At this time last year, if you would’ve told me about how 2016 was going to play out for me, I doubt I would’ve believed you. I’ve stated a few times on here that it has been my Crusade of Growth over these last 12 months. As we’re about 10 days away from turning the page to 2017, I wanted to reflect on all that I’ve learned. The entire purpose of this blog is to share what I have come to know in hopes that some poor sap like me will find it and be inspired to take a path similar to mine. The path that I stumbled upon has changed my life in more ways than I could have conceived. This post is simply a culmination of those changes, hoping to give you an idea of what worked for me. Will it work for you? I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that it’s worth a try. There is no losing in an effort to better yourself. There is only trial, error, learning and growing. Rinse and repeat. Take what helps you and leave what doesn’t.
Okay, I have known how to read for a while now. But this year I actually started reading things that weren’t assigned to me. For most of my life, giving me a book as a gift was a symbolic “up yours!” Now, the majority of my wish list are books. What changed? I got married. My wife didn’t shove books down my throat by any means. I just felt like I was somehow more of an adult now, and it was time to get my act together. My eye caught this book that my mom had given me a while back: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. “What’s more adult than getting your finances in order?”, I thought. So I cracked it open and read it from cover to cover. What I loved about the book was the mix of storytelling and actionable steps to fixing your finances. After taking some of the advice and seeing results, I quickly wanted more. This led me down the rabbit hole of personal development and self-help books that I am loving right now. Each book that I have read has offered some new perspective or important habit that has changed how I look at my life. As it turns out, reading isn’t so bad. I actually really enjoy it now. The more information I can cram into my brain, the more things I can do with it. As one of my mentors, Tom Bilyeu, says, “Ideas In=Ideas Out.”
Like reading, this isn’t exactly a new habit or skill that I’ve attained. I’ve been writing pretty fluent English for most of my life, I just upped my game this year. After reading so many books, I felt compelled to do some writing of my own. I started this blog to share what I had learned, but also to make some of the concepts I’ve learned more accessible to others. By writing out my thoughts here, I have made my understanding of each tactic, tool, and perspective SO much deeper.
I’ve also found writing to be therapeutic. It’s not that I’m a particularly troubled human being. But, by spilling my mind out in these posts, I feel that my mind is less cluttered than if I kept said thoughts trapped without expression. There’s plenty of research that suggests writing or journaling can be very helpful with anxiety, depression, or just problems in general. It’s as if you pop the lid on the jar of thoughts that have been racing around for so long.
I would say that writing is now a passion of mine. I love putting my thoughts out there and playing with phrases to make the point stick. I keep coming back to this blog week after week because I get a rush from each idea I let flow through my fingers and onto the screen. I’ve even started to do some freelance writing on the side, which allows me to make a buck or two while doing something I enjoy. Talk about a win-win. I even went so far to write my own eBook, which is currently on Amazon–>The Road to Passion and Purpose: Finding Your Way to a Meaningful Life. It’s been a fun ride so far, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
When’s the last time you just sat quietly, alone with your thoughts? No one ever does, unless they’re intentional about it. We don’t have time to just sit and think because we’re all so busy. But if you practice meditation for a week or two, you’ll find out quickly why finding that time is necessary. I meditate for about 10-15 minutes every day. I just wake up a little bit earlier, sit on my couch and let Andy from Headspace walk me through a simple exercise. In my opinion, meditation creates two things in your life that so many of us need: a sense of calm and awareness. We all could use a little more calmness in the busy world we live in. We could also use some awareness of the things that we take for granted every single day. Meditation sets the foundation for my day. After my 10-15 minutes, I feel energized to seize the day in the most positive way possible. Stop waking up in a full sprint. Take some time to breathe, reflect and relax. You won’t be disappointed.
Seek Like-Minded Individuals
Find a group of people that either have done what you’re trying to do or will join you in your mission to achieve whatever you’re trying to. No matter what your ambition is, you need to get yourself in a room with people that are wired like you. I don’t care if that’s personal growth, cooking, painting, or fantasy football. Find people that think like you. These people will pull out your highest potential and let it be seen. I recently joined a mastermind group led by my friend and mentor Tommy Baker, and it’s been incredible vibing with this small group of guys that are all pushing for more in their lives. We hold each other accountable and cheer on each other’s successes. Most importantly, we all get it. We’re all in on this adventure to improve ourselves. Your friends and family will support you and love you, but they may not be willing to dive all in on improvement with you. That’s okay. They shouldn’t have to. My wife is my biggest cheerleader, but I can’t expect her to join me in all the reading, writing, and meditating I’m doing. My family and friends all still love me, but most are indifferent to all this “extra stuff” I’m up to. Find yourself a group of people that have the same mission as you, and watch how quickly you progress. Don’t leave your old life behind, just add in a section filled with passionate people that are trying to level up like you are.
Stoic Philosophy-Be Present
I remember reading philosophy texts in college and waking up to the book resting on my face. I could hardly get through a page without feeling dumb or losing interest. This year, though, a few guys that I admire started talking about Stoic philosophy and how it had changed their perspective on life. Remembering back to when my face was frequently used as a tabletop for such texts, I put off reading anything Stoic for a while. One particular text kept coming up, though: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. After some hemming and hawing, I finally decided to give it a whirl. When I got my copy in the mail, I was excited. It was only 99 pages! What a quick read! Boy, was I wrong. Very, very wrong. Meditations is essentially an emperor of Rome’s thoughts and reflections on his life. It was the densest 99 pages I’ve ever read. The reading was dense, I felt dense, there was a lot of density going on. After studying the pages for a long time, a theme of Stoic philosophy emerged that I enjoyed. Having a sense of, and living for, the present moment was a concept Aurelius wrote about frequently. We all get caught up in what our future holds, or what people and memories we left in the past. What gets lost in all of that is what’s happening right now. Aurelius’ argument was that the present is all you have. The past is gone, the future not guaranteed. Living inside each moment instead of waiting for the next one, or hoping that a previous one comes back around. That is how I have aimed to live my life since reading Meditations. One thing that is certain about life is that it comes to an end. Some would find that morbid to think about, but after reading Marcus Aurelius, I think it’s a refreshing awareness that allows us to enjoy each and every moment. Time shouldn’t be wasted, enjoy life right now!
2016 has been amazing. I’m excited to see what I can accomplish by the time I write this next year. This is only the beginning.
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