I doubt anyone remembers, but I wrote last year that 2014 was possibly one of, if not the, worst year of my life.
A reflection of 2015, physically obviously shows that I made major changes in how I look, and ultimately feel from a health perspective, but I made an enormous amount of changes in every other facet of my life that made 2015 great.
If I had to reflect on most of the things I did in order to change my life, here are some of the things I did, or made concentrated efforts on to make that happen -
1. I let go of resentment, hate, and bitterness -
As 2014 came and went, I had a lot of guilt a lot of anger and bitterness about the actions of others. There were major parts of my life that had been turned upside down, and like most normal people my first response was to harbor bitterness and resentment towards others that were involved in creating all of the chaos.
Over time, I realized that shouldering those feelings did nothing but weigh me down, and make my life more miserable. And I realized, I had to let go of it.
Lots of people say this out loud, or write it on social media, but then don't actually embrace the application of it.
There is a quote from C. JoyBell C. I remember reading years ago that, at the time, rang true to me because it "sounded" correct. But until you actually apply a motto or belief to your life, you're just regurgitating empty words and ideas to people that you yourself are not living.
And it was this....
“If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him/her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.”
People often spew this shit in person or across social media, then live their life with an incredible amount of resentment or bitterness towards people they felt wronged them. Never realizing that all it does it take up space in your heart and mind, leaving less room and time for happiness, joy, and it shackles you to something you can no longer change.
I didn't wake up one day and make this change. It did happen gradually over time. I do think that most wounds do require a certain amount of time to heal, but you actually have to make an effort to accelerate that healing process. Some people just love to brag about how they can hold a grudge. I used to brag about such things myself. Then I realized all that showed was a magnificent flaw in my character and inability to move forward in life.
Bragging about what a bitter and grudgeful individual you are is essentially letting people know how emotionally and mentally immature you are. Moving forward is exceptionally hard to do when you willingly wallow in anger or hate about something someone else did to you.
Defeat your enemies with your own personal success. Get your revenge by moving forward by living a life that is rewarding and fulfilling. This is a virtual impossibility when you wallow in the muck of being a bitter and resentful bastard. Whether you realize it or not, when the people that wronged you realize you're still suffering from it (and yes, holding a grudge is a form of suffering) then they continue to win, and you continue to suck at life.
2. I forgave myself and let go of my guilt -
Honestly, this was much harder than forgiving those that I had felt wronged me.
After the storms had passed and I was left with enough time in personal and emotional isolation, I struggled deeply with forgiving myself and letting go of the guilt I had for so many of the things I had done.
Some people can walk through life and hurt others, live life through selfish behavior, and then never look back and feel anything about it. I am not one of those people.
When you are in the midst of emotional turmoil you make a lot of terrible decisions because logic and emotions wage a terrific battle in regards to decision making. There's few things more challenging than trying to make a decision where your heart tells you one thing, but your logical thinking keeps countering those thoughts.
Even worse, is when regardless of which choice you make, you know you're going to hurt people you care about in the process. This is generally where you know what the right thing to do is, but you lack the courage to follow through with it.
So as to put myself out there, and present myself as flawed as possible, I often was not strong and courageous enough to make the right decisions throughout these storms. And inevitably by making the wrong choices, I extended the time frame in which the pain and trauma would extend itself.
One thing I've learned in the past year is that life is about suffering. This is something I have wholly embraced and accepted as a part of just being alive.
You are going to suffer. There will be times where regardless of what choice you make, you will end up suffering greatly from it. Ultimately, you have to decide what it is you are willing to suffer for, and understand there may be a significant amount of grief that comes in the aftermath.
I don't think I'm unique in the fact that I can forgive others more easily than I can forgive myself. The struggle was learning how to let go of the things I could no longer change, do my best to make amends for them, and truly forgive myself for the weak and cowardly decisions I had made when times were at their hardest.
However at the same time, I used those experiences to grow, and forge me into a more relissiant and decisive person. And I learned how to make better choices, that hurt very few people, and accepted the suffering that came along with being far more selfless.
Much like resentment towards others, harboring guilt absolutely does not allow you to grow and move forward in your life. At some point, you have to forgive yourself and make peace with yourself to move out of the past, and take steps towards a better future.
3. I owned my part in the situations I had created for myself
More of an addendum to #1.
3. I owned my part in the situations I had created for myself
More of an addendum to #1.
In order to properly forgive and let go of hate and bitterness, I had to actually own my part in the creation of what my life had become.
Once I really did this, and I mean REALLY took responsibility for my part in creating the shitty situations I had been in, change became easier. Forgiveness became easier. Forgiving both myself and others.
If there is a fairly constant I see with people it's that they are so quick to blame everyone else for the things that have gone wrong or gotten twisted in their life, without ever taking a moment out to reflect what it was they did to help create those shitty situations.
Everyone knows someone who places 100% of the blame on someone else for something awful that transpired in their life, without ever admitting that they played a role in the other persons decision making.
Look, at the end of the day, we are all responsible for the choices we make. But the fact is, we are often put in positions to make a choice due to the actions of or words of someone we love or hold close to our heart.
As the saying goes, life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.
Our actions or reactions in regards to what happens to us, generally puts someone else in a place to make a choice because of it.
Then when they make a shitty choice, we put 100% of them blame on them. Without us ever taking into account that it's possible the outcome may have been different had we reacted differently in the first place.
This doesn't excuse their shitty behavior, but it doesn't absolve you from the situation either. You're supposed to be an adult as well. Life is often a chain of events that get spawned from singularity. If you were the catalyst for said chain of events, then regardless of what eventually transpired you played a part in making it all come to fruition.
Taking ownership of your part in all of the awfulness is paramount if you ever want to learn from it, and grow into a wiser and more mature individual. After all, being able to say "look, this was my fault, and I need to make amends for it" is a huge part of personal growth.
4. I eliminated both the toxic people in my life, and my own toxic behaviors the best I could
I don't want to regurgitate this part because there's been about 1,238,098 articles written about this particular topic.
But half the time, most of them miss the mark in a very specific way.
If you constantly have toxic relationships or people in your life, then you yourself are probably very toxic as well.
I generally call these the "I give no fucks" people. Wow, what an outstanding individual you are. And how unique you are to give no fucks. That certainly takes a significant amount of effort in regards to being a quality individual to run around talking about all the fucks you don't give.
Great people do give a fuck. People worth having in your life, give a fuck.
Sure, you have to know what to give a fuck about, but consistently saying "I don't give a fuck" about everything you say and do really just makes you a total fucking asshole.
Show me someone exceptionally successful and I will show you someone who is usually surrounded by other successful people.
Show me someone who is an exceptional antagonistic asshole and I will show you someone who is usually surrounded by other exceptionally antagonistic assholes.
Who you are and what you project will tend to attract those sames kinds of people, and turn off those who oppose that (or are jealous of your success).
So before you run around talking about how you need to eliminate all the assholes in your life, you may want to sit down and examine your own attitude and behavior and wonder if the reasons you're surrounded by assholes, is because you are one. It's hard to eliminate toxic people when you're a toxic magnet.
All of us have certain selfish traits and things about us that make at least a percentage of who we are part asshole. The key is to reduce that percentage as much as possible, then you'll begin to identify what people have that larger percentage of the asshole in their personality pie chart.
5. I narrowed down my life to mainly things I had control over.
A while back I posted a study from a 75 year study from Harvard that talked about what ultimately created happy and fulfilling lives for people.
At the end of the study, they summed it up very easily.
"Happiness is love; full stop."
The problem for most people, I have observed, is that they have no idea how to actually find what makes them happy.
Or to rephrase, they spent a lot of time being unhappy looking for an external source to create happiness in their life.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest factors they found was the bond between you and your mother. And not everyone is going to have a deep and loving relationship with their mom.
As unfortunate as this is, it doesn't mean you have short change the amount of happiness you have in your life due to circumstances out of your control.
One of the most common flaws I have personally witnessed in unhappy people I know, is that they consistently base the amount of happiness they have in their life based around their romantic relationships. In my own opinion, the root cause of this is that they are absolutely miserable being alone. So they end up in a state of unhappiness because they cannot cope with being "alone".
So when they talk of such things as "I'm tired of being alone" it tells me, from my own perspective mind you, that they haven't filled their life with enough things that give them happiness that they have a significant degree of personal control over.
Once I accepted that I needed to fill my life with things I had the most amount of control over, it got better every single day. I emptied myself into my kids, my training, my diet, writing, drawing, growing my business, and now I've turned somewhat obsessive into redecorating my house.
All of these things generally give back to me what I put into them for the most part. The more effort I apply in those areas, the more happiness I generally get in return.
When you are miserable being alone, and so desperately want to find someone to share your time with (in a romantic way, mind you) you really have no idea if you end up picking that person because they are the right person, or because they simply fill a void.
When it's the latter, then the probability that you're opening the flood gates for a shit storm become incredibly high.
If you want to fill your life with people, fill it with the people who want to be there because they love you, and above all, desire success and happiness in your life. This is what unconditional love really looks like. And for you to be smart enough to pick those kinds of people, you need to go back to #4 and become a reflection of the people you want in your life, and then you will find that they start showing up.
But most importantly, these things will not become clear until you have enough time to become comfortable with being alone, and loving who you are. If you are still violating the other parts of what I wrote above (hating and resenting people, living life full of guilt for past transgressions, having the "I don't give a fuck" attitude), then all you're doing is bringing a shit ton of negative baggage along with you into someone else's life.
Start with improving your attitude, start with loving yourself better, and then you'll find that you attract positive people with positive attitudes, that will love you back in the way you really desire.
6. I stopped worrying about the future, quit being idealistic, and appreciated the "what is right now" and the gifts life was giving me -
I really loathe the term "life is short." No, life is the longest thing you will ever do.
However I appreciate the sentiment behind it. Because at the core of it, it's telling us to embrace what life is giving us on a day to day basis, and to stop worrying about what tomorrow, or next week, or next month may bring.
Life often changes in an instant. So creating this idealistic view of what your "perfect life" is supposed to look like 6 months or 5 years from now, sets you up for an awful lot of failure. Most of the time, we end up navigating through the mine fields we have to walk through in the most delicate fashion that we can. And we're all going to have our own personal mine fields that we must walk through.
The problem is, so many of us don't appreciate the garden of eden we might be residing at the time, because we're so worried about how we are going to make it through that mine field that may or may not exist on the other side of it.
Not only that, we often pass up what could be incredibly significant moments in our life because we can only see the finality in embracing them, and don't deem the worthy of our time.
Not to be sexist, but women are often the worst about this. Women often idealize this perfect man in their life, and if each man that comes along doesn't "look" like that perfect lifelong mate, they cast him aside.
I'm not saying men are immune to this either. I'm just saying I've spoken to enough women who were so worried about their biological clock that all they can think about is "finding a husband for the kids they don't even have yet."
I don't believe in finding the perfect person. And there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Not only that, the odds of you finding the "perfect partner" are about.......1 in 285,000.
Don't hate me for presenting the odds to you. Accept that life is full of random events and that you get to decide what you do with them.
Marriages lasting 70 or more years are less than 0.1%. Marriages that last 50 years are less than 5%.
In other words, that person you're with right now that you think "completes you in every way"....you're probably not going to spend your life with them. You may beat the odds, but the likelihood of that is exceptionally slim. You're far more likely to die in a plane crash than find "that perfect person." By a very significant margin.
"So why even entertain relationships at all then?"
Because all relationships come with something that most people refuse to acknowledge.
And without suffering, we cannot grow. We cannot learn. And we cannot decide what we really want in our life in order to make it as fulfilling as possible.
And to come full circle, what I learned was, narrowing down your life to the things you have control over, and working on becoming the best possible version of who you want to be, gives you the best possible chance of filling your life with people who will indeed provide a tremendous amount of love and support.
7. I became a better listener -
People often cite communication as one of the biggest keys in a healthy and sustaining relationship. I personally think that respect trumps all, but I get how important communication is.
The problem is, most people don't communicate as well as they think they do, because they are poor listeners.
I too was very poor at this for a long time. I love to monologue and belabor all the points I need to make during a discussion. Lost in this, was that I was not taking the time to actually shut the fuck up and listen to what the other person had to say, and wholly understand it.
It's virtually impossible to actually listen to what someone is trying to tell you when all you're thinking about is your retort.
Instead of writing another novel about this, I found an easy solution. Shut up, listen, and then repeat back to the person your perception of what you think they said. I think you'll often find that there is a bigger communication gap than you realized. Two people can "communicate" until they are blue in the face, and leave the situation with nothing but more frustration if each person doesn't actually understand what the other one was saying.
And the only way to actualize this is to repeat back to each other, how you interpreted their words. From there, your communication skills will begin to improve. But not until you both realize that it's a very good possibility that you don't understand each other as well as you think you do.
8. I let go of the "no regrets" bullshit and embraced repentance -
8. I let go of the "no regrets" bullshit and embraced repentance -
This is another pet peeve of mine. And something generally the "I give no fucks" crowd embraces as well.
When someone tells me that they have no regrets in life, what I automatically assume is that I just met Jesus. Because in essence what they are saying is, they made every perfect choice in every situation they ever encountered.
Their comeback to this is often the cliche of....
"I wouldn't be the person I am today had I not made those choices."
This is true. And who is to say that maybe you're in a better situation, or a more well rounded individual if you had made different ones?
Maybe your life is a million times better if you had made other choices.
The problem with not having regret means that there is no room left for repentance. And to repent means to change. And the only way you can better yourself, is to recognize the poor choices you made, have regrets about them, then change so that you make better choices in the future.
The way to better ourselves is to be cognizant of our mistakes, make amends for them the best we can, and change the parts of who we are that drove us to make poor decisions in the first place.
But that can't happen if you're not willing to sit down and say "I have regrets."
You have no regrets about hurting people you love and care about?
What does this say about you as an individual, and about the amount of integrity and the degree of character you are living your life with?
Not a whole lot.
You're probably going to attract a lot of people who also have no regrets about taking a massive shit on your chest and saying "no fucks given". You know why? Because that's who you are too. So why should they care when you keep saying you have no regrets and wouldn't change a thing?
I have many regrets. And I had a lot of time to spend on self reflection this past year and put forth a significant amount of energy into my own personal repentance. And while I am not perfect, and never will be, I went from a time in my life where I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror each day, to a point now where I can at least recognize that I am no longer ashamed.
It takes a lot to put yourself out there like this, and it is very difficult to write because most of us want the rest of the world to see us as wonderful human beings. Sure, not all. The "I don't give a fucks" make that very clear.
But at the core of the majority, we want affirmation that we are worthy of being loved, and that our love is worthy of being accepted.
As the study said, happiness is love; full stop.
If there was anything I learned in 2015, that made my life better - it was that very thing.
Thank you to so many that helped me through a very difficult time in the last year, and thank you for helping me to start on a path in reshaping my life.
For those of you who read this that are struggling, make the hard choices that ultimately will lead you into suffering, but deliver you into peace and contentment.
All the best to everyone for 2016.
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