How I Made 2013 My Best Year Yet (And How I’m going to Make 2014 Even Better)

I’ve started 2013 spending the night on top of a mountain, after a tedious hike I wasn’t prepared for neither mentally or physically. I was suffering from the cold, and I was dreading the fact that in a few hours, I’m going to wake up and hike all the way down that same mountain. I had no choice, there was no easy way out. In the morning, after getting some rest, waking up and experiencing the scene in full sunlight, I remembered that I’ll be done shortly, and that I should work on keeping a positive mindset. Back then, I didn’t know I was going to learn great lessons from this challenge, but after numerous reflections throughout 2013, I’ve realized that this trip really did inspire me even more than I thought.

2013 began on a positive note. I arrived home on the 1st of January tired as hell, however, never in my life have I felt this victorious. Not only did I hike up the highest peak in Egypt, but I also learned about how much our perspective on things can make an experience good or bad. Also, that every physical challenge is based on a mental or emotional test.

I didn’t have a specific new year’s resolution, but I was so fuelled up, that I decided that I will always keep challenging myself, and never again take the easy way out. To be honest, I still haven’t mastered that, but I have made a lot of progress. Learning about the benefits of challenging myself created an abundance of other lessons in only 1 year, and that’s a pretty short time for transformation!

Here are some of the things I learned, and how I plan to beat the awesomeness of 2013 (with all it’s ups and downs) in 2014:

1. Taking Risks:

I’ve taken so many career related risks this year, even though I strongly fear the lack of financial security. I’ve quit 2 jobs, without having an exact plan, but if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to independently work harder and gain extensive freelance experience in a very short time. Take a risk, quit your boring job if it isn’t what you’re passion about, and pursue what you actually love! Even if you end up broke for a couple of months, you will definitely be happier without money and in the comfort of your own home (or maybe a friend’s) than at a depressing office stuck behind a screen, realizing you’ve been sitting for too long.

2. Perspective is Everything:

Yes, it really is. We all have good and bad days, but I guarantee that the bad days aren’t necessarily negatively eventful. We all sometimes forget to focus on what we have rather than what we lack, and we give in to our negative emotions. I am not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge our problems, I’m just saying it would turn our results into more positive ones if we call those problems challenges instead.

3. I Am in Control of My Actions and Reactions:

This is very related to the previous point. I’ve been going through road rage a lot since I started driving 3 years ago, and it’s never a good thing because it only affects me. I have never been a person with a short temper, but it was becoming so bad that my friends were starting to refer to me as a driving monster, they said I transformed as soon as I got in my car, and I honestly don’t blame them. This has been causing me a lot of unnecessary stress over the past year, but I’ve decided that enough is enough. I am in control of my own actions, as well as my reactions. I’m going to remember that anger only negatively impacts me, and it would rarely change the behaviour of anyone around me. It’s ever more likely that they’d become more stubborn if they see it.

4. The More You Know, the More You Know You DON’T Know

I’ve been reading a lot this past year. I’ve bought several books, and I signed up for an Audible membership of 2 books a month. It quickly turned into an obsession, a thirst for knowledge, which taught me that there’s so much in this world we know nothing about. It really is true, just when we start thinking that we know everything, we notice that what we know is really as much as a drop of water in an ocean. Remember to enjoy it, even though it’s probably always going to offer with abundance. Read, travel and thrive!

5. Happiness is a Choice

For me, happiness is one of my top values in life, and it’s definitely a journey. This was surely an interesting find to me (check out http://www.happify.com). It is scientifically proven that when you maintain those 5 things in your life, you become happier. So remember to:

  • Savor: To savor is to truly live the moment and enjoy it! Savoring can turn even the most mundane tasks into enjoyable ones. Instead of dreading that long walk from your house to the metro station or the closest road you can get a cab, walk slowly and look around you. Look in places you’ve never looked. Savor the nature, or the lack of it, bring out ideas, or simply just appreciate an old building, it could really make your day.
  • Thank: Did you remind yourself to be grateful today? If you haven’t, remember that you have a roof over your head and a place to stay warm on this cold night. We take the things we have for granted, and we completely forget about the others around the world who still don’t have the basic human needs like food, clean fresh water, and a place to live. I’m not telling you this to make you feel guilty, because I’d be in that line as well, but I’m just reminding you that gratitude is better than complaining.
  • Aspire: We humans are greedy, we always want more. I don’t see this as a bad thing, as long as we want more of something meaningful. Aspiring reminds us that there’s more to our precious life than what we’re doing right now, which we will eventually grow out of, so make your dreams big, because one day you’ll find yourself close to accomplishing them, and you will!
  • Give: Giving is like listening, which is something I am planning to do more often this year. It makes us feel a lot better, and it flows right back inside of us and increases every time we share. Remember to give more, and you will definitely feel that you need less.
  • Empathize: It keeps us sane and reminds us that where we are right now might not be that bad after all. Also, that by being in a better situation, we can find more ways to give and help others, and no matter what their reaction is, it’s theirs, not ours.

6. It’s Okay to Be Alone

For some reason, a lot of us are raised to believe that being more talkative, social and outgoing is always better. I have to admit, that’s what I used to think. I never understood introverts, I always used to place them into the “shy” category. But this year I’ve gotten to know a very special introvert, and he’s taught me about how being alone and being totally okay with it makes a huge difference with my peace of mind. I’ve decided to feel confident about being alone, because it doesn’t mean that I’m lonely. It’s great to be around people, but it’s also great to sit and meditate, think, write, reflect, or simply be.

7. Don’t Dwell, Move On and Try a Different Method

We all get stuck at some point, or a few, but that’s totally okay, as long as it doesn’t turn into a waste of time with nothing out of it at the end, not even a lesson. When you’re feeling lost, give yourself permission to feel that way for a certain period of time, and then decide to snap out of it. You don’t have to lie to yourself and tell yourself you’re happy if you’re not, even though that’s sometimes a way out. However, you can try different things that you think could bear positive results, breaking you out of your misery. Don’t just sit there and cry, watch a funny sitcom or hang out with a friend who can make you feel better. I’m sure you know that this is just a metaphor, but it really is all about doing again and again until you reach the point of realizing what was missing all along.

8. Believing in Yourself Goes a Long Way

If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never get anything accomplished. In this scenario though, it’s totally okay to lie to yourself, or fake it till you make it. Are you overweight and trying to become fit? All you need to do is believe that you actually can, not that you’ll “fail like all the other times” you’ve tried. That would just lead you to the same exact things that didn’t work for you. Instead, focus on your ability, and you’ll find yourself trying until something works.

9. Old Habits Die Hard, but New Habits Can Replace Them

Habits actually never die, they are always there, but you can create new habits to take their place if they’re negative ones. Habits stick for 3 reasons, 1. A cue (But I always order unhealthy takeout at work!) 2. A reward (Oh yes, I feel so fulfilled right now.) 3. A craving (I can’t get over how crispy and salty those fries were, shut up and take my money!) That’s a bad habit though! And you probably want to quit it. Well, you can! All you need to do is think of alternative rewards and cravings for the same cues. Instead of ordering takeout, bring a homemade salad, and get creative with it, use dressing that adds flavor! Even if it’s a bit fatty, it’ll never be as bad as takeout, and if it’s good, you will crave it once your habit is consistent. (Check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)

10. Rules are for the Times You’re Demotivated

This is derived from the previous point as well. Everyone sets rules for other people, but we don’t always set rules for ourselves, and even when we do, we give excuses. Rules are not meant to be broken, they’re actually for the times you’re demotivated. If you’re integrating a new habit in your life, it probably needs dedication and consistency. If you have been failing with it previously, it’s probably because you haven’t been consistent, and that’s the role of the rule. Respecting yourself and your own rule will help you stick with your new habits and feel good about yourself instead of the consequences of feeling crappy, and that’ll be your reward!

11. Change is the Only Constant

As cliche as that sounds, change really is the only constant, nothing else is. Your life won’t be constant, and you probably don’t want it to be. We’re not designed to love boredom, we’re designed to get rid of it as soon as we can. This could be done by being open to change and going with the flow, or by working on developing and improving ourselves to add more and more meaning to our life. Instead of resisting it, embrace change!

12. Documentation Pays Off Infinitely

Finally, I wish I had more specific and vivid examples for some of the previous points, but unfortunately I don’t because I haven’t been documenting enough. The best part about documentation is looking back at it and seeing how much progress you’ve made. We usually document things like our outings or our weight, but we should think about this deeper and document things like the books we’ve read, the most influential people we were fortunate enough to meet, and/or the new realizations and discoveries that changed our thinking and our attitudes. Imagine looking back on December 31st, 2014, wouldn’t you like to see how clueless you were on the same day last year and be proud of how much you’ve progressed.

How will you make your year awesome?

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