Productivity

Values, Sleepless Nights, and Saying “Yes”: What I Learned in 2013

The last 365 days have been big for me. In 2013, I graduated from post-secondary school, went to two life-changing conferences (in Toronto and New Orleans), started my career, was let go from a company for the first time, joined a creative writing group, started going to the gym regularly, changed my diet, had a family member go through a serious illness, and made (or grew distant from) some friends.

But before we officially close the books on 2o13, I’d like to share 10 personal lessons, insights, and thoughts from the year that was. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

1. Define your values and don’t compromise on them.

Reading Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why changed the way I look at life. This year, I’ve placed a great emphasis on defining what’s important to me and making sure that whatever I do aligns with my values. It’s also given strategic direction to my goal-setting and has allowed me to filter out the noise around me that I don’t agree with. I encourage you to constantly define what matters to you in terms of relationships, career, money, health, etc. and hold yourself to your beliefs.

2. Break big things down into manageable chunks.

This comes down to proper goal-setting (remember the “SMART” rule: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, & Timely). For myself, it’s always been easier to come up with big goals for myself that will take years to accomplish. This past year, I really tried to get myself to break those big ones down into smaller, more practical pieces; instead of always looking at the entire wall, I’ve tried to focus on a brick or two at a time.

3. “You either win or you learn. Failing is a choice.”

A former colleague of mine sent this message to me after I was let go from my job. It reminded me that so much of life is about your attitude and your perspective.

4. Say yes more than you say no.

In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey’s character Carl Allen is an uninteresting, antisocial man who is reluctantly forced to start saying “Yes” to every opportunity, request, or invitation. Some craziness ensues, but Carl ultimately starts having a more fulfilling life over the course of the film. This past year, I’ve tried harder than ever to adopt a similar mentality and embrace new opportunities instead of staying in my comfort zone. As the saying goes, “the only way to define your limits is by going beyond them”.

5. Discover purposefully, instead of wandering aimlessly.

The beauty of life is that it never runs in a straight line. Still, there is a difference between getting detoured and getting derailed. Understanding this difference was a big focus for me this past year. Go out there and explore, I say – just know why you’re doing it.

6. Surround yourself with the right people.

Whether socially or professionally, I’ve tried to eliminate toxic relationships from my life this past year. I try to surround myself with people who will help me move forward, not backward. I value relationships where we can both positively influence one another.

7. Think long-term and understand what it means in the short-term.

In my last year of school, I held executive/leadership positions in three different student-driven organizations, all while simultaneously attaining academic distinction status upon graduating. As a result, I routinely got less than four hours of sleep most nights and had more 18 hour days behind a desk than I’d like to remember. There were certainly times when I was tired or frustrated with the constant barrage of work, but I reminded myself that there was a reason why I was putting myself through all of that and that there would a payoff one day.

8. Ask for help. 

I’ve always been an independent person who likes to try and figure out my own solutions to problems. As such, asking for help doesn’t always come naturally to me, but 2013 taught me that there are situations where I need to lean on others more often.

9. Always leave things better than how you found them.

Learning to be a leader and understanding how to create positive value on a daily basis in whatever I was doing is something I worked hard on this past year.

10. Start today.

There are several things I did (or started doing) this year which I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t take that all-important first step. In 2014, I plan to write a book and learn how to DJ or play the guitar (or both). But I know nothing happens until I put that first word down on paper or learn that first chord.

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