them. So I tried it for 100 days.
I learned 2 important things from this experiment:
- Putting out daily content that’s different every day is a lot of work!
- It’s not enough for content to be “good” (as in have valuable lessons in them or important truths). It HAS to be entertaining to get traction. That’s why all my role models this space post a lot of videos and interviews; it’s much more appealing to the emotional brain.
Although I gained some followers, and I enjoyed the content I put out, I realized that if I really want to achieve my goal of impacting others positively, I’d need to put in a lot more effort and time to make my content both entertaining and educational. And at my current point in time, I’m choosing to not do it as I have other priorities. But perhaps in the future I will revisit this experiment.
This year, I also tried making a podcast with a friend about living as an English Teacher in China. We actually completed our first episode and even recorded our second episode. It was a lot of fun. We even had fake sponsors and funny intro music. I learned how to interview a guest, how to have a semi-scripted conversation, how to use audacity to edit audio, and how to upload a podcast.
The big hurdle was that I’d have to pay for podcast hosting, and neither of us wanted to do it, so we cut our losses. But if I ever wanted to record a podcast in the future, I’d know that I can be a host and edit audio.
Wow, I sure learned a lot this year, and I am so grateful to have met all my teachers through books, podcasts, and the internet. I’m also very grateful to all the writing courses I took in university because they’ve empowered me to blog.
I’m looking forward to 2020 for another year of growth and challenges!