Warning: The body of this post is a massive rant on my triumphs and struggles over the last few years. Many readers have expressed interest in reading a brief history of my life, but for those here strictly for usable information read only the bold in this post. You’ve been warned.
We’re now over a week into 2014. Are you keeping up with your New Year’s Resolutions? If so, kudos to you. If not check out this post on why New Year’s Resolutions don’t work and how you’ve set yourself up for failure.
Now, take a minute to think about where you were a year ago. Really think about it, and to the best of your ability project yourself back to that moment. What were your biggest challenges? What was the state of your emotions? How was your life different from today?
If the last year of your life has been a successful one your life probably looks significantly different. If not, change may be something to strive for this year. I’ve personally found that while change doesn’t happen overnight, it’s possible to completely revamp about one area of your life per year whilst maintaining or steadily improving the others.
Every year I have a primary focus that sets the tone for how I approach the year. The reason I set yearly focuses instead of resolutions is because I’ve found that it’s very difficult to gauge how much progress I’ll make in an area over the course of a year. Doing so is too much guess work, and sets myself up for inoptimal performance. Having focuses instead of resolutions also allows me more flexibility to change the way I approach improvement in an area of my life over that year.
Of course, there’s also mini monthly and weekly periods of immersion within the year and daily or even hourly periods of expansion and contraction within those, but as a general rule I turn my life upside down more or less on a yearly basis.
My Experiences With Yearly Transformations
In January of 2011 I was depressed. At the time what I believed to be the girl of my dreams had left me brokenhearted and I had spiraled into a deep depression. This was about the time I became interested in personal development, and I decided to make 2011 a year of discovery to determine if change was actually possible.
That year I went on to improve from being the worst player on my club team to eventually becoming the best sub, and later making my school’s varsity team.
I also improved my dating life, entering my first relationship, spent countless hours talking to other girls after the conclusion of that relationship, and taking a beautiful girl to homecoming.
My social life also turned itself upside down, and I went from having poor social skills and an extremely weak social life, to SOLID social skills, and being one of the most “popular” kids in high school.
I also became clean from several addictions, went vegan, and in the last month of 2011 picked up basic juggling. Although all the skills I had developed were cool, I was also happier than I’d ever been, and I had learned that improvement in any area of your life is possible.
2012 was more of a down year. At the time I didn’t realize that social skills were something that needed to be maintained, and as my skills degraded I went from having an abundant social life to having very few friends, no dating life and living in almost complete isolation.
My emotions hadn’t fallen back down to the deep depression they were once in, but as a result of my social isolation, I relapsed back into an addiction, and overall wasn’t nearly as happy as I was for the majority of 2011. I learned that results aren’t permanent, and I can’t continue to thrive off the labor of yesterday.
I let my ego get in the way of my success. Because I felt bad about not being at the level I had been less than a year ago I used juggling as a form of escapism, and would often juggle for over six hours per day.
Escapism is rarely healthy, but 2012 did allow me to begin walking the path of mastery and dramatically improve my skills as a juggler. You can watch my One Year Of Juggling video as proof of the improvements capable in a year.
I also began regularly lifting weights in 2012, and although year’s end had me physically stronger than I had ever been, psychologically I was as fragile as ever. My confidence was also low, as I’d experienced the pain of tasting success only to lose it shortly after.
2013 was probably the most interesting year yet. I continued my rapid progression as a juggler, and reduced my practice time from 4-5 hours per day to an even 2 hours a day, six days a week.
I also experienced a brief period of social abundance in the second half of the summer. I didn’t walk through life with the charisma I had in the second half of 2011, but my social circle was as healthy as it had ever been, I took another beautiful girl to Homecoming and I saw that getting back to my prior social glory was possible.
I continued to make progress in the gym in 2013, but the most significant change came in the professional area of my life. Blogging, and towards the end of 2013, vlogging as well.
In 2013 I wrote about 150 blog posts, and also recorded about 25 self-improvement videos (as well as about 25 juggling videos). It’s impossible to produce that much content in the field of personal development, and not emerge a changed man.
Although 2013 had me establish a respectable body of work, develop my juggling skills, significantly mature, and grow through my work in the field of personal development, I also saw two glaring holes that needed to be addressed this coming year.
One, my difficulty in enjoying the processes of life. Over the previous few years I’ve become robotic and began treating everything as merely a means to an ends. I don’t take time to enjoy things anymore, and I don’t give whatever I’m doing my full attention. I’m always thinking about what needs to be done next, and as a result I’m never able to enjoy what I’m currently doing.
I already mediate consistently so it’s not so much my attention span that’s incapable. More of it’s that I’m trying to use the future to justify me not enjoying the current moment. This is something I’m beginning to improve with using the ideas discussed in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now.
The other? My social skills. Although I had been making great progress with them this summer they’ve completely tanked over the last several months. This was a somewhat conscious decision as I wanted to focus my attention on producing blog content.
What I do know is that my social skills improve FAST. After a week of socializing everyday I’m almost always one of, if not THE most fun person in the room.
I’m extremely comfortable with who I am as a person, I just lack the ability to project this to the world when I’m working long hours and don’t socialize. However, I’ve also seen that being a workaholic isn’t productive, and my most productive weeks of 2013 were when I was going out regularly.
That’s why my focus for 2014 is going to completely turn my social skills upside down. If I’m socially sharp after a week of going out I know that after a month or two of consistently going out I’ll be able to surpass my social skills of late 2011 and make 2014 the most enjoyable one of my life.
I plan to do that both through the expansion of my social circle as well as obtaining a job. I think under normal conditions most jobs are for suckers. I value my time much more highly than minimum wage, but for my current position in life a job will also provide me a consistent opportunity to socialize for hours on end.
Social skills tend to perpetuate themselves. If you’ve got good social skills you’ll get invited to lots of social events, but if you lack social skills you’ll have difficulty finding opportunities to improve them. If you find yourself in my position getting a job is a good way to put your social skills into the positive spiral.
I’m already making solid progress in the other areas of my life so although I plan to continue making steady gains in them, I also recognize that the social area of my life is where my attention is most needed so that’s where I plan to immerse myself.
(I’m trying not to take myself as seriously this year.) 😉
Immersion Vs Burn Out
I think striving for massive improvements in one area of your life each year is an effective approach because it establishes specific habits of success, allows you to immerse yourself and identify solutions to the nuances of whatever you’re trying to improve, and finally because it prevents long term burn out.
If you’re trying to juggle 6 hours a day YOU WILL burn out. It’s inevitable. If you try to write two blog posts per day YOU WILL burn out. If you’re out late every night in an attempt to develop your social skills YOU WILL burn out, (or the rest of your life will suffer).
However, by limiting your periods of immersion in an area or skill to a year (and possibly later reimmersing) you’re able to pick up on things dabblers can’t while also preventing yourself from developing a resentment for an area of your life.
Yearly transformations are of course a completely arbitrary measurement. I use them as a high school student simply because they’re a natural period of time to use as we advance a grade level each year. You could of course select any amount of time. Longer periods of time allow for a potentially deeper immersion, while shorter periods allow you to make surface level changes in several areas of your life more quickly.
Also, after you’ve gone through a couple periods of transformation you should be able to identify important trends in the way you learn. For example, I’ve found that something I often struggle with is remaining present to the moment and process oriented. Other people may struggle with maintaining motivation, or persevering when things become difficult.
Regardless, the important thing is you identify your weaknesses, and craft your environment to avoid them from being problematic or, at some incorporate them into your periods of immersion and improvement.
What should you immerse yourself in you ask? My advice to you is to find the area of your life that’s calling you. Or better yet, the area of your life that most frightens you. That’s where you need to place your attention.
Keep a selective focus as you’re likely going to struggle with revamping every area of your life in a single year, but there’s no reason you can’t do a damn good job on one of them.
This is one of the first posts in several months I considered deleting as I feel it’s the weakest in a long time and I just wasn’t able to express what I wanted here. I’ve had several requests for a brief history of my life though, so I decided to push it out anyway. Hope you’re able to take some value from it.
In the few days after I’ve written this I’ve had a huge internal shift, and have been having more fun socially than I have in a LONG time.
(Picture is from “Color Day” of Homecoming week 2013.)
[grwebform url=”http://app.getresponse.com/view_webform.js?wid=12610802&u=BS1kr” css=”on” center=”off” center_margin=”200″/]