I decided to talk about the future instead of the past for this New Year’s post. Like many entrepreneurs, I am focused on my goals and how I am going to accomplish them. That doesn't mean we don't learn from the past; we do. We just don't wallow in it and fret about what has been done. Instead, we look for how we can improve based on what we have learned and just keep going. This is true in business, but is it true for us in our personal lives?
Life is a constant evolution and requires constant monitoring. Throughout 2013, I took stock of myself personally. I needed to make some changes to myself in order to be as happy as I could be. This wasn't about a moment in time, and me writing something down as a resolution. This was about listening to and observing myself intently throughout the year – and both understanding and accepting that I needed to make changes to my behaviour in order to realize the happiness I wanted. Through this practice of mindfulness, I realized that I was so busy pleasing everyone else that I forgot myself. Ironically, this trap of pleasing other people was something that I’d often advised against – which just goes to show you how difficult it is to shake bad habits, even those you’ve identified. Bottom line: you can't preach it if you aren’t prepared to own it when you too make the mistake.
Resolutions are, in my mind, another way to say, “Let’s keep going stronger and better,” as opposed to, “Please forgive me for what I didn’t do last year.”
At any time of the year, we can choose to re-invent our lives and start fresh. It’s important to stay recollected to the best in who we are and to continue, no matter what happens, to believe in ourselves and our ability to change and be better.
The idea that we are only one fixed, unchangeable person for the entire course of our lives is such a foreign notion to me. We are experiencing, growing, thinking and learning all of the time. In fact, I strongly disagree with the idea that we just simply “are who we are” and so are unable to effect significant change. That is patently false. We all learn from our lives as we go. The belief that you can’t change your mind, not to mention your life, is an incredibly limiting point of view. If that were true, there would be no point in learning anything new as we wouldn’t have the ability to re-think and re-imagine our lives based on new ideas, perceptions and experiences. What an absurd premise!
It is my belief that the exact opposite is true. We have so much power in our thoughts and actions. Think about it: all the tools are contained in this neat package called “you” and when we use these tools in a directed and purposeful way, we have the capacity to build happy lives and amazing businesses.
I recently downloaded an app called “Days of our Lives.” This simple piece of software illustrates in a chart how many days you have left to live based on actuary tables of average ages for people who are statistically comparable to you. Frankly it both frightens and motivates me. When it pops up every day, I now ask myself: “Did I do what I needed to do today?” It makes me stop and think: “Was this a day I learned, and felt alive, and experienced positive emotions?”
I live my life fully, always have, and as I’ve grown older I understand much more precisely the truth that the most precious gift we have is time. Every day, every moment, is precious. We celebrate New Year’s Eve today, but in truth every day is the start of a new year. Every moment we have the opportunity to access the infinite possibilities available to the beginner’s mind. There are endless opportunities available to us every day, and every moment, not the least of which is the opportunity to be grateful for what we have.
Working on yourself is the most challenging discipline. As an entrepreneur, you know that it can be particularly hard to keep on track, professionally and personally. One of the reasons you are here is because you are independent and want to control your own destiny in both business and in life. My advice to you is to work on your life with the same intention and dedication that you bring to your work. It’s hard, I know. But we all realize that work and life are intertwined when you are in business for yourself. That’s the beauty and the challenge. It’s not about balance; instead, its about being yourself and being in the moment no matter where you are and what you find yourself doing.
In his influential book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki writes, “Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
Enjoy each day. Be present in each moment. Live it fully. Be happy. And remember: all your dreams for 2014 will come true, if you choose to make it so.