In a professional sense, 2017 was certainly a fulfilling year for me. But, it wasn’t without challenge or struggle. In fact, both in professional and personal terms, this year was also one of the most challenging I’ve gone through yet. Considering all that 2017 had to offer — the good and the bad — I have learned a tremendous amount of lessons along the way.
After some reflecting, here are 17 things that I learned this year:
1. Forget Positive Thinking: strive to think more rationally
This world is too complex for positive/negative thinking. Thanks to the wonderful uniqueness of our brain, each person can (and will) perceive situations differently. To try to find positivity in everything is a losing battle. So, forget the simple dichotomy of positive vs. negative thinking; this year I have learned the value of simply thinking rationally.
2. Routines: beyond athletics
I’ve seen the power of strong and consistent routines in athletics over the years: they help athletes improve on a daily basis, keep them focused, and give them comfort no matter how much their environment changes. Having moved my entire life 2,000+ miles to the west this past year, I have come to appreciate the same exact value of routines, but outside of athletics: they help me improve each day, keep me focused, and give me comfort even in new and changing environments.
3. Core Values: when most things change, the important things stay the same
For example: no matter where life and work takes me, I am always drawn back to the familiarity of home, always thinking about my love for family and friends (and my dog), and always driven to impact lives, and motivated live my own life of significance. All other things might change, but these stay the same.
4. Cover-to-Cover: there’s something really nice about reading an entire book in a single day
Every now and then it is okay to shut off the TV, turn the phone on Do Not Disturb, keep your headphones in your backpack, and simply lose yourself somewhere in between the pages of a good book.
5. Two Very Liberating Words: “No Service”
Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I’m attached to my phone. Phone calls, emails, Twitter, photos, etc… Let’s just say I get the most out of the investments I make in my iPhone upgrades. This year I traveled to the Dominican Republic, and for the first 12 hours or so, I had no service or WiFi. To be honest, it was amazing to not feel a need to check my phone every 90 seconds, looking for that fleeting rush of dopamine we often get when notifications pop up on our feed.
6. Introspection: a gift and a curse
There is a very thin and blurry line in between the benefits and detriments of self awareness. By evaluating our purpose, significance, and place in the world we are following an internal compass. But thanks to our perception and the things that alter it, our internal compass isn’t guaranteed to always point North. It’s okay to reflect; it’s also okay to get out of your own head sometimes too.
7. Airplane Seats: $25 for an aisle-seat upgrade is well worth it
Relative to years past, I flew an awful lot in 2017. Somewhere near 30 or 40 flights I’d venture to guess. Sitting in a middle or window seat, can you imagine how many times I would have had to ask somebody to get up if I needed to use the restroom? Also: aisle seat = easy bathroom access = freedom to drink as much free Starbucks (on American Airlines) as desired = offsetting cost of aisle seat.
8. Opinions: as I get older, I care a lot less about what other people think of me
This year has taught me the importance of only concerning myself with me and those in my immediate circle: I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I promise to work equally hard to get to wherever I am destined to go. I will always serve my employers, my athletes, and my family the best that I possibly can. Beyond that, I need not concern myself with the opinions of others.
9. Hobbies: you need outlets outside of work
Exercise/training has always been my outlet, but sometimes that can feel like work too. When exercise and lifting feels like just another part of my job, that’s my cue to start investing my time in additional outlets: biking, hiking, music, and writing are usually my go-to’s.
10. Relationship Building: when all else fails, open up
Oftentimes when we think there is no way to salvage a relationship, or no way to develop it further, we close ourselves off and shut down. Next time you hit that wall, simply try opening up a little bit more.
11. Coaching Styles: know yourself, then be real and true to it
The first few years of my coaching career I did my best to establish my “authority.” I had to show I was worthy of coaching, I had to earn respect, even if that forced me to act or pretend a little bit. This year, though, has taught me the value of being real — knowing who I am as a person and as a coach, and then staying true to that in my interactions with my athletes. Granted, it has taken many years to learn who I am as a person/coach (and this is an ever-evolving process), but the more I’ve learned about myself and my coaching, the easier it has been for me to build relationships with my athletes.
12. Support Systems: it’s okay to ask for help
You are not weak if you ask for help. You’re not stupid if you ask for guidance. We all need to have a support system, and we can not and should not be afraid to use it.
13. Life is Dynamic: every action has many, many reactions
Like the concept of a butterfly flapping its wings causing a hurricane thousands of miles away, our lives are not lived in a vacuum. What you choose to do affects others just as much as it affects you.
14. More: happiness is relative to your ideal
“In a perfect world, I’d have/be/do _____.” Right now, you might insert a $50,000 salary, a full-time job, a girlfriend, etc. Your current position relative to those ideals can very much dictate your current happiness. Sure, this serves as motivation, and that is okay. But, what happens as you approach and achieve those ideals? Are you happier, or are your ideals changing at such a rate that you’re never actually more fulfilled?
In 2017 I’ve learned to pursue ideals that are less materialistic and tangible, but more conceptual and more attainable through my own daily actions (i.e. more in my control than, say, my current salary). It isn’t easy to want less stuff and materials, but I am trying.
15. Growth-Mindset: I can be more than I box myself into
In 2017 I’ve learned to appreciate the challenge of getting outside of my comfort zone using a growth mind-set, rather than the fixed-mindset that comes with the word “can’t”.
16. You’re Never Stuck: there is always a light at the end of the tunnel
Everything is temporary. The “escape plan” or way out may be unpleasant, but there is always a way out of any situation. You’re never so stuck that you can’t move forward or move on.
17. Life: sure, it’s messy, but the beauty is found in navigating your way through the mess