At the beginning of each year I like to reflect upon the previous 12 months as a means of identifying what went well, and what areas of my life were absolute cluster-fucks that demand immediate attention. As part of this process, I like to extrapolate key lessons from the preceding year, signifying the important knowledge that was obtained and providing me with guidance on how to make decisions for the next 12 months. They say that in life, if you aren’t progressing then you’re dying (awfully morbid for a light-hearted fitness blog but i’ll go with it), and therefore it’s crucial that we continue to grow in all aspects of our lives, to become the best versions of ourselves. Here are four key lessons I took from 2022.
Hard work is useless without intention
In 2021, I became a fitness nut. Previously, I was relatively active and had been sporty in my youth but I certainly wasn’t the epitome of health and wellness. After a dreadful bout of mental health problems, which had been lingering since the revolting teenage years, I decided to overhaul my routine and focus primarily on being the healthiest version of myself. From sleeping in until 10am to then meditating at 5.30am – yes i became one of those cliches. Basically, this is around-about way of saying I saw huge progress psychologically and physically in 2021. I thought if I continued this entrenched routine with little thought, then this progress would continue in an upward trajectory, and before i knew it i would be the healthiest human on the planet, prancing around smugly on my massive tanned calves and clutching my chiselled abs. Alas, I did not make the physical and mental improvements that I expected in 2022. This is because without intention, and purpose, our hard work will not be effective in creating the improvements that you are seeking.
You can have the best morning routine in the world and the most committed gym schedule but if you don’t have the right intention driving your behaviour and with clear goals in mind, then you will not find the progress and fulfilment you are seeking. If you are journalling every morning just because someone you follow on Instagram does but you’re just writing meaningless words on a page – then you don’t have the right intention. If, however, you are writing to explore your emotions and understand why you might be feeling a certain way in order to change feelings and behaviours, then the intention behind the action is meaningful and it is where you will derive the benefit you are seeking. This year, if i want to see progress and reap the most benefits from my days and tasks, I will approach my daily tasks and behaviours with more intention and purpose. For example, “I am going to write in my journal to explore my current state of emotions and delineate what might be the source of my inner turmoil”, or I could try and explore the pre-existing beliefs i have about myself and why they might be holding me back. .
Ultimately, hard-work should always be commended. However, if you want to make genuine progress and reach your goals more efficiently, you need to be intentional with your hard-work and ensure you are fully focussed on the task at hand and that you are completing it because it aligns with your goals and values, not just because you think it looks good. Live with intention and purpose in order to grow.
The passing of time doesn’t signify growth
On a similar vein, you will not automatically progress in life just because time is whizzing by. It has been another twelve months and we are obviously older, but that doesn’t mean we have improved, or are more knowledgable, or that we have changed in the way we would have hoped. Perhaps it’s just me being remarkably naiive, but I used to believe that I would automatically become a different person as time passes – that i would grow into the person I should be with ease. But personal change requires active participation in the process – it means you need to make different decisions instead of coasting along in your comfortable existence. This is a pressing reminder that if you don’t particularly like the person you see in front of the mirror, then considerable effort needs to be made every day to mould yourself into a better version of yourself.
Progress requires action. Change requires you to do something different. You’re not going to become better at something merely because you’re getting older and time is passing. If you don’t challenge yourself, or change your hobbies, job, your outlook and attitude, then you will be the exact same person this time next year. Use that as the motivation you need to do things differently this year. Ultimately, we want something to show for the year that passes by.
You need to be bold
For most people like myself, 2022 saw the gradual retreat of the ghastly presence of covid-19. QR code check ins and mandatory face masks seemed like a a distant, slightly bizarre, memory of the past. Lockdowns were lifted, interstate and international borders re-opened and many of us re-commenced their usual working routine at the office or physical space requiring attendance in-person. This was a stark contrast to the life we had grown accustomed to in lockdown – where Zoom meetings and home work-outs were the norm, and Netflix and novels became important side-pieces to a repetitive and monotonous existence. In the confines of our home or 5km square radius in which we were permitted to exercise, there was no use planning for much beyond what you were preparing for dinner because we were all uncertain about what the future would entail.
This backdrop of lockdowns and uncertainty meant that those who had lived a careful existence prior to covid could use the prohibitions and restrictions on freedom as an excuse to remain in the confines of their limited existence – to refrain from branching out into the unknown world beyond what they already knew. It meant there was always an excuse for a lack of boldness – their failure to grow always justified by an inability to even leave the house. Arguably, the lifting of the lockdowns exposed the timid and stagnant individuals – removing the comforting veil of covid. There was no longer anywhere to hide. Life now demanded to be lived – there became an urgent need to sap the most out of our days and live the most fulfilling life possible because we were all familiar with the feeling of what happened when we were stripped of our choices. 2022 presented us with the fact that we need to be bold. We need to take our opportunities when we can, to live as much as possible before an unknown entity may change the trajectory of our lives once again.
A lack of courage leads to a life of stagnancy – of boredom and “what-ifs”. The mistakes you will make along the way as you try new things are nothing compared to the regret you will feel if you don’t go out there and chase new experiences with unbridled determination. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to reach outside of your comfort zone. When you’re the type of person who is petrified of phone calls and who has lived in the same city since birth, it’s always going to be harder to be bold and seek new experiences. But if you do, you will experience far greater success, happiness and fulfilment compared to if you just remained at home living the same life you’ve always lived.
Kindness and positivity fucking matter
Kindness and positivity can change everything – your mood, feelings, actions – your life. This year, I really noticed the difference between the impact of negative complainers versus kind and uplifting people. Often we don’t notice the effect that critical and irritable energy can bring to our mood and overall happiness levels. But when you’re surrounded by people who are by their very nature bubbly, kind and uplifting, you begin to see an improvement in your attitude and overall wellbeing. Take this as a reminder to be the positive influence in other people’s lives. Sure, it’s fine to complain occasionally, but to make a habit out of pessimism is an unfavourable path that leads to a cycle of misery for yourself and those around you. Positivity and kindness might not be your default state, and you don’t have to walk around with an unhinged smile plastered on your face permanently, but if you change your outlook to be kinder and happier, your life and the lives of those around you will improve drastically.