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Reflecting on my 2019 goals

Since a few years I've been structurally setting myself goals for the shorter and longer term. In this post I will tell you a bit about how I set goals until now and I will reflect on what it brought me.

Winter is a great moment to go along with nature. Stock up on energy, find a warm hole and drop everything for a bit to prepare for another year of hard work, a bit of pain & the pursuit of pleasure. This week I’m hiding on an island from the city; from work; from my a home renovation I need to plan. The ideal moment to calm down and reflect.

Although for years I had actively tried to not plan ahead further than half a year or a year, and I took pride on that. I had been regularly creating moments to reflect and look ahead at the year’s end, sparingly coming up with vague plans or goals.

This radically changed at the far end of 2017. I had bought myself a present: an iPad Pro and my first Apple Pencil sketch somehow turned into a set of goals for 2018. The beauty of doodling! And I guess it was time.

Ambition vs. realism

A doodle of Bram's goals for 2018
My original 2018 goals

My 2018 goals turned out to be quite unrealistic. The highlights of my 2018 goals:

  1. Get fit & finish a 60km trail run
  2. Learn about leadership
  3. Travel far (Nepal / Australia)
  4. Read 33 books (based on my age)

I was injured quite seriously, so training for an ultra marathon was out of the question. I’d been reading around 5 books a year, so quadrupling it would’ve meant dropping a lot of other activities. I was not really interested in leadership and I “only” travelled to France (a month-long road trip, which was awesome). But hey, It was fun to draw, felt good to have a plan and it was very shareable.

Halfway 2018 I tweaked my goals to support the ambitions, but in more reachable chunks, like:

  • train my core power to prepare for better running form;
  • run a longer distance race (turned out to be 26km) without injury;
  • scratch the intercontinental travel plans, enjoy home.

That I could do, and I did.


For 2019 I built on that, with a little help from my friends in a Mastermind group I joined. With our group we evaluate & set bi-weekly personal goals, for me mostly in spirit of my yearly goals. With that I had a group of like minded people to ask questions and get feedback from. That’s how this year I locked it down. More focus, more habits, more todo’s (see figure).

A written and drawn note of Bram's main goals for 2019
My original, main goals for 2019

2019 goals

I locked down on three themes or mantras:

  1. Get fit
  2. Leadership
  3. Stress less

Get fit

While in 2017 I reached a level of fitness I had never experienced before (I ran my first trail running marathon), I started 2018 in pain, with a pair of broken ribs after having a scooter crashing into me on my bike. Physically and mentally it made a big dent. In short: it wasn’t my best of years. It sucked.

Getting back on that level of fitness was my main priority. It had given me so much energy, productivity and pleasure. To top it up, I set the ambitious goal of running my first ultra trail marathon.

Learn about Leadership

After finishing a long term project in 2017, a colleague on that project advised me to invest in my leadership skills. I tend to naturally attract a lead role in projects, but I realise still have a lot to learn. So I listened to her and set it as a topic to learn about.

Stress less in work

This was more a mantra than related to my actual work goals. Something to keep in mind for next year. In 2018 I had had the pressure of some projects really get to me, hence the mantra.

I set a turnover goal for the first time and I invested in my bookkeeping and admin as a foundation for investing in the future.

2019 in hindsight

I got fit

A written and drawn note of Bram's health goals for 2019
My tweaked health related goals from halfway 2019

I’m super happy I am back on the fitness level I was in 2017. I ran a trail running marathon again, like I did back then and I invested in building a stronger body. This paid off, but I didn’t get to my biggest goal: to run my first ultra marathon. I was well on my way, but I over-trained and got injured just in time to ruin my chances for the 55km Morvan Oxygene Trail.

I still ran the 30 km trail run there, with a fever in my bones from the night before. Which I still see as one of my biggest running accomplishments of my life. It taught me a lot about how far one can push his body.

I learned

I set out to read 17 books, and I’m proud to say I’ve already read 18 by now. I read a lot of fiction some non-fiction and 4 or 5 work related books. Rediscovering how reading fantasy can be so much fun was a definite highlight. It is probably the most I’ve ever read in a year and I’m super happy with how it got me to relax, learn & enrich my life.

Although in practice I think I learned about leadership, I did not really pick up this theme. I feel learning about it will still be valuable to me. But halfway the year I decided to switch it for a completely different topic.

A written and drawn note of Bram's house related goals for 2019
My tweaked house related goals from halfway 2019

Investing in the future was another goal. I thoroughly improved my book keeping and insight into my cash flow, did some research into investing my money and I gave myself two options:

  1. Try and buy my rental apartment in Amsterdam and build a home;
  2. Or go on an adventure and move to Berlin.

In summer I got the opportunity to try and buy my apartment and I’m happy to say that seems to be happening soon. I took my time to prepare and it all seems to really pay off now. I’ll probably be the owner of the apartment by 2020. Fingers crossed 🤞

I got more & less stressed

A written and drawn note of Bram's house related goals for 2019
My tweaked work related goals from halfway 2019

In terms of turnover and adding valuable experience to my portfolio, 2019 was a good year. I finished the 2018 project stressless and rewarded myself with some proper time off in summer.

After summer I started on a new project. It turned out to be super chaotic and it stressed me out. I did not burn out, but it gave me a taste of what it might be like.

There were many reasons I got to this low point. I can blame the project, or my colleagues, but if I ever get into a bad project next time that won’t help me. If I have to pick one professional skill to improve upon, I’d say it’s my empathy & flexibility. In existing teams I think it’s a valuable talent, but in a perfect storm of deteriorating fitness (endorphins please) levels, life changing decisions & some other personal matters, this is what got to me. I went with an unhealthy flow and when I realized I had to push back, I had already lost most of my energy reserves.

My biggest regret is not paying attention to my initial ‘stress less’ mantra. But I can definitely say: I learned a lot. It serves as a reminder to specify actions and prevent these high stress levels in 2020.

How it feels

So how do I feel about my achievements in 2019? If I score myself on checkmarks throughout the year, these are the results:

  • ❤️ 47% in health
  • 📖 91% in learning
  • 💻 81% in work
  • 📅 69% over 2019

I’m actually happy about the numbers. The first half I was disciplined and got back to my 2017 fitness level and I finished one of the biggest projects in my career. I did not get to some end goals, but I definitely got damned close and I’m super happy about that.

Then the second half year came and injuried made it hard to keep in shape, socially I isolated myself a bit too much and the stressful project had a big impact. But I was conscious about it and turned it around before it could have a lasting impact on my health. It makes me see the value of mindfulness and meditation, which I elaborate on in a separate note, which will be an important topic for 2020.

In health I think I aimed a bit too high. Which I will need to keep in mind, making plans for next year.

On to 2020

So I’m super happy with how much I have read, learned and accomplished this year. And after this initial evaluation, I already feel energized to find a new job, making my home my own and to keep on learning in 2020.

Stay tuned for one or two more posts about 2020. After this initial evaluation I got tipped a more thorough way of reflection by a colleague and this month I will be working on my topics and goals for 2020.

Thank you for reading. Did you set any goals for last year? If so, how did you get along? And do you have any ideas about how to set and reach your goals? Let me know!

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