New Years has come and gone, which means every conversation I’ve had has been about the copious amount of food consumed over the last two weeks, the merit of resolutions or how overrated the whole event is…bro.
How was your New Years? Did you spend some time thinking about the past 12 months of your life? The ups and downs? Did you learn new things about yourself or your loved ones? Was there pain? Joy? Laughter? Tears?
We had a great New Years tucked away in a cabin with a couple of close friends. we ate, laughed and tried to settle Catan. With the whole world muffled under a layer of snow, it was a wonderful opportunity to sit in wool socks beside the fire and reflect on the last 12 months of my life. There is a beautiful Muhammad Ali quote about time and progress, “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
I believe this wholeheartedly but would take it a step further. A man (or women) who views the world the same way as he (she) did 12 months ago has wasted a year of his (her) life. I am not suggesting that every year you experience an earthshaking epiphany that once again alters your core concepts but if you have not shifted or enhanced your perspective at least once in a 12 month period you need to reassess where and who you spend your time with.
This past year has provided me with so many opportunities for growth and I hope that I am starting to shape into a man those closest to me are proud of. I think we all struggle with creating an identity, having it constantly probed and forcing us to decide what we keep and what we discard.
I want my person (who I am mentally, emotionally, spiritually) to be a piece of non-hardening clay, forever malleable should it be exposed to the proper conditions. We all start out as the same clay but some harden with age, closing off to new exposures and refusing to be re-shaped. I am as guilty as anyone else, but this year I did my very best to remain open, receptive, and pliable.
In doing so I’ve learned some immeasurably valuable lessons, lessons acquired through every way imaginable. I have read, watched, listened, and (most painfully) experienced, things this year that helped create and shape these 3 lessons. I hope you find them useful and would urge you to share your own.
The Mental Game – Having some version of a mindfulness or meditative practice will improve every area of your life, I would go so far as to say that it is nearly vital in achieving the level of success you desire. Tim Ferris released a new book this year titled “Tools of Titans”, a collection of interviews from all the greatest minds he has had the fortune to meet. In the opening chapter under, “What do they have in Common’, he notes that “More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice.” Over 80 percent of the individuals from a pool of the very best in their respective categories. My experience over the last year aligns with the 80 percent, these practices have lent clarity to situations, helped ease fears and anxieties, regenerated the body and generally improved how I approach problems. There is a horrible stigma surrounding the mental game as if searching for help within that sector is a weakness, a conviction I carried for most of my adult life, I now understand that it is a sign of strength to display a level of vulnerability. Meditation can seem horribly intimidating but I would urge everyone to commit to 10 days of practice. The Headspace App is a great intro, you receive a free 10-day guided meditation program when you download the app plus insight and science supporting the practices.
Failure is Necessary – Failing, losing, breaking down, collapsing, however, you term it, it sucks. I’m not talking about losing a game of cards or pick up basketball (which I also hate) but the kind of losing that comes with committing everything you are to an idea or action and having it crushed. One of my coaches talks often about the self-sabotaging behaviors he sees in athletes, they intentionally avoid covering ‘all their bases’ during preparation to leave an available excuse should they lose. I think this idea carries over into all areas of life and I know that personally, I’ve avoiding certain challenges for fear of failure. This year I failed, despite my best efforts not to and the result is an improved version of myself. 2016 taught me to commit to embracing failure and in doing so take away its negative power, the quicker we fail the more we learn.
Perspective beats Position – Perhaps you are working a job you don’t love and never imagined doing? Or living in a cramped studio apartment, barely able to see the floor? I’ve struggled with this idea for a long time and sometimes still do, believing that if I reached a certain ‘position’ in life, everything will be perfect. My stress will dissolve and I will find joy and purpose in everything I do, I have only to accomplish the next task. I’ve now realized that how we approach our situation, our perspective, defines how we experience it. Sylvie (my better half) recently recited a quote, “The process is as good as it gets.” (Jay Abraham) This has resonated with me and I’ve been mulling it over for the past few weeks. It is not about acquiring a position of comfort to create happiness and satisfaction but developing an attitude that can find them in every situation. This does not mean we should stop striving to be better and achieve more, that is part of the process, but so is the stress, anxiety, doubt, and fear. Enjoy them all, find happiness in it all despite the difficulty, it is a tall order but well worth it.