“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.” ― Walt Whitman
To better understand where we are in life and where we are headed, it is sometimes helpful to look back. Without getting attached or trying to change the past. Without blaming ourselves or someone else. Just looking and becoming aware of what we have experienced. Is there something from the past that we need to let go of? Or is it perhaps still with us in the form of a bad habit or some silly thought pattern that needs changing.
Being at peace with our past makes it much easier to operate in the present moment, planting new, healthier and stronger seeds for the days to come.
With 2016 approaching, it is a good time to look back on this chapter called 2015 and to look forward to the next one. A chapter full of so much unknown and also so much that in some part we can control and change, like forming healthier habits, sticking to them and adjusting them as we and everything around us changes.
The extent of the change is up to each of us individually. Some people start with big to do lists, join the gym, write business plans, change their diet and other habits. Few people actually stick to these new habits and make the change.
There is a popular understanding that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, which is not the ultimate truth of course. If you are interested in learning about why habits exist and how they can be changed, I highly recommend reading “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How To Change” by Charles Duhigg.
When it comes to new habits, I have failed many times and have also successfully formed new ones that have come to be more than just habits.
For instance at the end of 2011, I decided to abstain from eating any meat for 30 days to see how it all feels. Those 30 days have turned into four years.
In 2011, I also got into meditation with a very rough start as it was so hard to sit still even for five minutes – both physically and mentally. Now it is a very important part of my daily routine.
If I were to compare my idea of 2015 at the end of 2014 and my actual reality today, they would in some parts look quite different. Especially the whole journey.
Looking back on 2015, things took a pretty significant turn in both my personal life and in work. Coming out of my comfort zone with work and also in private life was a positive change, opening new perspectives, allowing to better understand myself, also making mistakes and learning from them. 2015 brought new, awesome people into my life both at work and outside. People that I can talk to or sit with in silence for hours. I am deeply grateful for where I am and it would be insane to complain or to start looking at some “what if” angle.
There were few times when I managed to rock my inner peace with some conflict (of course all in my monkey mind), but nothing dramatic as I can’t recall a single night when I had a hard time finding sleep and was not thankful for the day past.
I have no regrets about how I acted and felt in these “rocky” phases.
I did not walk away to hide my feelings! I stayed real despite making mistakes. I remained open, honest and transparent, took responsibility of my words and actions, was vulnerable and mostly constructive in these actions and thoughts. That was a huge change for me and it brought in new peace and courage to let go of nothing else than my thoughts and expectations. It is much easier now to keep an open mind, communicate transparently, be vulnerable and focus on being constructive in my thoughts and words.
I believe when two people, no matter their relationship, both bring this mindset (even just a tiny bit) to the table, then a deeper connection is forged. That is not just a thought, but my personal experience and a big lesson to take with me from this year. We can’t expect that the other person always follows the same formula (I have been on both ends over the years), but letting ourselves be vulnerable, while also being sincere, caring, compassionate, warm and forgiving, we will be at peace with ourselves. We have done our best and all we can do now is let go and trust life.
If I were to put 2015 into just a few words, then the main keywords would be adventure, smiling, challenges, joy, forgiving, awareness, mindfulness, gratitude, just happiness with no good reason, facing fear, good health, trust, great people around me, music, making mistakes and learning from them, plenty of books and podcasts.
Speaking of books, I recall now that I joined a reading challenge on Goodreads last year, thinking that I can go through 55 books in 2015. Did not quite make it, but ended up reading 40+ books and listening to a few hundred hours of podcasts. The number of books per year in itself shouldn’t be the goal, but in my case I understand it is good to have a habit where I find even just an hour every evening to read something that I am interested in, makes me laugh, something that leads me to question life and where I am.
With podcasts and audiobooks it is somewhat easier to find time as I spend about an hour in the car every day between the kindergarten route on my way to work in the morning and back later in the day. A good audiobook or podcast gives the time in traffic jams a totally new meaning. I am not just looking at the tail lights of a car in front of me. I get to pick the brains of really inspiring people from very different walks of life, while I happen to sit in traffic. And that is quality time!
My top 7 books in 2015 in random order:
–The Wisdom of Life by Arthur Schopenhauer
–Mythology and the Individual by Joseph Campbell
–Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard Feynman
–The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (The most exciting audio book I have ever listened)
–The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, Andrew Harvey
–The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew by Alan Lightman
–One Taste by Ken Wilber
My favorite podcasts are hard to pinpoint. I listened to so many! Some more than once. I am a big fan of Rich Roll and Tim Ferriss podcasts.
Rich Roll is a fascinating character! I first read about him in a blog post about his journey from an overweight father to a plant-based ultraman, who finished five Ironman triathlons on five Hawaiian islands in less than a week. Soon after, I bought his book “Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself” and started following his blog and two years ago also his podcast from the very first episode on. I found his story and the way he exposed himself to the world very inspiring.
Tim Ferriss is mainly known for his book “The 4-Hour Work Week”. I did not find it very interesting, nor have I paid much attention to his other books. But somehow I ended up listening to AN episode of his podcast in late 2014 and I was sold. He loves experimenting, has fun, is very open minded, gets to the roots of different topics and has great guests like startup founders, scientists, authors, athletes all the way to Hollywood actors.
With some spare time at hand on the road, I recently also re-subscribed to Joe Rogan.
My top picks of 2015 podcasts are:
–Maria Popova on Writing, Workflow, and Workarounds
–Derek Sivers on Developing Confidence, Finding Happiness, and Saying “No” to Millions
–Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories
–Brené Brown on Vulnerability and Home Run TED Talks
–The Person I Call Most for Startup Advice
–Marco Borges’ 22-Day Revolution: A Plant-based Mission to Transform Mainstream Culture
–Addiction is Not a Choice: DR. Gabor Mate’s Call for a Compassionate & Holistic Approach to Healing
–Jedidiah Jenkins: The Pursuit of Wonder, The Power of Story and Finding Truth in Adventure
–Light Watkings on The Inner Gym: How Meditation Can Train Concioucness For Happiness
–The Iron Cowboy Did It! How James Lawrence Completed 50 Ironmans in 50 States in 50 Days
–The Zen of Wude – Meditations on Buddhist Philosophy, Gratitude & Great Art of Being
–Our Misplaced Obession With Protein: Garth Davis, MD on High Fat, Low Fat Carb Diets, Bad Science & How to Separate Nutritional Fact From Popular Fiction
–From Monk to Entreprenur: How Andy Puddicombe Became the Modern Voice of Meditation & Mindfulness
–The Spirit of Timothy Shieff – Freerunning, The Practice of Being & Living Transparently
–How to Live to Be 100+ (And Why You Should Invest In Adventure)
2016 is knocking on the door and I am not making any major plans or setting big goals for it. I have started making such plans right when I feel that I need to change something, either by removing, modifying or adding something to my life. And so the last couple of years have been more about the steps I am taking towards a dream or a goal I have set. Actually enjoying each step, trusting if I stick to new habits, adapt them as time passes, then changes come.
Last week at yoga, my teacher Gerli surprised the class with a pose that seemed impossible to me. When she did it, I was astonished. I quickly failed when attempting the first part and just started laughing at myself, realizing my body and mind are very far from being ready for repeating what she just did.
The goal is not that I am going to do it in six or twelve months. The plan is to give it a try three to four times a week with my random workout, to see where it leads in the long run. I know if I stick to this routine, the changes come.
There are also changes that I am well aware the new year will bring. Tristan is going to school in the fall and that is going to be a big change for the both of us. Much of the the planning still under way… A new chapter which will change our daily routines a lot. And it will bring a new world and new people into his life. We are both looking forward to it with excitement.
Next to a few travel plans and some construction work for the summer, it is pretty simple. I want to spend more time outdoors and less on electronic devices; I want to take initial steps towards a triathlon if doctors agree on the condition of my right knee; I want to make space for “me” time with books, daily meditations and hopefully 10-day Vipassana in Sweden or Finland, for more writing, for my guitar lessons and for time with family and friends; I want to do more experiments with photo and video, more cooking, and take life less seriously. And most importantly, I don’t have a big effing plan because the most memorable days are usually the ones that are marked by an absence of control.
Ultimately, I am convinced that the only thing we truly can control is how we react in different situations and that takes a lot of practice.
Sticking to routines is good to get the work done, exercise, build healthier habits, but doing something unplanned and turning down an unknown road once in awhile is something that is guaranteed to surprise. And most people I know, love it.
Surprise yourself once in awhile by not having a plan!
We go camping with friends every August and my most memorable trip started on the spur of a moment – just an idea that this time instead of a boat ride we would walk to the island of Vilsandi. We started the trip slightly late, walking over small islands with around half of the route in water for more than five kilometers. Tristan, who was five at the time, was also with us. Walking very bravely next to us, though I carried him for a good portion of the trip. The water was too deep and with the night approaching he eventually got tired, really putting my physical and mental strength to test, having to carry some 40 kilos on me at times with a child very close to falling asleep on my shoulders, while we were all in the middle of nowhere.
We arrived in the dark, everyone exhausted, yet still making fun of the whole situation, having no idea how we would make another solid five kilometers in the dark to the other side of the island where the camp site was… but we did.
Half an hour later, we had the fire going, tents were being put up and everyone was laughing with the bright moon rising to the picture, joined by stars up above and the relaxing sound of waves hitting the shore on the other side of the sand dunes.
No good story ever starts with “we had this big plan and every little detail went just how we had foreseen”. That’s boring! We want to feel surprised, want to be excited and embrace the unknown. Being on the edge is where we grow the most as individuals.
Thank you to all who I met, talked and listened to, laughed and experienced being alive with…
I look forward to a fun 2016, full of new adventures, knowing I will be making a “few” mistakes along the way. So I leave you with wise words on making some of your own from Neil Gaiman:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”