It’s incredibly cliche to post about the life lessons from the year just gone as the festivities approach. But before you judge me, realise I didn’t do one of these last year for the simple reason that last year didn’t teach me as much as this year, OK?
And they always say if you haven’t got anything good to say, keep quiet. So metaphorically, that’s just what I did!
Like you, I can vividly recall moments in January and February that seem as real today as they were when they were live. Where the summer went, I don’t know. How it’s nearly Christmas, I also don’t know. One thing I do know though, is 2018 was one of the most profound and prolific years for me in terms of growth and personal development. Rather than boast about that, I’d like to share some of the things I learned this year which I’m aiming to carry into next year and apply.
These will be a mix of personal, professional and even relational lessons. I want this to almost read like a journal and the message to be heartfelt. This won’t be a ‘5 ways to get more gains in 2019’ post, or a rehashed list of tips from the New York Times.
If you’re unhappy, do something about it
The amount I prolonged my misery was apparent this year as I was finally able to leave an incredibly volatile relationship, most of which I never spoke to anyone about apart from my very nearest and dearest. This relationship lasted 18 months + and I knew I wasn’t happy for at least the last 6 months of it, probably longer. But I got comfortable. I was too scared of what I might lose to see what I could gain. I was a coward. I didn’t think I was worth anything else so I stuck in there, knowing it wouldn’t change but hoping that somehow I’d find an escape.
Sometimes life rewards you with a temporary escape, it did me eventually but this is usually all it is: a temporary escape. You think you’re being kind by hanging in and sparing their feelings but if you’ve tried and tried to explain what it is you need and want from the other person, and still things don’t get better, you owe it to yourself and them to separate.
If you’d rather a professional example, I stepped into the big wide world of self employment this year after months and months of knowing it was the right thing, yet still contemplating doing it. Again, I had been unhappy for at least 6 months but was afraid I wasn’t good enough to make it. Most often the ‘sink or swim’ pressure forces you to ensure you do make it – it’s another form of human survival instincts on display. You have to ask yourself: would I be willing to earn a little less, initially, for more peace of mind and happiness? Since making the switch I can honestly say I haven’t looked back, which tells you all you need to know.
Self assertion is scary and risky but it leads to bigger and better things. Don’t hesitate and follow the heart. Again, often cliche sounding bullshit but it has merit.
Your instincts are incredibly powerful……..and often correct
Sometimes life brings you closer to the most unexpected people, for whatever reason. You may think of, or know of, these people a certain way thanks to their reputation or what you’ve seen/heard about them. The person in question may display completely out of character behaviour to you and show a side nobody who knows them better than you has seen. And let’s not forget this scenario is applicable to situations and not just people!
You adopt an open mind and embrace this unseen side and people keep reminding you they don’t know the person in question to be like that. ‘Maybe they can just be themselves around me, and not the rest of the world?’ You optimistically claim. Nevertheless, being the self protective organism you are, you keep the warnings about them in your mind, simply hoping they’ll be quashed by the passing of time and with actions.
Surely they’re not just presenting you with a false version of themselves to get what they want/need out of you?! They’ll insist they’re not the way the world sees them and they are this unseen flower and you’ll ride the wave of hope and optimism and believe it…….
And then, as I’ve written before and say all the time….actions start silencing the words and you begin to see the walls fall down and what lies beneath. This process is gradual but if you’re smart enough you’ll see the signs accumulating. It’s at this point you need to do what we covered above – assert yourself and call them out on it or better yet, leave. Again, this was a major personal failing of mine, as I left one relationship and kind of fell into another on the premise that this girl was all she seemed and I believed it right up until recently where I can see it so much clearer. Being told actions don’t matter because words are there and blatant behaviour changes being palmed off as ‘struggling’, along with empty promises that things will go back to ‘normal’ soon enough.
It’s a really tough situation as you want to be open and optimistic. You want to give chances and not become cynical and closed off but encounters with these people try to force you down that path. The positive to take here is, everytime this happens it’s life strengthening your ability to trust your instincts and cement whose opinion actually matters and is relevant. Patterns aren’t normally coincidental; they mean something and these encounters are the development of your protective intuition, so that eventually you can spot it a mile off and remove it from your life before damage is done.
New destinations are soul food
Anyone that’s travelled will tell you you need to too. You’ll know it in your subconscious but until you experience it, you’ll never fully appreciate their sentiments. Up until this year I was woefully under-travelled for a 27 year old. I had been to Paris way back in 2002 and that was it, if you discount trips around my homeland (The UK). However, this all changed as I visited Malaga in Spain and The Republic Of Ireland, all within the span of a month and boy, did I love it!
The famous Malaga sign
Kilkenny River (Ireland)
There’s a certain perspective on your own life you get when you’re miles away from the norm…….the routine……..the same old. It’s one no amount of objective thinking at home can see, you simply have to be removed from a situation often times to really see it. They say time away from someone/something allows you to truly realise what you think/feel about it, and travelling will certainly do that.
To some of you, my travels will be pale in comparison to the glitz and glamour of 6 month tours in which you stop of all over Asia and America but the gain to the soul is just as fruitful – and I’m sure I’ve only gazed at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the travel world!
Set some time and money aside to explore. Go with someone if you can but if you can’t, travel alone. Solo travel is even more nourishing to the soul; it’s the ultimate form of self sufficiency and finding yourself……who you are, what makes you really tick, what you want from life and who you need and what you can let go of.
Never say never
It’s so easy to say you won’t do something again in the heat of the moment. “That’s it, I’m finished with them. Never again!” But time is a wonderful healer and much like the travel example, it offers a different perspective. I have always been known for having strong opinions and being stubbornly against things on the simple premise that I said I wouldn’t. You may argue this is ‘being a man of your word’, or could it be a case of, ‘being open to opportunities and the very real possibility people might change and situations may change with them’.
Sticking to your word to not let people down is an absolute must, but denying yourself opportunities in future on the brash premise of never doing something or associating with someone again, could just cost you in the long run. Everyone is different and the time needed for a shift in perspective or to attain clarity could be much longer for you than I, or vice versa. The point is: Is anything really worth writing off forever – as in FOREVER?
Always re-assess old situations and try to let go of unnecessary negative energy and bitterness because not only does it show, it holds you back. This is an area I’ve really struggled myself and still to this day have issues with. I guess the drawback to a passionate and intense personality is those feelings will apply to the negative as well as the positive. Another way to look at it is the best relationships and passions are ones that have endured and overcame strains along the way. If you write something off at the first sign of hardship, how can you ever truly achieve anything meaningful?!
Know that very rarely is anything truly forever and that will bring peace within itself and also keep you open to the wonderful surprises life brings.
People skills are more important than ability
‘Generation education’ has us believing the more theoretically equipped we are, the better. Practicality seems to be the lost art. We have people coined as ‘masters’ of their field based purely off the letters they have after their name. Education is necessary but it is by no means an iron tight insurance policy against failure. You must be practical. You must acquire experience – hands on experience, real experience. You need to be able to interact well and effectively.
When it comes to business, how you make people feel goes far further than how many facts you can accurately relay to them, or how many pieces of paper you have on your living room wall. There are so many credible resources on this subject. Way back when I began working in the fitness industry I purposely ordered the book ‘How To Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. I knew fitness was a world where communication was key and I can honestly say reading that book has done wonders.
I actually try to re-read it once per year and evaluate my ways with people. Jason Ferruggia is an inspiration of mine and he has always advocated all three: aiming to continually improve your people skills, read & own that book along with re-reading it every so often to keep the principles fresh and alive in your mind.
“People may not remember exactly what you said or did, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”
An easy way to do this is simply being aware of your body when you’re talking to/dealing with people. What energy are you projecting? Are you open and receptive? Do you look engaged? Or are you fidgeting and letting your mind wander? You might not give it much credence but people notice this shit. They really do. And it’s so easy to let it slip and get into really bad habits. Being aware is usually more than enough to just check yourself every so often and ensure you’re sending the right messages; positive energy and vibes wherever possible.
Every now and then I like to stray away from the technicality of fitness and delve into the depths of personal development and life itself. I sincerely hope this piece helped you and I hope you have a better year next year and strive to make yourself a better person. If everyone committed themselves to such a task the world would be a better place with more clarity, productivity and far less issues.
Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.