Hey blog, what’s up? It’s once again time to change directions a bit here. Here’s my latest endeavor.

When we moved out here, I unconsciously decided that my time in Oregon was going to be about self-improvement. I don’t think I made this decision before we moved, or even immediately after we arrived, but at some point I found my focus drifting to being “better.” Better is a pretty vague term, and I’m not sure what inspired this change. Maybe this is my early version of a mid-life crisis, or maybe being this far away from so many of my friends and family gave me some extra time to think about it. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not writing music anymore, and that means I need another outlet for my creative energies. Whatever the cause, I’ve tried not to question it very much. Getting “better” in life, whatever that might mean, can only be a good thing, right?

I think part of this drive stems from the fact that I had always assumed I would be better at life than I actually am at this point. When I was a kid, I pictured myself as being a pretty together dude in my 30s. I’d make a lot of money, I’d have a nice house, I’d be the picture of health and happiness. I’d have a great job and perfect wife, and I’d just be successful. On second thought, success would be a by-product. I’d be respected, that was always the real goal. To be respected for my talents and abilities in a way that led to success.

In the real world of my 30s, it’s a mixed bag. I knocked it out of the park in the wife department, so I can check that off my list. I have a job that I love and that is challenging and rewarding. I feel like I am good at something there, I contribute in an important way on a regular basis, and yes, I do feel respected there. But the things I’m good at are not the things I thought I’d be good at way back when. I’m not writing songs or performing, and in fact, I’m not even in the music business at all. Oddly enough, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest, which would shock and disappoint this figurative version of me in the past. So I have a great wife, I have a good job that I enjoy, and I make enough money for us to be happy, although we’re not as rich and famous and I had planned. Overall, I’m completely happy with all of this, happier than I would have been if things had worked out exactly as I had planned.

But I realized at some point over the past couple of years that I was still lacking in a few key areas. Some of those are harder to change. I can’t easily change my strengths into something flashier or more lucrative, and we’re not in a position to buy a house just yet because of our transitory status. But the one place I felt like I could have quite a bit of control was my health. My kidney stone was the real catalyst for this, but the truth is that I had been thinking about it for quite a while. That kidney stone happened as a result of bad genetics and some very poor health decisions I’ve made for years in terms of what I eat and drink (or don’t drink, in this case). You can’t change your genes, but I’ve come to think of that as an excuse when it comes to stuff like kidney stones and chronic diseases that develop partially because of lifestyle. You can still avoid those things by changing your lifestyle, and that’s what I decided to do.

You’ve all read the results here so I won’t rehash, but to sum it all up, it worked. I started eating better and exercising, I lost weight and got in better shape, and I felt so much better. A good deal of that was about physically feeling better, but a significant part of it was mentally feeling better as well. Making a positive change in your life, no matter how big or small, is empowering because it makes you realize that you actually are in control of your own well-being. That’s not to say that things beyond our control couldn’t happen, but the fact is that we often let other people and our circumstances dictate our actions to us even when those actions are not beyond our control. Taking any of that control back is liberating, and it’s made for a really great year for me out here.

By no means do I have my health and diet completely under control at this point, but because of the progress there, I want to continue to add to my list of self-improvement projects. This particular project is less about physical health and more about mental strength, namely the ability to focus.

As I’ve gotten more and more involved with technology, both through my job and through my life in general, it seems that my ability to focus has decreased exponentially as my sources for information have increased. “Multi-tasking” has become quite the buzz word these days, and I know that many employers say they are looking for people who are good at multi-tasking. For a long time, I thought I was good at multi-tasking, but then I realized that no one is good at it. Multi-tasking just means that you’re doing many things poorly and it’s taking you much longer to do them.

What’s worse, with all of these new sources of information, it’s impossible to focus even when we’re trying. There’s always a fresh distraction ready to pull you in a new direction, and even if you shut them all off, your mind is still waiting for those distractions to occur. Our attention spans are swiftly approaching zero, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. And just so you know, I’m not making this up. Check out this great video of Clifford Nass talking about how multi-tasking is bad for us.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Now, time to confess. Did you glance at the video, see that it was 8 minutes long, and decide you couldn’t possibly watch something that long? Congratulations, you’re part of the problem. We are daunted by an 8 minute video! 8 minutes should not be an overwhelming commitment, but it felt like one to me when I first saw this video too.

So that’s what I’m out to change about myself next. I don’t even know exactly what that will entail yet, but it likely won’t be some sort of blogland spectacle like a food diary. I’ll record what I am doing here of course, and I will discuss what’s working and what’s not. My main goal is to write more regularly, because as you all know, writing requires focus. Some of the coming posts may be more personal in nature, some will be geared towards this “focus” topic. In other words, a mixed bag, but it will all circuitously be about eliminating distractions and learning to focus on what’s important.

Feels good to be back.