2017 Examination of Ideals

It’s time for my 2017 Examination of Ideals. Like all years, 2017 had ups and downs. This year didn’t end up how I expected in both good and bad ways. I didn’t make much progress with my ideals, and in some areas I even went backwards. That’s the bad. The good is that I grew so much closer to God, I have a much better idea what he wants me to be doing. This means change is in order. I will be moving away from this set of ideals and replacing it with a new set that fits better with where God is calling me. See the end for more details.

For full descriptions of each ideal, refer to my Personal Catechism.

Prayer Ideals
1.1: I should pray to God as if He was my best friend. Grade: 5/5
I thought my relationship with God was strong last year, but it became even better this year. I have grown so much in the last year, I frequently take little leaps of faith trusting that God will make sure everything works out.

1.2: I should listen to God. Grade: 3/5
Other than a couple months, I didn’t do a good job listening to God. I did pretty well following his commandments and Church teachings, but I wish I had spent more time in silence with God. My trust in God has reached a point where I will follow him almost anywhere, so one of my big goals for 2018 is discerning a vocation. I don’t know if my health is even good enough for any vocation, but I am willing to try for God.

1.3: I should pray informally throughout the day. Grade: 3/5
I did really well at this around 4 or 5 months of the year, but the rest of the time I was poor at praying during the day.

1.4: I should pray formally once a day. Grade: 4/5
I was able to improve in this. Most of the year I prayed twice a day, morning and evening, but there were a couple months I skipped prayer entirely, a big mistake that caused me a lot of suffering.

1.41: My formal prayer should be productive. Grade: 3/5
Most of the year I did well at getting up on time to have room for prayer and stopping everything early enough to have time for prayer before bed. There were 3 or 4 months I was not doing this though.

1.42: I should include the Bible in my formal prayer. Grade: 5/5
I was able to maintain this practice again in 2017, so another perfect score.

1.5: I should pray the Rosary once a day during Lent and once a week during the rest of the year. Grade: 3/5
I got better at going to bed on time, so I did better at praying the Rosary. However, there were still a couple months I didn’t pray at all plus a few more months I had to say a shortened Rosary to get to bed on time. I know I can improve.

1.6: I should spend time each week with the Blessed Sacrament during Lent. Grade: 0/5
I again didn’t start this ideal, but it might be possible this year. My health is doing better most days of the week. However, I am not interested in making a new commitment while I am still discerning. Once I know better what God is calling me to, I will be able to decide how and when to add this ideal.

1.7: I should go to confession once a month. Grade: 1/5
I wasn’t able to add this ideal to my life, only going during the normal Advent and Easter seasons. My health just wasn’t good enough last year for an increase. My health is doing a little better now though, so I might finally be able to do this.

Study of the Faith Ideals
2.1: I should recite the common prayers, the Church prayers, and the Rosary prayers from memory once a day. Grade: 4/5
Other than a couple months, I did this every day in 2017.

2.2: Once a day I should read a Catholic article. Grade: 3/5
I moved away from reading a Catholic article this year. It had started to feel like a chore. I replaced it with working on an indulgence each day. I found it a lot more meaningful to help souls in purgatory. I scored myself a 3 though because I did a lot of reading anyways for my writing this year. It may not have been daily, but I definitely read a lot this year.

2.3: I should read about the feasts on feast days. Grade: 0/5
This is another ideal that felt like a chore, so I don’t know if I will be following it. However, there are some indulgences for special days of the year that I might try to put on my calendar. It’s not the same thing but similar.

2.4: I should read a few chapters of a Catholic book each week. Grade: 3/5
Like last year, I did a lot of reading during Lent, but not much outside of that. I wasted a lot of time during the summer. In the fall, I chose to focus more on prayer to get my relationship with God back to where it should be.

Teaching of Others Ideals
3.1: I should teach through my words. Grade: 3/5
At the beginning of the year, I had a big goal of writing an article each week, but I got burned out by the end of Lent. I returned to writing in the fall, so I somewhat salvaged things. Overall, it was an improvement. I have some exciting things to write this year, but they probably won’t be finished until the second half of the year. I still want to do stuff in person one day, but my health is not there yet.

3.2: I should teach through my actions. Grade: 4/5
I feel I became even holier in 2017 than I was in 2016. I became closer to God than ever before and his perfection rubbed off on me a little. I still have sins and virtues to work on, but I am very happy how I ended up.

3.3: I should teach friends and family. Grade: 2/5
I have a hard time with this one because I mostly only talk to my parents. Them being my elders makes it hard for me to justify teaching them very often. There were a few times, but it didn’t happen very often. I don’t have any friends these days, so I didn’t have anyone else to teach.

3.4: I should teach acquaintances and strangers. Grade: 1/5
My health is still in the way from real progress in this one. I did a lot of work writing online, but I’m sure I could make a bigger impact in person. My health is doing well enough to at least try some things in person if God calls me to do that, but that won’t be until after several months of discernment.

3.5: Whenever someone asks what I did over the weekend, I should always mention attending Mass. Grade: 0/5
This used to happen a lot when I went to the bank, but I rarely go now because of direct deposit. I don’t remember ever being asked what I did over the weekend. I am keeping it at a 0 because I probably wouldn’t remember to mention mass even if I was asked.

3.6: It is sometimes okay to be silent. Grade: 5/5
Silence is always easy for me as an introvert, so I got another perfect score.

Service Ideals
4.1: I should address the greatest need with my donations. Grade: 0/5
I wasn’t able to donate in 2017 just like 2016, but this year will be different for sure. I have enough money now. I am excited to finally be able to contribute.

4.2: I should donate to charities that are in line with Catholic teaching. Grade: 5/5
I’m giving myself a 5 because I’m sure any donations I would have made would have gone to charities in line with Church teaching.

4.3: I should give a 10% tithe per month to the Church and other charities. Grade: 0/5
I didn’t donate anything this year, so it’s another 0 score.

4.4: I should serve at least 6 hours per week. Grade: 3/5
I was able to increase my prayer and writing in 2017, but I wasted several months during the summer. Also, I still didn’t get to do any service in person.

4.5: At least one week per year, I should participate in a special service opportunity that uses a lot more time. Grade: 0/5
Just as I predicted, I wasn’t able to do any special service this year. I am expecting that to be the case in 2018 as well because my goals don’t leave much time for anything else.

Work Ideals
5.1: I should always do a hard day’s work. Grade: 2/5
There were 3 or 4 months, I was not doing a good job going to bed on time and getting up on time. That meant I was rushing to get the same amount of work done in less time. I was also frequently tired at work, reducing my productivity. I can do a lot better in 2018 and expect to.

5.2: I should not become obsessive about work. Grade: 5/5
A big help this year is that my work was steady. I was never surprised by a giant project like last year. I was able to stop work on time and relax pretty well most days.

5.3: I should take breaks during work. Grade: 4/5
I did well at taking breaks most days, but they were sometimes delayed because I got up from bed too late.

5.4: I should finish work before leisure. Grade: 3/5
I did worse this year due to impatience. While waiting for the computer to load, I frequently opened up a website to read an article. Then I’d see another article I wanted to read, and so on until I had wasted an hour. I got into a much better productive state by the end of the year, but I did worse than I should.

5.5: I should find happiness in my work. Grade: 4/5
I did well in this ideal, both with paid work and chores. With paid work, I actively worked on learning more about the things I do. With chores, I got into a habit of infusing prayer to make them all offerings to God.

Health Ideals
6.1: I should eat 3 meals a day. Grade: 3/5
I again delayed lunch many days, but this year it only lasted about 4 months. The rest of the time, I was pretty good at stopping for lunch on time.

6.2: I should eat one serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal. Grade: 2/5
Due to my stomach problems, I can’t eat as much as I used to. This means I usually don’t have enough room for a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Instead, my goal was to eat 2 fruits or vegetables over the whole day. I did pretty well getting it to 1 each day, but never had a good habit of 2 each day. I improved but I could do better.

6.3: I should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Grade: 3/5
I did well about 7 months of the year. The rest of the time I was staying up too late and losing sleep time. This is another area I improved but could have done better.

6.4: I should give myself enough leisure time. Grade: 3/5
I became sort of a workaholic the first 5 months of the year, but after that I did very well at making time for leisure and relaxation.

6.5: I should do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Grade: 4/5
I did much better with exercise in 2017. Most of the year I was doing the right amount of exercise. There were a couple months I didn’t keep up with it though.

6.6: I should lift weights 3 times per week. Grade: 4/5
Due to my health, I found it easier to do several light workouts rather than just a few hard workouts. I increased my weightlifting to 5 times per week but only half as many exercises. I did this all but 2 months, so it is a good improvement.

6.7: I should see the doctor at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
As always I had to see the doctor for prescriptions, so I met this ideal by default.

6.8: I should see the dentist at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
I didn’t have the money to go to the dentist in 2017. I don’t think I will in 2018 either because my money is going to other areas of my health. I might be forced to one day if I get a cavity or broken tooth, but so far my teeth have done well with good brushing and flossing.

6.9: I should see the eye doctor at least once every 5 years. Grade: 5/5
I don’t have to see the eye doctor for a couple more years, so I made this ideal by default.

Leisure Ideals
7.1: I should schedule my sleep time. Grade: 2/5
I got into a good habit until Easter. Then I got out of the habit until November. It was not a good year for my sleep schedule, but I am doing better now and expect to continue.

7.2: I should turn off internet-connected devices by 10pm. Grade: 2/5
This ideal correlates with my sleep schedule. When I don’t turn things off on time, I will usually stay up too late. That happened about half the year in 2017. I improved but can do better.

7.3: I should install an internet filter on all internet-connected devices. Grade: 4/5
In 2017, I started using a company-supplied computer for most things. I didn’t want to tamper with it in any way, so I didn’t install an internet filter. I am not having any problems with looking at bad things on the internet, but setting a good example is always good. If I go back to a private computer, I will make sure to use one.

7.4: I should avoid immoral movies or TV shows. Grade: 5/5
I did perfect with this ideal again. I don’t have trouble with this, so I expect to continue being perfect in this every year.

7.5: It’s okay to waste some leisure time. Grade: 3/5
I did a little worse in this ideal because the first 5 months of the year, I was really strict about my prayer and writing every evening. I was trying to do too much. It was like working 12 hour days. I did much better in the summer and found a nice balance by October.

Money Ideals
8.1: I should spend no more than $100 per month on leisure. Grade: 4/5
A few months I spent more than this, but most of the year I spent nothing on leisure. It averages  out to less than $100, but I need to be more consistent.

8.2: I should save at least $100 per month for retirement. Grade: 0/5
I would have enough money in 2018 for this, but my focus is on charitable donations. I want to make up for the years I didn’t donate anything, so I’m putting off retirement again.

8.3: I should save at least $100 per month for emergencies. Grade: 3/5
I didn’t really save for emergencies, but I did pool extra money to pay for more health treatment in 2018. My health isn’t extremely urgent, but it does limit my activities, so I kind of consider it an emergency.

8.4: I should donate any money earned over $30,000 per year to charity. Grade: 5/5
My income was again less than $30,000, so I didn’t have to worry about this ideal.

Year 2017 Statistics

Chapter Name Lowest Grade Highest Grade Average Grade
Prayer Ideals Ideal 1.6 (0/5) Ideal 1.1 & 1.42 (5/5) 3.0/5
Study of the Faith Ideals Ideal 2.3 (0/5) Ideal 2.1 (4/5) 2.5/5
Teaching of Others Ideals Ideal 3.5 (0/5) Ideal 3.6 (5/5) 2.5/5
Service Ideals Ideal 4.1, 4.3 & 4.5 (0/5) Ideal 4.2 (5/5) 1.6/5
Work Ideals Ideal 5.1 (2/5) Ideal 5.2 (0/5) 3.6/5
Health Ideals Ideal 6.2 (2/5) Ideal 6.7, 6.8 & 6.9 (5/5) 3.8/5
Leisure Ideals Ideal 7.1 & 7.2 (2/5) Ideal 7.4 (5/5) 3.2/5
Money Ideals Ideal 8.2 (0/5) Ideal 8.4 (5/5) 3.0/5
Overall Worst: Service Ideals (1.6/5) Best: Health Ideals (3.8/5) 2.9/5

All Time Records
Worst Chapter: Service (1.4/5) in year 2016
Best Chapter: Tie between Work in year 2016 and Health in 2017 (both 3.8/5)
Worst Overall Average: 2.76/5 in year 2016
Best Overall Average: 2.98/5 in year 2015

How I Graded

I did better than I expected with my ideals in 2017. There were some months I wasn’t working on them at all, but when I look at the whole year, I actually did better. My overall score this year (2.9/5) ended up being just below my best overall score (2.98/5) set in 2015. I am happy I did so well considering the big changes that happened this year. Prayer is still doing well this year. Service remained my worst ideals because I am still unable to serve out of the house. Teaching of Others also suffered for the same reason. I got a little worse in Work ideals because of laziness. At least my Health ideals improved. Despite doing better in 2017 compared to 2016, I am moving away from these ideals.

When I originally wrote these ideals, a lot of them were not really mine. They were things I had heard or read about from others as things good Catholics do. I thought if I wanted to be a good Catholic, I needed to do these things. Some of them were my own ideas but probably half of them were “best practices” I wanted to follow. Now with more experience in the faith, I know the most important thing is my relationship with God. To this end, I am creating new ideals tied completely to this one aspect of my life.

There is a lot of work to do so it’s not going to be soon, but it’s going to be a lot better for me in the end. I also think these ideals may help others, so I will be writing this for anyone, not just myself. I expect to continue my yearly examinations, but all future ones will all be based on the new list of ideals.

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