At times during the past year, I felt like I was in a game of rollercoaster tycoon made by a 8 year old. It was a year filled with challenges, but I was able to learn from my experiences and have plenty fun. I am curious to see how 2015 will impact my perspective going forward. But before I look ahead and design my quarterly goals, I wanted to reflect and share a few things I’ve learned this year:
1. Great People + Fun Experiences - Stuff + Laughter = Happiness & A Fulfilling Life.
Think about the people you spend the most time with. What qualities about them do you admire? Do they support you? Are you the best version of yourself around them? I'm a firm believer in Jim Rohn's quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I try to be conscious of the people in my life and what relationships I cultivate. This translates into having great people in my life and - in obnoxious white girl terms - I am #soblessed.
Having experiences with people I love and enjoy being around is one of the greatest joys in my life. I would rather spend money on a fun trip with a friend or a great dinner than a 3rd pair of black heels*, a trinket, or other material goods. (Throwing meaningless stuff out is also a great feeling!) By choosing to donate for the holidays rather than buy presents this year, I eliminated stress and gained meaning.
One of the biggest things I've worked on over the past few years is to be able to laugh at myself. I was recently asked what my most embarrassing experience was and I had a really hard time coming up with an answer. Embrace yourself, fly your freak flag, let your inner weirdo out. At the end of the day, we are all a little weird, so let's love ourselves and each other for it!
*I am a huge fan of black heels, but how many can you actually own and wear? For some help cleaning out your closet, my friend Lillian is the bee's knees.
2. Refined sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
I am pretty conscious of my food choices, I love trying to eat as clean and healthy as possible (because I feel better), and I love to learn more about health and nutrition whenever I have the opportunity. In October, I watched the movie Fed Up. I was blown away. This film included health tips and revealed a lot of problems with the FDA. We (the world, but mostly the USA) have an enormous problem with refined sugar and processed foods. Unsettling observation: Researchers have witnessed rats addicted to cocaine, ditch the cocaine, and choose refined sugar when both options are presented. For more information, here is a study done in 2013 by the National Institute of Health or check out the Fed Up website.
3. Romance, athletes, and treating yourself like a start-up, 3 Great Reads:
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansair; Faster, Higher, Stronger by Mark McClusky; The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. I learned quite a bit from these 3 books, one fun fact: Sleep profoundly impacts athletic performance. By increasing average sleep time by 2 hours, the Stanford Men's Basketball team was able to improve shooting accuracy by over 10%! Full article on sleep by Mark McClusky here.
4. Veterans are twice as likely to die once they return home than actually being in combat.
After the attacks in Paris, TED featured a talk by journalist Jean-Paul Mari. His talk was heart-felt and contained a message we all need to embrace: we need to talk about mental health and diseases of the mind. Not only for awareness, but to help those affected heal. Jean-Paul Mari recounted that “In 1987, the US government identified 102,000 -- twice as many -- 102,000 veterans who died from committing suicide. Twice as many deaths by suicide than by combat in Vietnam.” Unfortunately, things are no better for today's vets, as I read a similarly saddening article in GQ about a marine that committed suicide on social media earlier this year.
5. Words are incredibly powerful.
I've witnessed that writing is beneficial to all of us: For communication, growth, healing, for leaning and teaching, for sharing thoughts. On Tumblr alone, there are over 260 MILLION blogs. While I'm not encouraging or discouraging you to start a blog, I certainly feel (and research has shown) journaling or writing daily thoughts can help each of us in multiple ways.
One of the most incredible stories I've ever read is The Wave by Johannes Vall. I don't want to ruin the story for you, because he tells it much better than I ever could, but I will share the things I learned: (1) crazy shit happens in life; (2) we can all pull strength and learning from our experiences, whether good or bad; (3) figure out what motivates you; (4) turning difficulties into positives is the mark of a great person.
The Wave was posted on The Players Tribune, a site I am now obsessed with. The Tribune was founded by Derek Jeter with the help of some of his friends, to allow athletes a platform to tell their stories. Some other favorite articles: Sean Avery (hockey) on diversification with Transition Season and Mardy Fish (tennis) on anxiety.
6. There are really 4 rivers at the confluence of "The 3 Rivers" in Pittsburgh.
While on a river boat tour of Pittsburgh, I learned there is a 4th river at the heart of Pittsburgh’s 3 rivers. The river is underground and technically named the Wisconsin Glacial Flow. Not only does this river run with the 3 other rivers, but it powers the fountain at Point State Park! If you happen to visit the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend the one hour sightseeing tour offered by the Gateway Clipper.
7. Humans can become the worst version of themselves when they travel.
I spent quite a bit of time in the air this year and noticed that humans can be completely irrational in airports and airplanes. My 2 keys to traveling well: (1) Go with the flow. Breathe. Stay positive. (2) Be prepared that things will not go perfectly, it can help to have a back-up plan. This advice coincidentally applies when skiing black diamonds.
8. Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations is when magic can happen.
Learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations is when I've noticed the most change or growth in myself. Whether it's being part of a start-up, running a tough race, or attend an event alone, these situations have been a rewarding and enriching experience. We can all push beyond our limits. Give yourself the opportunity to learn a little more about you.
9. Podcasts are really cool. Yes I am like 5 years late.
10. I need to be in nature.
While I've known for a while that nature is a wondrous thing, I was reminded of the importance of getting outside again this year. Being in nature helps me recharge, be present, and be inspired. For me, trail running is freeing. I could run through the trees for hours. Sunshine and outdoors have been linked to longer and happier lives. No matter how busy I get, I need to continue to make time to be outside.
What did you learn in 2015? How did you grow? What experiences did you have?
Wishing you all the best, much happiness, and fulfillment in 2016!