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Rest, Reflect, Recharge, and Yearly Mantras

After some long days, is there anything better than flipping your shoes off, falling into the couch, and staring off into space, while letting your feet, legs, back, and mind enjoy doing absolutely nothing else?

Couple at a dinner table
Catching a little dinner with my lovely, newly wed wife.

On a year-long scale, that’s what the gap between Christmas and New Years can feel like for me. It’s a chance to clear out my photos and reflect on the year that was. It’s also the chance to set up my bullet journal for the year ahead and get excited about goals and bucket-list items,  different ways of doing things, and to slow down and consider how I reached my current year-long mantra and what next year’s will be.

Habit Stacking

I have become a big fan of habit stacking. Understanding my goal for a year helps me set an intention and goals for a month. These break down into daily steps. Then it’s a matter of trying to take those daily steps as consistently as possible to gain progress for a month. All of the sudden when I look back after a year, it’s always rewarding to see how far I’ve come. Whether it’s weight loss, hair length, or plant growth, things that happen imperceptibly require awareness  and comparison in order to quantify the effort. This, in turn, reignites passion and proves the fuel for doing things we don’t see an immediate payoff with.

2023 Mantra: "Flow"

In 2023, my mantra was “Flow.” I wanted to move through life like I was floating down a river, knowing that at times I’d be basking in the sun, and at other times, life’s current would lead me into the weeds. Could I enjoy the sun, and not waste all my energy fighting against the weeds? For me, a mantra is a nice concept, and I also needed some actions to go along with that mantra to actually achieve the flow state.

When I considered what made it hard for me to flow, judgement was always there to greet me at the door first. When I recognized that being around certain people or being in certain situations felt a lot like the weeds, I knew I had two options: stay out of the river, or move through the weeds as gracefully as the open waters. As life would have it, I was in charge of creating a lot of the weeds in my own head, and when I wasn’t in control of the weeds, I was still in control with how I navigated through them.

I learned a lot about how my judgement of others was really a strong judgement of myself. The only way I could navigate that internal relationship was to learn compassion, and self-forgiveness.

A story I read when I was in high school that seemed to pop-up in more discussions than any other in 2023 was a story about this man who dies and goes to Heaven’s gates, awaiting trial on whether he would go to Heaven or Hell. He walks into the courtroom, expecting to find God either at the Judge’s bench, or as the jury, only to find out that God is his lawyer, ready to make the argument on why he deserves to go to Heaven. The man is baffled, and when he’s finally able to ask God why He’s not the judge or the jury, God looks at him and basically says, “Son, I am an omnipotent, omniscient being. I know all of your sins, and I also know all of the why’s behind them. How could I possibly judge you when I know the genesis behind every deed done wrong. I also know the reason behind every deed done right. All I can do is advocate for your soul. 

Trying to put my life and my “mistakes” in that perspective was still challenging. There were many points that felt like bypassing what I’d done and excusing bad behavior. But here’s the key: I’m a human being bound to make mistakes. As these aren’t avoidable, the only thing that can be done is acknowledgement and adjustment.

I found a ton of softening in a ton of minor moments, and in a few large ones. Some of those highlights included meeting my then-fiancee Kristy at a park and letting her know some specifics on the mistakes that I’d made in the first round of our relationship. The big factor with that is that I wasn’t in need of her forgiveness to forgive myself. I had to forgive myself first and be OK with the fact that I had evolved past the version of myself that was capable of making those kind of mistakes in the first place. Once I had forgiven myself, I didn’t need her forgiveness to be OK. What I did want is to inform her about decisions I’d made in my life, so she could make the best decision about her life. I wanted her to know me completely and vulnerably because that’s the place I enjoy living from the most. While the confession was scary, it was hugely cleansing and a big step in my self forgiveness. 

While that step was huge, it was also necessary for me to still practice it with other people, and I got plenty of chances. Situations with friends, with my kids, within my romantic partnership, and especially with people that Kristy and I associate with (yet some I didn’t particularly care for) tested my judgement frequently, if not daily. I found myself constantly asking the question: “What would love do here?” I also had to recognize when I wasn’t filling my own cup and taking that discomfort out on others, or being spicy at a situation that wasn’t as dramatic as I was making it out to be.

In the end, I realize that when I made the manta “Flow” I wasn’t really asking to be magically swept into a land where all I did was flow. What I was asking for is the opportunity to get better at flowing. That inevitably comes with the challenges of not flowing, so I could practice doing it more often.

When I consider how intense some of my feelings were, and how much they have shift and softened, I feel so much better at all things, and it didn’t require one apology from another person or bypassing of my own feelings. I simply found a way to not carry it anymore.

2024 Mantra

This brings me to my Mantra for 2024. As I sat and thought about what I wanted to see for myself in the coming year, my time as a Marine from 1999 to 2004 came to mind.

Every Marine, first and foremost, is a rifle person. Each year we would spend at least a week practicing our marksmanship on a firing range. It’s one of, if not the only, meditative event I can recall. It’s not just Marines getting rifles and rounds blasting up paper targets. There’s an entire process of practicing one’s aiming frame and position, squeezing the trigger steadily while exhaling breath. There’s factoring for wind and distance. Once a shot is fired and the target is marked, there’s a period of reflection and adjustment before firing again. Picture less Rambo, and more Sniper.

Aim. Shoot. Assess. Adjust. Translated into my 2024, it becomes: Aim. Act. Assess. Adjust. (My Four A’s.) To make this useful, it was important to know Why.

A quick note on hard work vs. productivity: Hard work can be defined as doing something that requires an effort level that is sustainable for a finite period of time. In other words, the work requires more effort than the amount of energy and effort required to just exist. The less sustainable the hard work over a period of time, the harder that work can be defined. An example would be carrying 60 lb. bounders the size of watermelons from one place to another. This can’t be done forever, but will be classified as harder or easier depending on a person’s fitness level. This fitness level dictates how long that hard work could be repeated.

Now, if that hard work has a purpose, it can also be called productive work. If hard work doesn’t have a purpose, it’s not productive. If my purpose in moving 60 lb. rocks is to get stronger, or build a sweat lodge, or move them out of the way so I can plant a garden, then if I do that hard work for an hour, I’m also productive. One could argue that if I move the stones from point A to point B, and then back to point A again because I’m bored, then I’m still being productive in order to entertain myself, but the level of productivity is less. Productivity can also be measured in the value of the hard work being done, and of course that’s relative to one’s own perception of what’s valuable. This is all to say that the greater and more valuable the why, the more valuable the hard work, and in turn, the more productive one will feel.

So why do I want to practice the Four A’s? Just practicing them would be like doing hard work for little or no purpose. When I put the Four A’s in the light of wanting ELEVATION in my life, then every Aim is for Elevation, every action is an attempt to become better and more aligned with my life, every Assessment is my estimation on how close I’m hitting the mark, and every adjustment is designed to get me closer to the ELEVATION I desire.

What could one’s life look like if they tried to consistently do this every day, and did it more consistently every week, to have more of those kinds of wins every month? What would a year of doing that produce?

I have my bucket list, and I have the habits I’d like to incorporate. Honestly, I’m not positive where that all takes me, and frankly, I like the idea of being open to Universal Surprise, which is the concept of living in such a way that you welcome what life lays at your feet and run with it, rather than living so rigidly to the idea that success and failure is dictated squarely on what a version of you a week, a month, or a year ago thought would be best for your future. Universal Surprise is having an idea of The What and The Why of life, and letting life reveal the When, Where, and How.

Bucket Lists and Habits

Some of my Bucket List items include:

  • Buying A House

  • Traveling Internationally

  • Run A Marathon

  • Become Yoga Teacher Certified

  • Read 30+ Books

  • Climb all the peaks in the Wasatch

  • Write and publish a short story

My daily habits include:

  • Meditating 15+ min. daily

  • Drinking 64+ oz. of water daily

  • Working out 30+ min. daily

  • Doing something musically 30+ min. daily

  • Doing yoga 20+ minutes daily

  • Reading 10+ pages daily

  • Writing 20+ min. daily

  • Doing something coaching related 30+ min. daily

I’m including what some of my bullet journal pages look like. I’d love to chat with anyone about how to set a bullet journal up, or discuss more about things that you can do to optimize your goals and life.

Above all, feel free to share your work for 2024. It’s always inspiring to hear what others are aiming for.

Happy New Year, and thanks for being on this ride with me.

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