2015: Looking Forward to a Year in Goals

Thinking about goals for 2015 - while at Mt. Hood

Thinking about goals for 2015 – while at Mt. Hood

No matter what you’re working towards, goals are an important way to clarify where you want to go and measure whether or not you are making the progress you want to be making.

To get the most out of goals, however, you also have to make sure you are setting them correctly. No matter what the goal relates to, it should be specific, measurable and achievable. It also needs to have a deadline. That means you need to be able to evaluate whether or not you have reached the goal.

As promised, I’d like to share my goals for 2015, some of them language-related, others culture-related, and some just related to having an awesome life.

Language-related goals (plus explanations)

Read the first Harry Potter book in Arabic

I’ve been wanting to get serious about Arabic for some time. I took an Arabic class when I was in Paris, and until about this time last year I was meeting with a language partner from Lebanon to practice, but I haven’t done much Arabic since then. One problem with setting goals for learning Arabic is that there are no tests. So instead, I’m going to say that I’ll read the first Harry Potter
book in Arabic, which will require quite a lot of progress from my current level.

Deadline: October 31, 2015

Pass the HSK 6 

I had actually wanted to pass the HSK 6 by the end of my time in China, but I got cold feet and didn’t sign up for the test (I don’t think I would have passed anyway). Now I’ve had more time to study and review, and I don’t have any excuse for not even trying. Provided that I also meet the following goal, I don’t think passing the HSK 6 will be that difficult.

Deadline: July 31, 2015

Learn the 3,000 most common Chinese characters

I’ve been plugging away at my Skritter queue, but sometimes it just seems to get longer and longer… Nonetheless, it’s time to plow through the reviews and really learn all of the most common characters. It will make it more likely for me to pass exams (see above) but it will also make it much easier and faster to read (see below).

Deadline: June 30, 2015

Finish reading two books in Chinese: 狼图腾 (Wolf Totem) and 彭祖 (Peng Zu, a book about a semi-mythical figure in Chinese history)

I’ve already started both books, but going is slow, especially in 彭祖. But finishing both books is important to me, for different reasons. Also, I see myself as the kind of person who reads in Chinese, so I need to be able to read these books in order to be the person I want to be.

Deadline: August 31, 2015

Writing Goals

As many of you may know, I’m also a journalist. Most of the work I’ve done up to this point has been translating, editing and curating for an awesome news site called Worldcrunch. But I’d like to do more original work. So, in 2015 my goal is to:

Write 8 long-form, narrative non-fiction articles of at least 3,000 words each

This is the kind of journalism I am more interested in doing. It’s difficult to break in to, but I’ve already had some success (notably this article about Chinese names), and I’m building on it.

Deadline: December 31, 2014

Get a book contract for a narrative non-fiction book

Writing narrative non-fiction books has been an important career goal of mine for a long time. In fact, in an ideal world in the future I would make a living doing nothing but writing narrative non-fiction. But I’ve suffered from a lot of self-doubt as a writer, and hesitated when I shouldn’t have. This year, though, I’m going to get that book proposal out there and get a contract!

Deadline: August 31, 2015

Read 48 narrative non-fiction books

If I want to write them, I have to read them. I already read a lot of narrative non-fiction, but I don’t think I’ve been particularly methodical about choosing authors whose work I already respect and really reading actively, analyzing what works and what doesn’t in the book. That’s exactly what I’m planning to do this year.

I’m also going to focus more on the subjects that I already consider myself to be an expert on, which is to say books about the countries I specialize in (France, Russia, Spain, China), and/ the topics that interest me: food, sustainability, urbanism and, ok, well actually a lot of topics interest me, but you get the point.

Deadline: December 31, 2015

Other goals 

Master 10 dishes from six different cuisines

I like to cook. There’s something extremely satisfying about making a great meal for family and friends. When I’m able to make something unusual or that people think of as “difficult,” it’s magical. Cooking at its best is true alchemy: Turning something simple and plain into something extraordinary. More importantly for this site, cuisine is a window into culture, something at is central to almost every society on earth (although perhaps not my own, American, culture, interestingly enough). Since returning from China I haven’t been cooking as often as I want to. That is going to change with the start of the new year. I’ll be mastering 10 dishes from French, Russian, Chinese, Lebanese, Nicaraguan and Spanish cuisine. Those countries also correspond to the places I’d like to be an expert in writing about – and whose languages I speak (or plan to speak in the near future!).

I’ll be starting this week, with a galette des rois, a French dessert for Three Kings Day. Stay tuned for recipes, photos, etc!

Deadline: December 31, 2015

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