By far 2017 was definitely, undisputedly the best year of my life (so far). I had tremendous success in intentionally changing myself, including habits, mental patterns and outlook on the future. Trump’s inauguration and highly successful first year in office was sprinkling on the top. Even without all the glorious Tweets from Trump, the machine-gun paced reversal of Obama’s legacy, and the proving-his-critics-wrong-faster-than-they-could-comprehend pace of the year, it was a fantastic year making me hugely optimistic when contemplating the future.
To me personally, the most important lesson I got from 2017 was that I was capable of intentionally changing. I proved again and again that the momentum of the past didn’t have to be shackles tying my current outcomes to poor decisions made years ago. Determination and an unquestioned willingness to see my goals through to the end helped me overcome many personal problems and failings that were holding me back from “levelling up” as they say in the self-improvement Twittersphere.
I started out with a goal shared by many other people in the world, losing weight. We all know the tried and true story of people filled with determination heading into the new year, sticking with a strict diet and workout schedule, only to fall back into old sins by the end of January. I relentlessly and religiously stuck with the program, finally achieving my goal of shedding 30 kgs of weight (66 lbs) by early May. I didn’t even have to go around feeling hungry, and I could have either stuck with the program for a longer period of time, or lost weight “more intensively” had I felt that to be a wise course of action.
I did however have a partial failure to land this goal. Prior to entering 2017, I did research on the typical pitfalls and mistakes made by people, in order to avoid the same mistakes myself. I also had read up on Scott Adams’ approach to self-improvement and life in general, namely systems rather than goals. My devotion to a systems based approach served me well during the lean-down period, but I focused too much on the goal of losing 30 kgs, and not enough on maintaining the systems approach afterwards. Thus, I fell back on some of my old unhealthy eating habits, ending the year having lost about a third of the progress made.
Apart from solving the weight issue, I also addressed my dental hygiene by numerous (expensive!) visits to the dentist and completely revising my daily routine. I can happily report a near complete success in tackling this problem, continuing my excellent habits here into the current year. I also purchased a gym membership and started to train several times per week. This was a huge step up for me, as the last time I did organised physical exercise was during high school over ten years ago.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve struggled with moderate stuttering, not particularly helpful to gaining social competence as I’m an introvert. Here I first of all decided that my stuttering was a problem, a principle immortalised in the infamous words of Dr. Phil: “You can’t change what you can’t acknowledge”. Having acknowledged the stuttering as a medical problem, I sought professional help. First by purchasing a teaching book for speech therapists. The most valuable thing I got from this was a change in mental framing and mindset. Medical problems are challenges to be solved. Reading about techniques and methods for reducing or even completely removing speech impediments was crucial for eventually solving the issue (for now at least). Then I sought out a professional speech therapist, attended several sessions and did the proscribed exercises. Remarkably, this problem I’d suffered with for several years rapidly declined in prominence, now almost completely eliminated.
Finally, I also started to go from being a passive consumer of political material to expressing my own opinions here. When self-improvement gurus like A.J.A Cortez talk about writing every day they aren’t kidding. I have to admit I’m surprised by the mental clarity that committing thoughts to paper (or computer screen in my case) gives me. It helps with knowledge retention, crucial for me as I read a great number of books. It also trains you to think for yourself and develop ideas of increasing complexity. Financially I’ve also gone from being a schlub with my entire net worth in a regular bank account, having my savings eaten up by inflation, to a holder of a cryptoportfolio. I could of course beat myself up for not investing in BitCoin when i first heard about it, it was priced at $5 per BTC at the time, instead I take pride in getting my ass off the financial couch so to speak and become a proud “HODL’er”.
The weight loss proved I could stick diligently with a strict plan and achieve a specific goal. The stuttering showed me that personal problems were solvable through acknowledging them and working with determination towards a resolution. All in all, my improvement in 2017 has shown me that I can achieve my goals if I really desire them and if I’m prepared to put in the necessary work. My overarching goal for 2018 is to build upon the momentum of 2017 and achieve even more in the current year. I want to dress better, more specifically dress intentionally, and have started this process by reading Tanner Guzy’s “The Appearance of Power”. I’m going to turn my partial victory over obesity in 2017 into a complete victory this year. I’m also going to start pursuing a girlfriend, and hopefully have met her before the year is out.
My message to you is simple. Identify areas of your life you want to improve, figure out the paths to getting there, research common pitfalls and mistakes committed by others, and focus on a systems based approach, not a goal oriented one. If I can go from couch potato to where I am now in a single year, you sure as hell can do the same as well.