Of course mixed in with all the things we have achieved are going to be some we don't want to repeat; some things we set out to achieve that we haven't, perhaps some things we are not so proud of, and inevitably there will be some sad memories too.
Until quite recently I used to sweep theses “negatives” under the table; ignore them, not deal with them, bury my head in the sand, pretend they hadn't happened and do the whole “think positive!” thing.
The problem is that only works for so long.
What I've been attempting over the last few years is to actually try and learn something!
Come the end of a year we have so much material to draw from, so much evidence at our disposal, but it's really easy just to rush on with the next year, hope for the best and miss massive opportunities to improve.
I've had a couple of BIG lessons dealt to me in 2018...
Lesson Number 1: “The Crash”
Don't worry, this isn't a post-Brexit financial forecast!
As some of you know, I had a little bike crash in the Summer - nothing too unusual in that - accidents happen, but looking back there was a bit more to it…
To cut a long story relatively short I made a fool of myself by crashing on a section of the track my 6 year old daughter had safely negotiated earlier!
What I had assumed/hoped was a bad sprain turned out 3 weeks later to be a broken wrist - thanks David for telling me to get it X-rayed! I also got some fairly severe lectures from the medical staff for not getting it looked at sooner.
Truth is I was in a state of denial: “I can't possibly have broken anything”, “I don't have time to be injured”, “it's inconvenient for work”, “I'll be out of action for the next 2 bike races and maybe surfing”.
It wasn't until I was sitting in the hospital waiting for my cast to dry that I realised how exhausted and burnt out I felt: very low on energy and really quite depressed. I'd been finding it hard to get up in the morning, had put on a bit of weight, was not managing my nutrition well and had been drinking way too much coffee.
The reality was I had been feeling this way for quite a while but ignoring it. I'd also noticed during the bike race that I was lacking “top gear”, but put it all to the back of my mind - I was far too “busy”.
In hindsight I really believe “the crash” was a message for me to STOP! A fairly dramatic one which I still managed to ignore for 3 more weeks...what an idiot!
So why did this happen? I generally eat well and exercise regularly...
It was only when looking back I realised I hadn't had a proper break since Christmas: we went on a family holiday to Cornwall in February and we all ended up with a stomach bug for 48 hours.
One day that same week I then got up at 4am, drove a total of 650 miles in a day to attend 2 important meetings getting back at about 10pm, which (surprise,surprise!) effectively took out 3 days of holiday.
Over the Easter holiday I took a “week off” to complete a training course, which was about 35 hours of intense learning with an exam at the end. Not exactly a rest!
A break we had planned in May got canned due to moving work commitments…
Over the Summer I tried to be clever and combine work and leisure time with the family, with only partial success.
The problem seems quite obvious now, doesn't it?!
Despite the fact that I know all too well what the consequences are of not getting enough downtime (I've been there before); I see it in clients regularly and I'm often on the lookout for signs in them before they get to the point of burnout, I still managed to overlook the fact that I hadn't had any!
I lost sight of the big picture, got caught up and ended up having a crash of a different kind: a more gradual one.
It then took me quite a few more weeks to get myself out of “the pit” as like a real adult I added feeling sorry for myself into the mix!
This isn't a sob story though: I absolutely don't want sympathy as it's all of my own doing. I also don't want to call it a “work/life balance” thing as I can't stand that phrase!
In fact, I think that all the decisions I took where the “right” ones...what I failed to do - and my first big lesson - was to make sure that downtime was replaced if it got disrupted for any reason.
So, in 2019 I'm going to do 2 things:
I've “Overbooked” downtime, on the basis that some won't happen for one reason or another and in an effort to fill up the “energy bank” in advance
Made a promise to myself and my family that I will endeavor to replace/extend any family holidays should plans change
Lesson number 2 - We're all individuals
I like a bit of self-experimentation and this year's experiments have shown me a couple of things I'll stick with and few things that I just shouldn't mess with!
It's really about answering the questions: “When do I feel my best?” and “What do I need to do to create this state reliably?”l
Fizzy drinks. I have gone through phases of drinking the odd Coke Zero or similar, on the basis that it's “zero sugar” but noticed I seem to gain weight. So at the start of the year I did an experiment - not 100% scientific but whilst controlling exercise and other nutrition, adding in just a couple of Coke Zeros seems to cause a weight gain of 2kg in a week! That's 4.4lbs! (Assume it's something to do with the sweeteners causing water retention).
I also notice with clients there seem to be people who can have the odd fizzy drink like this without this effect on weight and those who respond like me.
My Lesson: Fizzy drinks are a complete no-no for me
“Intermittent fasting” and “Time-restricted eating” have been around for a while now with many people touting the amazing fat-loss results and possible health benefits. I've played around with a few variations this year and for me, sometimes they work well, but often in the face of stress or tiredness the wheels are much more likely to come off, resulting in me overeating/bingeing later in the day. I also see this same pattern in many clients. Whilst in an “ideal” scenario, anecdotally, it seems time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting can work well, for many it's not sustainable.
My lesson: Eat a protein-based breakfast in the first 30 mins after waking (on a “work day”)
Napping. I feel my best when I nap regularly. It was also massively important to me recovering my energy levels after “The Crash” so my aim is to maintain it as a regular thing. Even when I have loads to do, I will get it all done more quickly and to a higher standard if I take a nap rather than attempting to power on. What are your signs of tiredness? Mine are generally being hungry, sweet cravings and drinking too much coffee. Pretty classic.
My lesson: nap regularly
Meditation. Simply, I am a much better person when I do it. When it feels hard is probably when it's most needed and effective...like most things!
My lesson: Find a new delivery service and put it on autopilot. We're going to apply this to as much of our shopping as possible other than fresh veg
The "6-week itch". I've noticed a pattern in myself: I seem to have no trouble keeping up a routine with nutrition and exercise for a period of about 6 weeks. Then something happens and it all goes a little off-track!
My lesson: Regular Nutritional Cleanse every quarter, plus mini versions every 6 weeks. And just do it, even if I feel I don't “need” it yet.
All these things just reaffirm my strong belief that whilst there are some general principles when it comes for health and lifestyle, there is a lot more individual variation than we think.
Also, you can have the same or a very similar strategy, but exactly how you go about integrating it into someone's lifestyle can vary massively
These are two of the main principles behind our lifestyle coaching at Motus.
Certain habits or strategies are “ideal-world” ones (including many of the latest trendy diets) - they don't work under all circumstances and particularly in the face of stress and/or tiredness.
We all need to focus on the fundamental ones and aim to reach a place where they stay solid no matter what.
Lesson number 3 - Relationships
This section is shorter but not because it's any less important. It's also rather personal!
Many families resolve every year to create more “family time” or spend more “quality time” with each other, but often the usual pressures mean sadly it falls by the wayside.
This has been the case for us for a number of years. It was very hard when Lucia was young and time with all of us together was a rare occurrence: I often worked all week from early in the morning until late in the evening, plus Saturday mornings, and then Anna worked most of the weekend.
Since then I've managed to gradually reduce the work I do in the evenings, whilst Anna took the decision to let go of her weekend work and become more involved at Motus so we can build the business together.
I'm pleased to say, though it's taken a number of years, we've realised we've now become really good at spending time together as a whole family, which we're very proud of!
The next step is now for us to make sure we are creating regular one-to-one time with both children as that's certainly been in short supply for me this year, and ironically I miss that from when Lucia was very young.
This year I've also taken the initiative with many more (cliche alert!) “date nights” and a couple of nights away without the children. I should probably clarify they've all been with Anna!
Secondly, I decided to put real effort to be convivial, rather than sit there yawning and trying not to fall asleep!
Finally, as well as all the family time, date nights and one-to-one time with the kids - and this is my real lesson - I need to make time for myself. It may sound selfish but as someone who is naturally very introverted, doing this makes all the rest possible and much, much better.
Meditation is a big part of it, but an hour to myself at home or even in a coffee shop can feel as energising mentally as a full night's sleep!
Thanks for reading!
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