This past year was a big one.

In a conversation earlier today, I described it as a “wasted year.” And while that isn’t completely true, it does feel that way. I gave up a lot of ground on life as I tried to pull my sh*t together – with my goals, relationships, and my health. 

After sitting down to think it through, while 2022 was a blur of emotion, drama, and distraction, it was also a foundational year. Through the haze of it all, I think I learned a lot about myself. I made it a goal to get to know myself better.  I explored my values, interests, and feelings. I got quiet, spent a lot of time by myself, and a lot of time asking, “why do I feel this way.” Often, I found myself fighting the urge to go out or contact someone not good for me. I fought that urge because I knew those were the patterns that got me here – not what was going to take me to a better place. I needed to go against my instincts.

In all, these are the things I’m most glad I did in 2022:

  1. I identified my anxious need to be in contact with someone – anyone – to feel good. This led to some relationships I held onto out of desperation. I needed to feel wanted, so I set my standards low. Once I identified that spending time with certain people made me feel bad, I decided to change. It often felt like an internal war – part of me begging to reach out and another part of me saying, “no. you’ll regret it tomorrow. Stay home. Enjoy time alone.” 
  2. I set boundaries. Actually, I first had to learn what they were, both what it meant to have boundaries and what mine were. I had to learn that my boundaries were there for me and my health. Anyone that didn’t like them probably didn’t have my health in mind. They don’t have to! But I do. (You want to quickly identify harmful people in your life? Set healthy boundaries for yourself and see who gets pissed off.)
  3. I got to know myself. In spending more conscious time alone, I learned to enjoy it. I read (or listened to) over thirty books, got to bed earlier, ate better, and had more time to explore interests. I got a new therapist, made new friends, and spent quality time with my boys. Sure, some days I got drunk listening to grunge music while feeling sorry for myself but it was all part of the process. The good outweighed the bad.
  4. I gave myself time. I have big goals. In a time of turmoil, I had to put a lot of them on hold. In many areas, I pulled back to doing the bare minimum. I was in a combination of both survival mode and exploration mode, often waffling back and forth. My thought was that if I get through this now, the better (maybe faster) I’ll come out on the other end – making me a better father, leader of the Defined Life community, and eventual partner to someone new. The danger is getting caught in survival mode so I had to be conscious of my progress, no matter how small.
  5. I made a home for myself. Aquariums, plants, hydroponic gardens, books, deep cozy couches, and plenty of things that smell good. I dove into interests, old and new. Sometimes a chaotic mess in progress, I slowly created an environment in which I felt at peace within every room. And, oddly enough, in not caring about outside validation, I got it anyway when my father visited for Christmas – Both he and my step-mother commented on how comfortable and peaceful the house felt. 

Moving On to 2023

I’d like to say that this year will be “my year” to break out. But, if life has taught me anything recently, it’s that new years don’t bring the promise of new beginnings. They give us what we’ve been working toward. Sometimes the result doesn’t feel too good. And we don’t seem to get what we want in a timely manner. 

I think I’ve been able to preserve my sanity by taking a Stoic approach to the coming months and years – don’t get too attached to the results. All I can do is make the right choices today and take what comes, having faith that the cumulative impact of my work will be good. This year, with my new foundation and budding insight into myself, my goals are centered around growth.

This new year, I want to be:

Rebuilding new healthy relationships
Growing into my ideal self.
Healthy in a daily, livable way.
Giving back to my community.

I do have specific business, personal, and health goals but sometimes things get in the way. Unexpected crap happens. So, I’ll fall back to the four value-based goals above to determine if I’m on the right path for myself.

No matter what this next year brings you, I hope it brings you growth. As you move into this month, keep these four things in mind:

  1. Keep it in perspective. Don’t set goals too high that you’ll never reasonably attain them or that would cause an unhealthy imbalance.
  2. Motivation wains. When the excitement of the new year wears off, fall back on making small, daily steps of progress forward. Grow your discipline in this moment.
  3. Refocus when necessary. Sometimes we need to give up what isn’t serving us. If a goal doesn’t feel right anymore, focus your time and energy toward something that does.
  4. You first. Take care of yourself first. Serving others is admirable but not at your expense. When you create your most healthy self, you’ll be even better at helping others.

Finally, I want to leave you with this: Don’t be afraid of the false starts! I’ve had many this year – times when I thought I was ready to move forward only to figure out I needed more time. Even those false starts were steps forward even when they felt backward. They were learning experiences – a way for me to score my internal progress. If I were too afraid to try, I never would have seen where I still needed work. 

I learned a lot in the past 12 months. Most of all, I learned more about who I am.

It was nice to meet me.