2016: look ahead…by looking behind.

I’ve read a lot of posts embracing 2016 with lists, goals, steps, objectives, success criteria and new beginnings. The new-and-shiny-things lover that I am wants to charge forward and succumb to 2016 with gusto; and yet, I am tired. I feel under-prepared for the upcoming year and overwhelmed by the possibilities and different directions that my mind wants to pull me in.

A really good friend and I were digitally catching up via Slack (because that’s how we do it in 2016) and she asked some great questions:

  • how are you?
  • how’s cali?
  • how’s your roommie?
  • how’s innerthoughts?
  • how’s futureplans?

Such great questions! Naturally, the Trello-obsessed person that I am was like well look at ma boards y’all! The single source of truth and happiness in my life. No, for serious, I have an intentions + focus board with the most distracting background ever. Irony eeeee!

Realistically, these questions were the perfect catalyst for my self-described Retrospective of 2015 and jumpstart on how I can move forward in 2016. Let’s review.

2015 Acknowledgements

  • Moved 700 miles south leaving my beloved Portland and community for San Jose, CA and a new community.
  • Realized that I have not been faithful to any healthy or wellness-centric behaviors the entire 2015 year (whoops. thanks beer).
  • Dating. Lots and lots of dating. Apps on top of apps on top of swiping on top of drinks on top of awkward stories. Yes, lots of dating.
  • Montana. So many trips home (including some snow, horseback riding, Glacier National Park, and showing friends my hometown).
  • Lots of professional and personal growth. Experiencing burnout both at work through an overwhelming project load and at home by not dedicating enough time to introverted self care and intentional disconnection.

As we can see, lots of positives experiences and areas of discomfort and vulnerability. Overall, I am going to chalk 2015 up to a great year of growth and development.

It is through these acknowledgements that I came to discover how I plan on approaching 2016: a series of motifs.

motif: (noun) a distinctive feature or dominant idea in an artistic or literary composition.

This word was chosen specifically because I wanted to guide myself away from the notion of resolutions and the overly-organized idea of lists/tasks. I, also, am narcissistic enough to consider my life and this year equivalent to an artistic composition. I am seeking a non-tangible way to focus on a series of emotions and objectives that do not require or necessary allow me to measure their success. I know, the data nerd/OCD person I am wants to scream, “it must be measurable.”

2016 Motifs

  • Authenticity
  • Wellness
  • Exploration

These themes or motifs seem to be the most applicable and the most valuable toward my overall ambitions in life, love, and work. I think they capture these ambitions in a vague, yet pseudo intentional, way. I also think that I can pull tangibles out of them (because at some level I will inevitably want to validate them).


Listed first, authenticity will be (and should be) the driver behind the way I live and the way I work. Pulled in part from Brené Brown and her TED talk on the power of vulnerability and after reading her book Daring Greatly, I can acknowledge the importance of both battling/embracing shame, vulnerability, and authenticity. Some “resolutions” (remember we are not using that word) could be…

  1. Identifying how I feel about situations professionally, romantically, and personally and talk about the emotions that coincide with them. Being truthful.
  2. Understanding that my psyche has limits and to practice self-care and vulnerability in trying or stressful moments.
  3. Valuing and acknowledging the true friends and support system in my life and reciprocate that support and love to them.

These are just a few examples of how I foresee authenticity being a relevant and important part of my life. Again, I am working on keeping this more abstract rather than firm (and breakable) resolutions.


This past year took a toll on me physically. I placed working, drinking, extroverting, and a myriad of other things ahead of my physical and emotional health. While not wholly problematic, it has become increasingly unmaintainable to continue down this road. This year is centers around limits, diet, and exercise.

Some ways that this will (hopefully) manifest itself in my life:

  1. Making time for the gym (ideally around 3–4 times per week).
  2. Focusing on what I’m putting in my body. This includes overall diet and drinking.

While I’ve read a lot of posts online such as Three Years Without Drinking and How I Survived on Crackers, I know myself well enough to assume these would surely fail. And frankly, I would want them too. I acknowledge and embrace that I love chocolate cake, cookies, Moscow mules, and beer. I definitely do not want the pleasure of these delicious delectables out of my life. Here’s hoping to find a balance and moderation between couch potato sexy and fitness fanatic.


Probably my favorite (easiest?) motifs is exploration. I identified this motif in several ways:

  • Lifelong learning
  • Physical exploration
  • Pushing boundaries / comfort zones

I have the privilege to work in a fast-paced, ever-evolving world of web development. This is amazing and one of the brilliants part to what I do every single day. I am looking to extend the joys and connection that I feel from learning to how I encounter that in my life sans Macbook. I have taken up weekly French classes (love!) and am looking forward to pottery and painting classes. Creative randoms that allow me to unplug and be a maker of different sorts.

So Wut

In summation, identifying broad topics this year seems to be a healthy, maintainable plan. It might keep my organizational tendencies at bay and allow me grow and collaborate more effectively. Let’s see how it goes.
What are some things you are excited to do this year? Tweet me: @alexlaughnan and tell me ALL THE THINGS.

This was also posted on Medium! Make sure you check it out and see some of my posts on there too.