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Are We There Yet?

I have a confession to make.  It turns out that I don’t, in fact, love the Holiday Season as much as I thought I did.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the big meal and getting to spend some time with family and friends, but it is all starting to feel like too much.  Too much eating and drinking, too much excess, too much not knowing what day it is, and dare I say it, even too much togetherness.  I find myself really looking forward to things getting back to “normal.”

I am probably in the minority of people who can genuinely say they look forward to January.  To me it feels like an enormous reset button and presents a great opportunity for a fresh start.  Few things excite me more than opening a new diary, and thinking about all of the possibility its blank pages contain.  All of the unimagined challenges, triumphs and everything in between, which will soon be jotted throughout, fill me with a sense of optimistic enthusiasm.

If you have started to think that this post is about New Years resolutions, then I can assure it is not.  In truth, my jury is still out about them.  In 20 odd years of making them, I would struggle to think of one I have managed to stick to, and I am quite sure that I am not alone in this.  Part of me believes that sitting, pen in hand, on the last day of the year, making lists of ill defined and arbitrary objectives is only setting ourselves up for failure.

As we get ready for 2017’s imminent arrival, I have decided instead to resolve only to do my best.  I know that this probably sounds trite and overly simplistic, but it feels to me like it covers all the bases.  If 2016 has taught me anything, it is that I have no idea what is going to happen next.  So, I have promised myself, that whatever I decide to undertake, I will do it with a good heart and a clear mind.

By a good heart I mean that I will be careful about the demands I let other people make of me.  Often we take on so much, because we don’t want to say no, that we end up resenting it.  We can end up feeling like everyone wants a piece of us.  I have discovered lately that when this happens, it isn’t the other person’s fault, but entirely my own.  As Matthew Kelly says

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”

I have had to remind myself of this so much this week, and tell myself that “no Arwen, you can’t expect to fit months worth of catching up with people into the week long winter break!”

As for the clear mind, this is a little more straight forward.  I have been taking a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book and clearing out the clutter.  This all started a few months back.  The girl I shared an office with was heading off on maternity leave, and there was a new guy coming it.  The office itself is about as large as a box bedroom.  I worried that a man and a woman in such tight confines might feel a little claustraphobic.  So, before he started I decided to clear as much as possible out of the office.  Years worth of boxes and files were sent to archive.  (I will admit, I was ruthless, but so far nobody has looked for anything!)

As the clutter began to be removed from my work space, I honestly could not believe how much better I felt.  The air seemed lighter somehow.  I felt like my head was clear and I could breathe easier.  It was amazing.

Since that happened, I have been trying to take the same approach in my home.  My catchphrase for the last few months has been “is it OK to throw this out?”  I have taken countless car loads to the dump and boxes to the charity shop.  The latest mini clear out included no fewer than 26 coffee mugs!  I can’t begin to tell you how cathartic and addictive it is to literally put your house in order.

Such a simple thing has had such a profound effect.  I am calmer and sleeping better.  Getting ready to meet a friend for dinner last night, in my cleared out bedroom, was an absolute pleasure.  Even being able to put our Christmas presents away was revolutionary.  Normally we would be still tripping over them until well into the New Year!  I feel like I am getting ready to welcome 2017 as I would an honoured guest, with a tidy home and an expectant heart.

As much as I can’t wait for the New Year (and I really can’t) I am tying not to wish this time away.  Before long we will be back in the routine of working, training, meal prepping etc. and longing for the next break!  A good friend of mine describes these periods as being like deserts between rivers.  I think this is particularly apt as it is almost impossible to appreciate the one, in the absence of the other.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported me in my endeavours this year.  I wish you all the very best for 2017.  Be well and don’t forget to have an adventure or two xxx

 

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2016: Curves, Conflicts and Context

As the end of the year approaches, I find myself reflecting on the past twelve months.  Revisiting resolutions and making judgments on goals set this time last year.  I try to look back on the year about to close as objectively as I can.  I ask myself what have I learned?  What did I achieve?  Am I closer to where I want to be than I was back in the dark days of January?

This year, for the first time, I am having trouble answering these questions.  You see, the goals at the start of this year were pretty much the same as they are every January.  I am always very interested in making improvements to my overall health and fitness, and so I set goals to work towards this.  Namely, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to increase my fitness.

Did I achieve these goals?  The answer is, not really.  I started the year at about 62kg and I am finishing it at about 60kg.  So, nothing too note worthy there.  2kg weight loss in an entire year is slow by anyone’s standards.  What about the fitness then?  Did I make some noticeable progress in this area?  Am I able to go faster, or longer, or harder?  Again, the answer to this is not really.  If I was being completely honest, I would say I would be lucky if I have managed to maintain the level of fitness I had when I rang in 2016.

In the past, this realisation that I have “failed” to achieve my goals would have sent me spiraling into self pity, self loathing and self destruction!  I would have been lamenting and crying and declaring myself a hopeless case.  I mean, I only had two things I wanted to achieve, and I succeeded at neither.  What the hell happened?  In a word, LIFE!

I have come to understand that taking a snap shot of where you are at either end of the year can be a useful tool, but it is extremely limited.  It doesn’t take into account the other 363 days, when life is actually happening.  It doesn’t allow for any context.  Neither does it reflect the learning and growth which has occurred in other areas.  Just because you didn’t write something down as a “goal” at the beginning of the year, doesn’t make it meaningless.

Let me explain what I mean.  In January, this blog was just an idea and the YouTube channel was yet to be conceived of.  I hadn’t even contemplated giving cookery lessons.  I was blissfully unaware that I would have an injury, which would significantly restrict my training.  I had no idea that I was about to embark on two distinct and completely different courses of study.  In short, I had no idea of everything which was about to come my way.

These may all sound like excuses for not having achieved my goals, and truthfully, it is hard for me not to dismiss them as such myself.  A huge part of me wants to scold myself for allowing distractions to get in my way.  Surely if I had been truly committed, nothing could have stopped me?

In the stillness and quiet, I have spent time trying to reconcile this conflict.  How can we stay committed to our goals while remaining open to new opportunities which come our way?  How can we prevent our determination from turning into dogmatism?  The answer to this, for me, is to change the way I look at goals, and goal setting in general.  Instead of listing out thing I want to achieve, and dutifully ticking them off, I have tried instead to look at where I want to be, and use this as the litmus test when deciding to pursue a certain course of action.

In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he refers to this as the “celery test.”  It is the process of determining whether your actions move you closer to your overall goals or not.  So for me, I could ask if doing physio for my hip injury, and listening to the professional advice of restricting training, would ultimately help me to get fitter and stronger.  I think it will.  I could also ask myself if taking courses, writing blogs and teaching classes moves me towards my goal of helping other people to achieve their own fitness goals.  Again, I believe the answer to be yes.

Regular readers will have heard me say before that progress is often non linear.  We can often feel like we are taking one step forward and two steps back.  Putting emphasis on one aspect of life, naturally means something else may move out of focus.  Growth and improvement present learning curves, often steep ones.  But if we can try to put our goals at the centre of our actions, we won’t veer too far off course.

When I think now about the year just gone, I can’t be disappointed with my progress.  I feel like I have learned so much in the past twelve months, and that I am now far better equipped to handle whatever the future has in store for me.  So as it comes time to pen those resolutions, think hard about where you would like to be come Christmas 2017.  Choose actions through the year, which support this.  But remember, nothing is set in stone.  Life has it’s own plan, so be ready to roll with the punches.  Be well and Merry Christmas xxx