The thing that shocked me most as a recovering academic is that in academia I had a very clear goal that I was working towards, namely becoming a university professor with my own lab doing my own research. When I left academia, I lost that laser sharp focus on the goal entirely. In the beginning that wasn't so much a problem because I seriously enjoyed learning new things and understanding how my new environment worked. However, after a while some days started to feel like I was just moving things around without any clear goal in mind. I would do the work just to please the people around me (and because I get paid for doing it of course). It became more and more clear that I needed to replace the academic goal with some other goal, although perhaps it does not need to be as rigid and laser sharp as that one.
As I wrote at the end of December, 2018 was the year of contemplation and getting a better idea of what I want. I've worked on listing the things I like and dislike doing, but I feel like I need to do more work in crafting that vision of where I see myself and what I want to do. That's why I've made the theme for 2019 "personal branding".
I don't particularly like those words, because they sound a little like you're only showing the shiny, happy version of yourself, but to me they actually mean the opposite: to figure out your authentic self and feel strong enough to bring that to work. One aspect of that is that I tend to pile on as many projects as I possibly can, but I lack focus. Over the break I realized that this might just be because I don't want to fail and doing many things is both an excuse to not to everything 100% but also is a way to spread my changes that at least some of the projects will work out fine. I need to stop doing that and figure out what it is that I want to be known for and then focus on doing just that and embracing the larger chance of failing.
Perhaps this is the work of a lifetime, but no better day to start than today, right?! Happy 2019 and please share your theme in the comments, if you have one!