End of the year means for most people to come up with new year’s resolutions. I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions because I’m not good at fulfilling them. I tend to come up with too many and realise along the way, that most of them don’t mean enough to me to actually pursue them.

One could argue that I lack the discipline or the right approach. But I’m quite happy to allow myself to evolve, try something new, reflect and draw conclusions throughout the year, according to the motto: ”You don’t need a new year to change something.” (Actually you don’t even need a new month, week or day.)

A co-worker once told me, that the speed at which I go through these reflection cycles is my greatest strength. And I like her to be right.

4 Burners Theory

About 3 years ago, I came across the 4 Burners Theory in an InVision article and later in its originating article by James Clear. It suggests to see your life as a stove with 4 burners, each representing one major quadrant of your life:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Health
  4. Work

The 4 Burners Theory says that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.”

From burner to focus point

The main lesson I took away from the 4 Burners Theory is:
You need to make a choice if you want to get things done.

However, cutting off things from my life doesn’t sound practical to me. I learned about myself that I need a certain balance between different aspects of life to feel well. Therefore I’d like to think of focus points instead.

A new decade

So here I am in the beginning of 2020 – not only the beginning of a new year, but a whole decade. Born in 1990, I will reach 30 this summer, so it’s indeed not just a new decade on the calendar, but also for me personally.

Before setting my focus point for 2020, I’d like to start by reflecting on my main focus points in the last 4 years. What fascinates me most is that my focus points profoundly changed every year. They were also not initially planned, but rather happened to take most of my time and energy, because they mattered most to me in that given time.

2016 — My First Design Job

Place: London
Job: Designer at Sofar Sounds
Focus point: Be seen as professional

2017 — Coming Back

Place: London, Berlin
Job: User Experience Designer at Vinted / Kleiderkreisel
Focus point: Create a cozy home

2018 – Identification

Place: Berlin
Job: User Experience Designer at Volkswagen Digital:Lab
Focus point: Consume sustainably

2019 – Relationship

Place: Berlin
Job: User Experience Designer at Volkswagen Digital:Lab
Focus point: Open up

2020 – Emotional Intelligence

Place: Berlin
Job: User Experience Designer at Volkswagen SDC Berlin
Focus point: Grow emotionally

In 2019, I went through a lot of emotional ups and downs, supported by hormonal chaos in my body caused by stopping the pill. For the first time, I mixed up work with private relationships. I’m still figuring out if this is a good or bad idea and how I should deal with it in the future.

What made this experience very clear to me, is that I’m not emotionally equipped to deal with conflicts that touch me personally – no matter if at work or in private life. And I want it to be my goal to become emotionally strong enough to deal with whatever situation is ahead of me:

  • I want to acknowledge my emotions without blame.
  • I want to understand my emotions when they arise so that they don’t control my behaviour.
  • I want to understand my emotions to be more empathetic with others.
  • I want to stop explaining other people’s behavior with my own flaws and faults.
  • I want to keep opening myself towards others without fear of being hurt.

How to achieve this

To get started, I set myself 3 tasks:

  • Meditate every day for 10-20 minutes
  • Find a psychotherapist and start therapy
  • Figure out which friendships to continuously invest in – and which ones to drop

Stop focussing on expectations of others

What makes me most proud is that in the matter of only 4 years, I managed to let my inner needs be the driver of my focus points rather than expectations from the outside.

In 2016 up until early 2018, I was mainly concerned about how people perceive me as a professional. I was scared by the early professional success of my boyfriend and felt I have to compete with him. I was also suffering from imposter syndrome, because I climbed up the career latter fast and more than doubled my salary in just one year.

Having financial stability as a result, made me reconsider my consumption which I radically changed to live a more sustainable life: These days I mainly wear second hand clothes, prepare my food from local organic groceries and try to reduce plastic and packaging where I can (besides my existing habits of going around by bike and public transport and being vegetarian/vegan).

Being more and more in peace with my lifestyle apparently had an effect on how people perceive me. Suddenly I found it much easier to get in contact with people and open up beyond work-related topics. I soon realised how empowering it can be to trust somebody with very personal stuff.

In 2020, I want nothing more than keep on going, but become more positive in everything I do while moving closer to the person I want to be.