Our lives are defined by boundaries — where we stand firm, where we yield, where we can tread, and where we are forbidden. Over time, we get a feel for the guardrails along our path, the hard edges of business and government and the softer edges of our social and personal lives. Every little decision we make, whether to cross a boundary, preserve it, push it further, or create a new one, shapes who we are and who we become. Of course, there are moments when life decides to redraw the lines in the ground.
For me, the past year was a continuous test of boundaries. Professionally, I’ve had to define more clearly what I do and what I want my career to look like. I have also tried to make sense of the divisions between visualization practices and develop a sharper view of information design (an ongoing project). Personally, Hurricane Sandy pretty much changed the game for me. The tidal surge from the storm crossed geographic borders and property lines alike, causing widespread damage that still lingers today. It made me reconsider once impermeable boundaries.
Today, I welcome the transition to the New Year and the chance to map the course for the next twelve months. I will be erasing some lines, darkening others, and charting new paths into unexplored territories. Rather than resort to New Year’s resolutions, I opt instead for some basic ground rules to light my way throughout the year. The number one guiding principle for this year, in work and in life, will be to separate the important from the unimportant — to make the people, pursuits, and ideas I care about my top priority. In practice, that will mean setting some non-negotiable limits on my time and attention and widening my comfort zone. It won’t be easy, but navigating the journey through 2013 will certainly be interesting.