Reflection is an important skill that everyone could benefit from practicing. In part, it helps you get a better reading on where you are in this specific stage of life. It can illuminate skills you’re working on, values you’ve come to hold, and key areas of improvement that can help you attain your goals.

At any given time, we are acutely aware of the day-to-day changes we feel and the resulting emotions. However, we’re less keen in our perception of our trajectory as a whole. This is the fundamental rational for journaling: by putting one’s mind to paper on a daily basis, we can better understand our long-term differences since we have a record of where we came from. I do, however, think that this can be over the top, so one practice I’d like to try is reviewing sections of my year at a broader level, similar to how a company files quarterly reports. This way, only the most salient features of my life will be documented and long-term changes will be significantly more apparent.

Here is my first third of the year, in review:

Highlights
Big or small, the accomplishments, experiences, purchases, that made you really happy and you love talking about.

  • Research vs. Industry: I’ve met many amazing individuals over the past few months through Stanford’s CURIS program and the Byers Center for Biodesign and enjoy the problems that can likely only be solved in a research/pre-commercial setting.

  • Finding Time to Read: I’ve managed to reignite my passion for reading. It used to solely be nonfiction, but now I’ve began to read fictions as well as the occasional biography. It’s definitely helped clear my thoughts and relax, while providing more substantial stimulation than, say, the newest show on Netflix, enough for me to cancel my membership.

  • Building: I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I really like to build things, digital and physical, after taking a computer systems class. This helps me narrow down my potential fields of study in the coming months.

Lowlights
What did you miss out on? What mistakes did you make? Are there any regrets? What, when you think about it, twists your stomach?.

  • Burnout: There are days where I am unable to make any progress on any assignments/projects. I’m hoping being mindful over the next year will enable me to navigate burnout and better manage my work.

  • Time sinks: Like pretty much everyone else I know, I’m trying significantly cutting down my social media usage (this includes you, YouTube). As an addition, I’m stripping down my phone to its bare minimum by deleting several apps (Facebook and Twiter, to name a few) so it can work for me rather than the other way around.

Observations
Can be personal or worldly. Things you’ve noticed that have made you stop and think.

  • Habits: I’m not sure what set it off within me, but I’ve been able to build several strong habits over these past few months. Prior to quarantine, I would workout 6 days a week for at least an hour at a time and manage a heavy unit course load while still having time for a social life (I attribute this to attending a competitive high school). During quarantine, I’ve picked up the guitar every single day, managed to maintain a calisthenics workout for at least 4 days a week (it’s just not as fun), and started to meditate for ~30 minutes a day.

Lessons
Big or small lessons that will influence your decisions over the coming years.

  • Most people are unlikely to do this, but for those who can, immense power to you: When taking fundamental courses (i.e. math, physics, philosophy, etc.) take them in the department that majors in those fields would take them. Stay away from “math/physics for engineers” type courses because what you ultimately learn is a diluted version of fundamentals filled with many applications that you will likely forget soon after.

  • Similar to above, build a strong fundamental base before pursuing depth: Rather than jumping the gun and taking cool, upper division classes, like “machine learning for visual recognition” or “digital systems”, strive to have a strong understanding of the basics. While I was initially fearful, I’m glad I took courses like real analysis and other math classes far beyond any engineering requirements because I appreciate the higher level courses so much more. On the other hand, I took a class “Big Data for Biologists” my first quarter, and while I did well and it was enjoyable, I’ve pretty much forgotten most things I learned in that class, likely due to not understanding the basics at a low enough level.

  • Optimize for long-term success: Pick opportunities where you meet people and learn new things rather than short-term benefits like money. Maximize your velocity and the material gains will (hopefully) be realized later down the line.

Questions
Big or small questions that you come back to. IE: How can I be more disciplined? How does object permanence shape our reality?

  • What should I declare a major in over the next year?

  • Should I pursue a doctorate or go straight to industry?

  • How can I be more mindful and compassionate?

  • What are my fundamental beliefs and values that are non-negotiable?

Goals
In the next third, what do you want to accomplish or build a foundation for? Be realistic and hopeful but also put down a moonshot or two.

  • Publish more reflective posts on this blog of sorts

  • Achieve my athletic goals: 200 bench, 250 squat, 300 deadlift, 7:00 mile

  • Possibly complete a publishable research paper this summer