Week 100 –Reflecting on Milestones and Systems

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100 posts! Woo hoo! This milestone feels like it necessitates something special…some kind of marker to cap the achievement, doesn’t it?

At first, I thought so too. But in brainstorming ideas for what exactly that marker would look like, my sentiments shifted. Celebrating milestones can feel good in the moment, but in my experience the celebration soon gives way to a lull where I feel unmotivated…until the next milestone (150 posts!) appears along the horizon. This cycle seems somewhat unavoidable if you’re focused on setting goals and celebrating their achievements. It also seems at odds with what this project is all about. Unlike the popular 365 projects, in which photographers commit to posting an image every day for a year, I deliberately didn’t specify an endpoint for my photo of the week project. Planning for the project to be over seemed to somehow be at odds with the essence of what I was trying to get from the project…

I didn’t realize it at the time, but in thinking of this project in this way I was implementing what Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, refers to as “systems thinking.” Rather than setting a goal (e.g., “post one photo every week for 100 weeks” or “post one photo a day for one year”), I was implementing a system that encouraged me to consistently make photography and share it with the world. I knew that I would miss weeks, and by focusing on the overarching system rather than a narrow goal I didn’t feel stressed when I did.

Another photographer that exhibits this kind of thinking is Woody Campbell, who has committed to take at least one photo every day for the rest of his life. He’s currently in his seventh year of this project, and I doubt he spends much time celebrating each 100th post…

My point is not that we shouldn’t pause to reflect on and appreciate our accomplishments — my point is that we shouldn’t let external metrics dictate when we do this. Rather than oscillating between long periods of looking forward to completing some arbitrary goal and briefly enjoying a feeling of accomplishment, I’d love to instead fully appreciate every step along the path. As Alan Watts dramatically puts it:

If happiness always depends on the future, we are chasing a will-o-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish in the abyss of death.”
— Alan Watts

So rather than celebrate 100 posts, today I’m celebrating this individual post and the system that allows me to do so! 🙂

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