Celebrating Progress

A physical way to visualize all the little wins in my life

Happy new year! Welcome to the first issue of 2021. I’ve got a fun blog post to share with you. But first, let’s start with a story about how I stay motivated.

I used to view success as absolute outcomes. Maybe earning a certain amount of income, or gaining recognition. I thought these were things that defined me. But now, my only goal is to get better at what I’m doing. We are taught to have specific and measurable goals, which I think is useful in certain settings. But when it comes to life, I think it’s more valuable to have a generic goal that we can never meet. A goal where I strive to get better at what I do is a game I can play until the very end. Everything that I achieve as a result of pursuing this goal is just a milestone. If I made $X amount in a year, then that’s great and we can move on. But, say I made significantly less the next year, then that sucks and we can move on. The good and bad don’t define me. The only thing that I want to be defined by, is having the will to make progress. As long a I get the chance to keep learning, then I’m content.

It’s a big mindset change for me to have. When I started to view my life as a means to just improve what I’m doing now, I suddenly felt lighter. I felt a heavy weight off my shoulder as I realized my achievements or failures, are no longer part of who I am. They can both happen to me and I can learn from it. And that’s all. No matter how high or low I go in life, I only view that as a learning opportunity. This mindset is what keeps me going among the mess of a world we live in.

Despite the huge shift I am experiencing, I still struggle to see the good in my life. I focus too much of my energy on the things that didn’t work out, than the ones that did. I needed a way to resolve this because it wasn’t healthy. Who in their right mind wants to live a life where they see the 1% of the things that didn’t work out, and dismiss the 99% of things that went well? It’s terrible.

I created a new system to track all the things that I did well in life. It’s no surprise that I came up with this since I do a lot of data tracking in my work. The system involves folding paper stars as a means to celebrate. It could be a small thing, or a big thing I want to celebrate. The important thing is to take the time to recognize my efforts and be reminded of all the steps I am taking to move forward.

I fold 2 stars for a little win, 4 stars for medium, and 6 for big wins. A small win could be as simple as waking up early for a few days in a row, or sticking to an exercise routine. Something medium would be more up to chance, like a new work opportunity coming my way. The big one is about persevering through something really challenging. It could be overcoming a fear, or seeing through a large project. It’s the type of win where you feel lighter after going through with it. The most important aspect of this is I can see my progress. I can look at it during days I am not feeling motivated to remind myself that I am achieving small things and taking steps to move forward.

I wrote a blog post that’s being released early for my newsletter subscribers. It’s not public on my site yet, but feel free to share if you like. I will release it publicly after a week. Be the first to read it, click on the button below.

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In case you missed it

I have a new project I just finished (which is a big win!). It’s the recipe project I’ve been talking about since I started this newsletter. It’s dedicated to my mom and grandmother. Check out the project and let me know your thoughts. If you want to read behind the scenes stuff, check out this post.


About Jane

I am an independent data visualization designer based in Toronto, Canada. To see my latest work, check out my website.

Ever since I became an independent designer in 2019, I’ve had many insights about life, work, data visualization, design, and creativity. I have been documenting these insights as much as I can through various mediums. In 2020, I decided to start a newsletter where I can put all these insights in one place. This newsletter is meant for people who want to learn more about what it’s like to be an independent data visualization designer.