Each year of your life, you become older. That part you can’t change.
Fortunately, along with age, there is the chance to also become wiser, to evolve and transcend your current level of who you are.
For me, 2015 started out with a strong vision of how I wanted things to happen. On January 1st, I had written goals, an optimistic outlook, and the willingness to work hard to make things happen.
Yet despite my best intentions, reality had a different plan for me.
Within a few weeks of early 2015, I found myself dealing with a lot of circumstances I hadn’t planned for, and having to make the best of things.
By mid-year, I was completely off track to my original plans and was feeling frustrated. It was easily one of the worst years I could remember in terms of improving myself and reaching my goals. Being an ambitious type, this was my personal version of going through hell.
Amid all the ‘failure’ something else was happening to me. On the inside, I could feel a change, a sense of growth, a feeling of understanding that I’d not experienced before.
That was when I started to look at my internal progress instead of my external.
Steven Covey wrote that ‘Every public victory is preceded by a private victory’.
I take this to mean you have to overcome your internal challenges before you can improve your life.
For me, that is what 2015 has been about. Reflecting on the year as it comes to a close, I can see there are three significant lessons that I am taking with me into the new year ahead.
You can’t control reality, but you can respond to it.
I have always been a big believer in creating the circumstances you want in your life. No matter where you start from, there is a way to push things forward.
Yet at times, the reality of life can hand you circumstances you have no desire for. It’s at these times that the true test of your character begins. You have to choose your response, and manage the circumstances. You have to figure how to shape reality towards the ideal of what you want.
What is amazing is that over time, if you continue to respond to reality in a constructive way, with a good-natured, optimistic outlook, that life tends to turn back in your favor.
One of the most powerful attributes you have as a person, is your ability to choose your response. Your response creates your character, and that in turn, over time, shapes your reality.
You can do a lot more than you realize.
Life is basically just one day. We wake up, we do things, we sleep. There really is no tomorrow or yesterday; just now. It is in the now that we have an immense amount of power.
Around mid-2015, I started to realize that even though life wasn’t making it easy for me to get where I wanted to be, I could find ways to work around it. I could learn new skills, start new projects, build new relationships, and put more energy into the life I had right now.
I was surprised to learn that as I started doing more, that my energy and enthusiasm for life grew. I had a sense of empowerment and confidence. I saw that other people were energized by me, and following my lead.
I realized there is a great power in pouring energy and effort into the life you have. Plus, it makes things a lot more fun.
It’s an old cliche that we all have the same amount of time each day. Yet I believe I was vastly under-using my potential to grow and get involved in the great game of life. This coming year, I will be rallying myself to be and do more, and feeling fully alive as a result.
People are there to support you and guide you.
More than most, I am very guilty of thinking I can do it all alone. I see myself as a lone warrior, forging a path through life, doing it my way.
Cool story, bro.
The truth is that my life (and yours too) is completely immersed in the lives of others. There is basically nothing I can do without the help and support of people. Our whole world is one big intertwined community of humans helping each other.
This year, as my challenges mounted, I was surprised to find how much I needed to rely on the support and guidance of those around me. Family and friends became my secret weapon.
I was rebuilt internally through their kindness and consideration, and it reinforced to me just how much other people make up the true value we experience in life.
The other important part of this lesson is that I need to be open to help. The poet John Donne said ‘No man is an island’. This is a huge lesson I am taking with me for the future ahead.
Bottom line: people are important, and we need to treat them as such. If we do a good enough job treating others well, in our tough times, they will come to the rescue for us as well.
One of my favorite quotes from my hero Earl Nightingale goes like this:
“Your world is a living expression of how you are using and have used your mind.”
If I could be so bold to add to that, I would say it is also an expression of how you use your kindness and your energy each day.
What 2015 taught me: I can never be certain what the year ahead has planned for me. Even though I have new goals, and an optimistic outlook, I am now open to what may come, knowing I will make the best of it.
Here’s to the next level.
Happy New Year,