Another year has come and gone. 2014 is now upon us, and I take a look back at 2013 to see what I’ve learned.
1. Promises made to yourself are easy to break
This is no stab at the annual New Year’s Resolution, but it’s the same idea. Many times I’ve said to myself that I would do something but never got to it. So, with many of the plans that I’ve made this year, I started them, but never stuck with them. These were both personal and business, and I was motivated to do them, but apparently, not motivated enough. You need someone else to hold you accountable; unfortunately I haven’t found someone who can.
2. You will be happier if you are truthful to yourself
It seems that you are always being told as to who you should be and what to do. You need to be a good networker; you need to know certain people, you need to want money. I tried being that, and was miserable. That was until I just admitted to myself that I hated all of that. I hated networking and kissing up to people. I hate the greed that permeates across the society. I have since tried to instead live within my true self and build my life and business according to that. I choose not to live a lie.
3. Gratitude is easier said than done
In Shawn Archer’s book, The Happiness Advantage, he explained that expressing gratitude everyday helps to bring you happiness. However, I found this incredibly hard to do, besides the common life, health and family, I found it difficult to find other things to be grateful for. Over time, I started noticing the smaller things like green lights all through my route, or reaching early to my location. What this means, is that gratitude can happen, but it takes time, practice and patience.
4. Being good at something doesn’t mean that you make a business out of it
I’m an IT consultant and I’m good at what I do. I thought that I could take that and make easy business out of it, but I was wrong. Business is much harder than I thought, and it takes a different set of skills to make that work. I’m slowly learning those skills. You need business skills if you want to start a business.
5. Children are amazing
There’s not a single day that passes by that I’m not amazed by my two girls. While I’ve always realised that they were amazing, I’ve noticed it with new vigour this year. From the way they make up stories, to finding the simplest of things to be novel, to how quickly they learned to swim in water (one at least); they allow me to see the world through the eyes of a child, and help me to live in the moment. My children consistently remind me how truly fortunate I am. It’s a great feeling, that is sometimes very scary, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
6. Stillness and attention requires practice
You know that guy who’s always focused and can give full attention to anything that he’s working on? Yeah, well that’s not me. I’m consistently distracted and always hopping back and forth doing things. To give you an idea of how distracted I can be, I’ve been working on this post for four hours now. But this is an improvement; it would usually take me eight hours. What has helped me a lot is practicing mindfulness, otherwise known as becoming still, or becoming aware. It takes meditation practice at least twice a day for at least two minutes each. Then start adding full attention to everything you do. Practice becoming still and it would lead to greater things.
7. Self-discipline is easier accomplished in small steps at a time, not huge leaps and bounds
I didn’t start off the practice of becoming still well at all. At first when I would do it, I tried meditating for ten minutes, which I found difficult to fit into my schedule and often didn’t do it. However, when I started with only one minute, I was able to fit it in and over time, added another minute, and then another. Now I’m up to ten minutes, although it took a year to reach that. It’s the same with much of my work. I tried blocking off time of four hours each for assignments or jobs, and would find myself either procrastinating or doing very little during that time. Instead I started with just 30 minutes, and one task. Using a timer, I would stop when those 30 minutes was up and then take a break, come back for another 30 minutes, or do something else. I’m only up to 1 hour committed work, but that’s far better than it was before, when it was zero hours. Self improvement is a slow process, by small increments, not leaps and bounds
8. Once you’ve reached a goal the motivation to stay there is diminished
I had a goal of losing weight to reach my ideal weight this year. I did that by April and kept with my exercise routine throughout the year, but found myself sort of puttering out coming down to the end. Since I’ve reached my goal, the novelty seems to have worn out, and now it seems that it’s far more work to keep the weight off, than it took to lose it. The same it is to winning that business; once you’ve won it, for some reason, the motivation to finish the project is gone. I haven’t figured out how best to keep motivation going. I just push myself to do it by setting greater goals, but I believe that there is a better way. Set goals, but think about what’s next once you’ve met that goal.
9. No matter what, things will never be as good at you want it to be
I’m a perfectionist, and because of that I tend to either dwell on something, never completing it, or never start something, because I need everything in place before I start it. But that’s no way to live at all, because things will never be perfect. I’m slowly figuring this out and have has some success in overcoming those fears that keep me from moving forward. Perfection is a bad habit. Sometimes good enough is all that’s required.
10. Mankind is on a self destructive path, but changing the world is hard work
I didn’t just learn that this year, but this is the year that I’ve tried doing something about it. At first learned something – changing the world is hard work. I found that I’m not persuasive, either that, or I don’t explain myself well; actually, it’s both. It’s hard to change the minds of others, but I also realised that I wasn’t particularly practicing what I preach. So I started doing small things myself. Using public transport as much as possible, recycling what I could, composting and spreading the message. At times it does not seem much, but it’s a start. As Sydney Smith said, “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can.”
11. Formal education sucks
I tried yet again to do a Master’s degree, this time in Economics, and it went horribly wrong. Perhaps it’s just the institution that sucks (the University of the West Indies), but I also have a terrible bias against formal education, especially the higher degrees. The formal education system is in dire need of revamping. My short stint back at University showed me how bad it is. I’ve set one of my goals to change the education system in T&T and the region. We must all work to improve the education system if we want a progressive world.
12. The first person to dismiss your ideas is often yourself
I’ve got lots of ideas. Ideas about education, politics, economics, business, but I’ve never considered them good enough to be put out there. My confidence was lacking, and I supposed that’s linked to my perfectionism as well. I’ve realised that I’m harder on myself that I need to be. Often self-critical and self-deprecating, I was first to dismiss my ideas. But realising what I was doing helped me overcome some of these shortcomings. I pushed and wrote many articles for my own websites, as well as for ICT-Pulse. I submitted an article for a quarterly magazine, but it’s yet to be published, and for 2014, I hope to do much more. I still am very critical of myself, but what I do is catch myself doing well at something, and note that in my journal. Only I can boost my self-confidence.
13. It’s easy to get demotivated by others around you
I used to think that I was highly self-motivated, and that’s true in a lot of ways, but I realised that I am also demotivated by people around me. I would often think or do something that I thought was good, only to have someone else criticise it, and I would not do that again. It was my lack of self-confidence again. As I built my self-confidence, other people have had less of an influence on me, but unfortunately, I still have a way to go. You must have conviction to stay true to your ideals
Happy New Year
May 2014 bring you many great things, not the things you want, but the things you need. And may you make the best of it.