4 key lessons from 2017
2017 has been one of the most memorable and transformational years of my life. It’s been a year full of changes, new experiences, inner struggles, successes, and most importantly — it has been a year full of growth.
Here are some of the biggest things I’ve learned this past year:
In today’s restless world, it’s easy for your mind to be cluttered and easily distracted. We all know exercise is a necessary component of living a healthy lifestyle, but the best training you can put yourself through is mental training.
From having to decide where I will be after graduation to getting out of a three year relationship to living in a new city across the country for six months, 2017 had its fair share of ups and downs. Being in unhealthy relationships brought out a lot of my insecurities and in the past few years, I had let myself become so wrapped up in little things that I started to put my values in the wrong places. I was always worried about one thing or another. I was anxious and emotionally reactive. I was easily agitated, over thought far too much, and had the constant need to control my environment. I can count many times where I’ve unintentionally hurt others because I wasn’t mindful of my own self. These habits were toxic to those around me, and more importantly, they were toxic for my mental health.
This summer and fall, I was in a brand new city, surrounded by people from all over the country, with lots of time to reflect. The biggest change I’ve made this past year is practicing mindfulness.
I started a daily morning meditation routine — just 10 minutes of my day.
It’s extremely hard at first — your mind will wander, get distracted, and you will fail to stay focused. You will think about what you’re going to have for dinner, your paper that’s due at midnight, play out several future scenarios in your head, etc. Sometimes it will bring up painful thoughts and memories. You’ll think there’s no way you can sit still and let go of your thoughts for 10 whole minutes — you’ll start to question whether meditation is really for you. This is all normal. With time and practice, you’ll be able to slowly control your attention, and even increase the duration of your meditation.
We tend to have internal monologues within our own minds daily, and usually it’s all about yourself. “I should have done that. I should have said that. I wish this happened. Me, me, me, always me!” Meditation will teach you to let go of that constant need to focus on the past and over analyze every situation.
Meditation is about training your brain to slow down, be quiet, and to simply be aware. It’s the 1% of your day that will make the other 99% significantly better. It has taught me about myself in more ways that I could have ever imagined. As my mind became calmer, I became more rational. I became more authentic and better able to advocate for myself. I became more aware of my emotions, understanding when I was angry, or hurt, being able to take a moment and reflect on that before taking any sort of action. My attention span increased, and I became more productive. I started to judge less, both others as well as myself. I became more mindful, more present — being completely immersed into the things right in front of me.
Some of our greatest growth comes from the ability to simply sit and observe our thoughts.
Surround yourself with the right people.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “you are the average of your five closest friends”. I didn’t realize how true that was until this year. The people you surround yourself will define your values, your ambitions, and the traits you embody.
If you surround yourself with those who constantly gossip, put blame, and point out the flaws in others, you will become that person as well.
If you surround yourself with genuine, motivated, goal-driven people, you will soon head in that direction as well.
Surround yourself with people whose habits you want to manifest.
Surround yourself with people that support, yet challenge you.
It’s easy to find people who will validate you and lift you up, but it’s rare to find people who call you out on your mistakes, those who keep you grounded, those who help you learn more about yourself, those that continually push you to become a better version of yourself. If you find these people, don’t let them go.
Value your time. Start now.
As students, children, athletes, etc, we’ve all procrastinated at some point in our lives, only to have regretted it later — I know I have! That day when I laid in bed mindlessly scrolling through social media all day instead of starting my algorithms homework. That time I binge watched season 3 of gossip girl instead of writing this article. We all procrastinate, and even worse, we justify and adapt to these habits.
We all have things we want to do, things we want to learn, and habits we want to change. Most of us wait, and tell ourselves we’ll start once we have more time, money, experience, etc. By this time next year, you’ll probably have a lot more excuses. It’s a vicious cycle, and the longer you stay in it, the harder it becomes to break free.
For the longest time, I had wanted to learn photography, start working out regularly, and write my first medium article. They became secondary goals for me, as I’d always say “It’s ok, I can always start it later when I have time.” I continued to use the excuse of time for months, while somehow miraculously having enough time to binge-watch over 6 seasons of Vampire Diaries.
Procrastination fatigues you more than the amount of effort it takes you do it — it’s a form of self-sabotage.
Over the past few months, I’ve learned that there is never a perfect time for you to start that project you wanted to work on, learn something you’ve always wanted to, change your habit, or embrace a new one. You don’t find time, you make it. You have time, I have time, Elon Musk has time — we all have 24 hours in a day, the only difference is how we prioritize and value our time.
Be authentic, and be vulnerable.
Sometimes, we care a little too much about what others think of us, which then prevents us from doing the things we want to do, or being who we truly are. At one point or another, we’ve all put on a facade to in an attempt to hide our thoughts, emotions, and weaknesses. We do this because we want to protect ourselves, but ironically enough, it’s only hurting ourselves.
When I think of some of my closest friendships and how we became so close, the answer has always been rooted in vulnerability. The moments I cherish, the friends I value are the ones where we’ve opened up about how we felt, exposing our wounds, mistakes — without worry of any consequences. These are the people I can completely be myself and grow with.
This summer, I had to share not only a room, but a bed with someone I had never met for 3 months. Although not ideal, this situation pushed me to be completely open and authentic with her, sharing with her my views, values, struggles, and weaknesses, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Being vulnerable allowed me to know who she is as a person, understanding why she thinks the way she thinks, who/what she wants to be in the future, how she’s still figuring it out, etc. Now she’s one of my closest friends.
A month ago, one of my friends randomly started a groupchat with me, him, and one of his other friends that I didn’t know. If this had happened a year ago, I probably would’ve made some small talk for a day or so, and then never talked to him again. Because what could I have possibly talked about with someone that I’ve never met, right? Wrong. Being open and authentic created a level of comfort — found a friend in a stranger who I could relate to in more ways than I ever imagined, someone who I could potentially form a strong friendship with, someone who even inspired me to start writing this article!
Why don’t we have this level of openness with more people when there are so many clear benefits to it?
Vulnerability is scary because it requires a huge leap of faith that others won’t reject us or think any differently of us. We perceive it as a sign of weakness. However, I’ve come to learn it’s not only a great show of strength, but incredibly powerful in developing deep connections with other people. Life is a lot more fun and meaningful when it’s shared and that means not only the good moments, but also the bad.
Tell people what they mean to you. Tell people what’s on your mind. Tell people what’s troubling you. It’s 100% worth it.
By no means did these habits form overnight. It took a lot of reflection, conscious desire, repetition and even failure. But if I had to tell you one thing, it’s this:
You’re only one decision away from making the changes you want to in life. The choice is entirely yours. You either wake up everyday determined to go after what you want or you don’t. I’m glad I did, and I hope you do too!