My Late Review of 2016 – An Anti-New Year’s Resolution
Almost into February and I’m only just posting my first words of 2017! That’s not laziness, honestly, it’s been a crazy start to the year already; work is off the chart, the kids haven’t miraculously stopped needing four football related activities a week and I still work a full time job and have to quit at 2pm three times a week to pick them up from school on my epic 30 mile school run! It’s craaaaazy! But crazy good because everybody is healthy and everything feels possible.
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions, I never do. Deciding that a specific month of the year might be suitable for a positive change isn’t my thing. If I want to make a change I think the best time to start is right at that moment. Don’t get me started on ‘Dry January’ – how about, and I know this sounds crazy, but how about just generally cutting back on the binge drinking ALL YEAR? Those hangovers, tested relationships, expanding waistlines and empty wallets don’t actually improve by sacrificing everything for 4 weeks and then yo-yoing back to your old ways. Rant over.
But I did do a little review of 2016 to see if I could could figure out what to do more of and what to do less of in 2017. I did this in three pretty simple stages that didn’t take a massive amount of time but I found VERY useful. Promising myself I’d go to the gym more in January, only to give up in March does nothing for me. Pointless. But to make a bit of effort to figure out exactly what makes me happy and healthy, exactly what makes me feel the opposite of happy and healthy and then to actually do more or less of those things seems like a no-brainer to me. I’d be happier and healthier (obviously) but I’d also be a better version of me for my friends, my family and my kids.
Step One: A critical trip down memory lane
The first step was to grab may phone (not my usual recommendation for doing anything positive) and to fire up my photo stream. I ordered them by ‘moments’ – it’s an apple thing where you get all your pics bundled into times and places so you revisit your memories based on what you were jolly well up to at the time. And I went through the lot, which I suppose took about an hour. It wasn’t exactly a chore if I’m honest, it was actually good fun. Typically you might think this would be a nice thing to do with friends or family or whoever else you wanted to share your happy memories with but this was a strategic stroll down memory lane and it was important that I do it alone.
There were good memories and there were bad. There were laughs and their were tears. There were fountains and there were drains. I made notes on all these things like the daft geek that I am and by the end of the process I had a pretty solid review of exactly what things had made me happy during 2016, which things had not really made a difference one way or the other and which things had left me cold.
“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognise what makes you happy.” Lucille Ball
Step Two: Breaking things down a little
I broke it down into two key areas:
1. Things that made me healthier, stronger and fitter (or the opposite)
2. Things that made me happier (or the opposite)
Once I’d done that I decided what was under my control and what was not. This is a Stoic strategy, popular with the likes of Marcus Aurelius and Seneca the younger – If you can influence an outcome then it is something that is in your control. If not; if something is determined by others, by luck (good or bad) – external forces – then those things are not under your control. Things that are under your control, they are up to you, they are the things you can crack on with – your choices. The rest, the stuff that you can’t influence one way or the other, much as you may wish you could, those things you have to change the way you perceive.
It’s important to remember that nothing is good or bad until YOU decide it is one or the other. It’s never the thing, it’s the story about the thing that we tell ourselves that determines how we perceive the thing; and whether or not we feel good or bad about it. Gosh, these things eh?
Step Three: Filtering your results to create your plan
Is it a goal or a dream? Love that idea – It’s a great question and good one to fire at the kids when they are fawning over the all you can eat buffet of impending life and all it’s freedoms. If you find something you want (to own or to achieve or to visit, whatever) then you need to ask yourself – Is that a goal or is that a dream?
A dream is something that you wish could happen but it’s actually either not likely (dating a vapid celebrity) or it’s outside the sphere of your control (winning the lottery). A goal is something that you can make happen with the tools at your disposal. If you decide that something is a goal then you make a plan; a clear, step by step plan that will take you from now, right up to your goal, and you focus on it and you commit to it and you make it happen.
Some of the things on your list will be actions (meditate more, hang out with my bestie more, read more, work less, hang out with my biggest drain less, sit less etc) but some will be things that you don’t have right now (the fountain friend, the work do do less of, the place to visit etc) so those things need to be in your Goals or Dreams list (dreams need to be culled I’m afraid – nice if they rock up but they are not for this plan – this is about what you can do, what you can affect).
So let’s just recap the process and get down to brass tacks.
Step one: Go back through your most convenient visual memory trigger. For me that was photo streams, for you it may be your Google calendar or your diary or your journal. Make some notes and look for trends under the following categories:
Things that made you healthier, stronger and fitter (or the opposite) and things that made you happier (or the opposite)
Step two: Take out of that list the things that are not under your control, the things that are driven by luck or the unpredictable nature of other people. Retain the things that you have control over, or at least partial (if not complete) control over. This is you being all stoic with your life you crazy Roman philisophical type you!
Step three: Separate your goals from your dreams and write them down.
Filtering things helps me to decide whether something is a dream or a goal, so with my list of things that made me happy (healthier, better me etc) and the opposite of those things I created a final list of things I’d learned during 2016 that were going to be my guide for 2017. This is what it looks like…
Things that made me healthier, stronger and fitter that are under my control
- Running regularly (no watch, no phone, untimed, unplugged, off road, barefoot – 0 drop shoes not literally barefoot)
- Strength training (my simple push-up, pull-up, myotatic crunch, kettle bell routine 3x per week)
- Nutrition (slow carb diet, 80% veg, bulletproof fasting twice per week – taking 1 week per month off – cutting loose at the weekend)
- Incorporated yoga, stretching and general preventative maintenance into both running and strength work
Things that made me happier that are under my control
- Meditating (regularly practicing not engaging with thoughts and being present with what ever I’m doing and whoever I’m with)
- Being unplugged (carving stretches of time, alone or with friends/family with zero phones, Internet, or any screen. Books, board games, vinyl, talking, eye contact, hiking, log fires, being outside often – that sort of vibe) – this can be one day a week at the weekend (I put the router in the cupboard) but try and do a least a weekend every quarter and a least a complete week once a year.
- Spending more time with my fountains – the friends that make me a better me, the grateful, positive, happy, compassionate ones. And less time with the drains – the selfish, negative, ungrateful types who suck the life out of you
- Morning routines – Getting up in time to run for half an hour, meditate for 10 minutes and journal, even for 5 minutes makes my day feel like a winner before I even have breakfast – massive game changer for me when I do this regularly
My goals for 2017
- To write more. Both my blog and my book projects
- To aim for financial tranquility with my day job (to earn enough to relax about finances, at least a little)
- To be an effective parent (to focus on the balance between support, play and discipline)
- To carve the time to play, explore and learn as much as possible
Of course, there could be so much more I could add to these lists but this is the considered, filtered list of just the things that I know will make me healthy and happy. These are the things that have already made me healthy and happy but along the way have shared focus time with other activities, experiments and time sucks that counter their glorious effect. This review is a reminder to stay focused on what will truly make a difference this year. If I achieve nothing else, just focus on these few, relatively easy and simple things, I will win 2017. For me, winning is being smart about how you fill and use your most valuable resource: Your time.
I hope you have an amazing year, full of all the stuff that rocks your world. If you take anything from this; please remember that focusing on the things that you know make you healthy and happy AND that you also have complete control over – they are worth taking an hour to identify, write down and not forget. Life is busy, there’s so much stuff. A little light filtering can clear the decks a bit and keep you doing the things you love (and avoid the dross).
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