Resolution season is upon us. Soon, people will be flocking to the gym, picking up temporary hobbies, giving up venerated vices, and swearing in new diets.
But, not me.
I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I resolve every day of the year to make myself a better, healthier, and more grateful human.
This is not a blog about what I resolve to do in 2016. It is something much better — it is a blog about my 2015 discoveries and accomplishments that are enthusiastically hoisting me into the new year.
Read and Write Something Every Day
One of the practices that has most changed my life is my nighttime routine of reading and journaling. I have read novels for adolescents and for adults. I have perused pages about diet, social justice, exercise, economics, science, current events, and history. I have filled a stack of Moleskine notebooks with my ambitions, accomplishments, regrets, and gratitude.
Recently, I changed the format of my journal to be more positive, which has greatly changed my mindset. The catalyst for this change was Tim Ferriss’ review of the “Five Minute Journal.”
I modified Ferriss’ recommendations slightly to suit my needs. Each journal entry includes three items for which I am grateful, an affirmation, three awesome things that happened that day, something I would change if I could do the day over again, and goals to make tomorrow even better.
I am not limited by the format; I frequently add random musings, provocative quotes, and a dash of humor.
Because I choose to journal as a bedtime ritual, I reread my entry in the morning to serve as a mini-meditation and start my day off on a positive note.
Sink or Swim, but mostly swim
The key to getting good at something is not an enigma, nor is it innate talent. This year, I found what I consider to be the recipe for gaining a new skill set. I found this recipe in an unlikely location — a swimming pool.
I used to sit on the sidelines and watch people swim lap after seemingly effortless lap. I’d think that I’d like to be able to swim like that, but when I attempted it, it was a disaster. I’d swim a little and then hang out on the wall. I was awkward while I was swimming, and I was certain everyone was looking at me.
This year, I mastered the down and back and am now an Energizer bunny of the swimming pool. Swimming went from being a frustration to becoming a time for peaceful reflection and meditation.
How I learned to swim can be applied to any kind of learning.
Recipe for Mastery:
1. Have a goal! It doesn’t have to be a triathlon, but if you don’t know why you are doing something, why do it? Make a goal, set some dates, and then get to work.
2. Read. To learn something, you need to know something about it. For me, it was the book, Total Immersion. Once I connected the principles of swimming to my knowledge of science, it changed the game for me. Websites work for information as well, but I sure do love books.
3. Get a coach. This can be in the form of a mentor or a teacher; it doesn’t matter, just find someone who knows more than you. Rebecca was my swim coach. Just when I thought I knew what I was doing, she was there to correct me and put me in my place. I lucked out with Rebecca, because she imparted more than just knowledge, she pushed me.
4. Practice! An instructor once told me, “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” This is why number three and four really should be listed together. Drill. Drill. Drill. Some days will be frustrating, but it is worth it for those moments when things just seem to click into place. For me, it was that moment when I went from floundering to gliding through the water. I could feel the difference, but I wouldn’t have gotten there without the struggle.
There’s No Such Thing as Too Old
There are so many things out there in the world to try, yet so many people confine themselves to comfort and complacency. The older I get, the more I realize that life is for living. Don’t believe the adage about old dogs and their inability to master new tricks. Learning new tricks is what keeps me young.
People who know me aren’t surprised when I pick up a new hobby, nor are they surprised when that hobby becomes an invigorating driving force in my life. 2015 was no exception. This year’s find was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I love to be challenged, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) brings me an endless stockpile of trials. In the first couple of months of BJJ, I have basically learned that I don’t know anything. I don’t know how to breathe, how to move, or how to fall. Well… actually, I know how to fall. It is that I’m not supposed to fall. “Keep your base, Karen!” is a frequent exclamation in the gym.
It may sound disheartening, but it is the opposite. BJJ is full of heart.
BJJ is a guarantee that I will never run out of things to learn. When I am on the mat, 100% of my energy and my focus goes into working to get it right. And those moments when I almost do are miraculous. There is never a “That was good” that isn’t followed by an “except, next time…” but that is the beauty of BJJ. My mind, body, and spirit get a complete workout.
No matter how my training goes, I leave the gym feeling like the strongest woman on earth.
Keep it Simple: Drink Coconut Water
I am a healthy eater. I steer clear of meat and dairy. I keep a watchful eye on my consumption of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. A lot of my calories come from farm-fresh produce. I invest in Community Supported Agriculture and spend my share of time in the kitchen.
Yet, when it comes to refueling during or after athletic challenges, I have been known to hit the gels, sports drinks, energy cubes, or latest packaged protein products.
As an athlete, being properly nourished and hydrated means improved performance, more restful sleeping patterns, and speedier recovery times.
This year a simple discovery has changed my hydration practices — coconut water. I admit that it was an acquired taste, but I’m glad I stuck it out. Coconut water has been deemed “nature’s Gatorade,” because it is full of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other electrolytes in their natural form. On top of all that natural goodness, it is also low on calories and easy to digest, which make my late night trips to the refrigerator guilt free.
Some evenings, I drink my coconut water out of a wine glass as a reminder that being healthy is a festive event. It also keeps wine out of my glass, which is a bonus.
Be Someone You Would Look Up To
With increased exposure to sporting events, books, and podcasts, I have found many new role models in my life. Athletes like Ronda Rousey and Amelia Boone are women who have demolished gender barriers. Activists such as Amy Tan, Azar Nafisi, and Malala Yousafzai have written books and given speeches that inspire the world.
It is not happenstance that great women inspire me. The most important lesson I have learned this year is to find that inspiration in myself and take action.
Look at all that I have done. I have competed in countless races: marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and even a Tough Mudder. I have taught myself new skills while maintaining the humility to rely on the expertise of the people around me. I hit the mats every week with men who are well ahead of me in both weight and experience. I have run a successful political campaign, been appointed to a county committee, started a blog, been quoted in the newspaper, and have even saved a life.
And look at all that I am. I am a leader, an activist, an athlete, a mother, a writer, and a friend. I am loyal to a fault, and I am an amazing teacher.
Rather than making a New Year’s Resolution for 2016, I will look back on all that I have accomplished and look forward to the new journeys and friends that are sure to follow. I will do this with both gratitude and pride.
Happy New Year 2016!