Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015: The Year of Daring (and, okay, an Ironman)

As many of you know, I've been naming the year for the past 10 years. What this means is that each year I choose a word to represent my goals for the next 12 months and to use as a lens through which I can look at any opportunities that come my way.

The joy about choosing a word is that there is no failure. There is only success because each year is what I choose to make of it. Sometimes what I've done with my year has been relatively small. Other times, the word has changed my life entirely. That's the joy of it.

In case you're curious - here is a brief recap of each of my last 10 years...much of this came from a recap I wrote in 2010 so don't mind the grammar...amazing to see how my mindset has shifted. Skip over it if you already know the progression or just don't care! :)

In 2006, the Year of Change, I found a new job. A job tailor made for me. I love the work, I love my boss, I enjoy solving people's problems. Even four years out, I am not bored at all with what I do. Every day brings new challenges and new projects. I also helped run an election campaign that year. I may have worked for politicians throughout school and for two years afterwards (and attended policy conferences and AGMs) -- but there was nothing like working in an election campaign headquarters. It was insane -- and yet great fun at the same time.

In 2007, the Year of Opportunity, I visited both of my host families from previous student exchanges. In May of that year, I went to Japan (where I spent 2000-2001 on an exchange at Konan University) -- while in August, I went to Barraba, Australia (where I spent 1996-1997 on a Rotary High School Student Exchange). In December, I went to the Pirates in Paradise Festival in Key West -- where I saw the Green Flash (something I thought fictitious), and learned how cannon are fired. I got to dress up as a pirate, shoot a blunderbuss, and attack a fort -- I learned a lot which will eventually make it into my writing. I crossed the Pacific Ocean twice that year. I saw four (four!) oceans.

In 2008, the Year of Transformation, I changed my lifestyle (Aside: for the first time anyways...long term, that attempt was not a success). After realizing that an office job did nothing for motivating healthy living, I decided it was better to change now than to try and change in twenty years. I taught myself to eat healthy, to figure out proper portion sizes, and to either pack a lunch or find healthy places to buy foods (because I hate cooking). For months I counted every calorie that went into my mouth, and every minute of exercise. I lost 30 pounds in three months - kind of amazing. Compared to travel, this was a low-key year -- but it will also be the year I remember as shifting the course of my future health. (Aside: The way I lost weight this year was completely unsustainable...I gained all the weight back and more over the next 2. BUT...the food lessons I learned that year have actually held me in good stead. To a degree - this was the year I learned how NOT to change my life. Not that I knew it then).

In 2009, the Year of Possibility, I received a grant to support my writing efforts -- my first grant ever. I took three months off work to write -- time off my company fully supported. I went to Hawaii twice, once with my Dad on a trip of a lifetime. I took a helicopter ride over an active volcano. I wrote a second (better!) novel (Aside: Which never sold, but at least I got a trip to Hawaii out of it). I wrote most of a second screenplay. I wrote a TV show pitch. I attended my first screenwriting convention. I even participated in my first CityChase (which was awesome!).

2010 was the Year of Discovery - and I did. If you count raising over $2500 in 10 days for Right to Play, rappelling down Toronto City Hall, snorkeling with Stingrays, submitting my first novel, and zip-lining for the first time. Sure, there was more -- but those were my favourite highlights.

2011 was the Year of Reinvention. A truer name in hindsight could never have been chosen. At the beginning of the year, I changed to a job with more regular hours (Aside...which didn't end up suiting me very well - but it did give me more time). In the middle of the year, I took a tall ship from Norway to Scotland so I could learn (at least a bit) about how to sail (I also got to see Nelson's Victory in Portsmouth on that trip). At the end of the year I decided that I hadn't done enough re-inventing. Since I had an unused fitness allowance from work that would expire in December...I figured I'd use it. After some thought, I decided to hire a personal trainer to help me become healthy and fit. I didn't really think it would work (refer to my 2008 experience), but I decided to go for it anyways. Little did I know Trainer Chris would change my life. Toward the end of December, Trainer Chris dared me to sign up for a 10k race in 2012 because "being healthy and fit" wasn't a goal. (Aside: We all know how that turned out).

In 2012, the Year of Endeavour, I strived toward a noble goal. While I made the decision to become healthy and fit late in 2011....in 2012, I really made the changes that mattered. When I finished my first race, the Sporting Life 10k, I fell in love with running and racing. I learned to ride a bike - maybe not very well, but enough to do my first beginner triathlon. I lost 50 pounds. In August, I decided to quit my job and start my own company, Inspire Consulting.

In 2013,the Year of Acceleration, I got better at everything. I actually got enough business to keep working on my own (I wasn't sure I could). On my brother's advice, I went to triathlon camp for the first time and learned a ton about triathlon. I also learned to use clipless pedals (by falling several times...but I didn't die, so it was all good). I joined the Toronto Triathlon Club and met a whole bunch of awesome people I could train with and learn from. And then, that summer, I did my first sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. I also finished my first marathon - the Run for Heroes - with a smile on my face. I hired Coach Mark in November to help me achieve newer and bigger goals.

This past year, 2014, I dubbed the Year of Believing.  I focused on something mental - finally getting myself to believe I am who I am...that somehow I'm not a poser when it comes to what I've accomplished...both in fitness and in having my own business. When I cross the finish line of the Barrelman half-iron distance triathlon in Niagara Falls (smiling!) in September, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could do anything if I tried. Not to mention that, over the year, I've come to honestly recognize that I am allowed to take pride in what I've done and the choices I've made. I've worked hard to create a life I love. It's not perfect, but it is pretty darned awesome. I also know that I couldn't have succeeded without daring to dream.

And that's why I've named 2015:  The Year of Daring.

No, I'm not going to take up skydiving! But, I realize how much I hold myself back sometimes. I tend to think a lot over things before I make the decision to go ahead (yes, I debated for months before I decided to commit to becoming healthy and fit). I want to know I can succeed before I even set out - to control all the variables. That isn't a bad thing, but not every opportunity has a guarantee of success. I was okay with that for a while, but in recent years I've hated uncertainty. I was frustrated by times when, despite doing everything I could, some outside force affected the outcome.

It was only in signing up for Ironman Arizona that I realized I have finally reached a turning point where I can accept more uncertainty again.

Aside: Oh right - I still haven't posted about signing up for an Ironman. Oops. I've been trying to write a post about it, but it's really hard to write about  signing up for a race that is that long without sounding utterly ridiculous. Do you really need confirmation that I've lost my marbles?

 Now, I know full well that Ironman Arizona, despite working hard and training hard comes with no certainty of success. I believe I can do it (with Coach Mark's help and a whole lot more training) or I wouldn't have signed up (and spent almost $1,000 for the privilege). And yet, I also know anything can happen (i.e., I could trip walking down one stair and end up on crutches - been there, done that) and that isn't bothering me like it would have a few years ago. Same goes for my job. That was one leap of faith I didn't think about at all. It was a sudden decision that has turned into one of the best decisions I've made.

So this year I want to take that mindset and apply it to other areas of my life. I want to dare to dream bigger and to be willing to accept the uncertainty that comes with big dreams. Because it doesn't matter how many times you trip. It's about how many times you get back up.

One of my friends told me I should name this the Year of Ironman because training for it would eat my life. Truth is, I thought about it. But I don't want to pin my entire year on a single day. Ironman Arizona is just another race. Longer and crazier, sure - but still just a race.

What will get me (hopefully) to the finish line is daring to go after it and a whole lot of hard work. But isn't that what achieving most goals is all about?

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