It has been another fast moving year personally. Tigers, where I coach and play, were promoted back into National 2, I was invited back to help Rotherham out for a couple of games so ended the season in professional rugby and now, this season, Tigers are up against it to survive in our new league. Off the field I finished a successful 18 months with Cafcass with staff sickness levels at an all time low and moved back to the NHS into a similar role, one that has proven challenging yet fulfilling in equal measure. Side projects such as the gifted and talented athlete scheme also reached their conclusion and now I am researching my next muse. I also published 39 posts on this site.
All of this churn has delivered some pretty solid lessons. I have had to sideline the ego and work harder than ever before. I hope this list may also benefit you. As before, in no particular order and written bluntly, here are my lessons from 2016:
- If it makes you feel uncomfortable or scared then you should do it. It will likely be of great benefit to you. All my biggest strides this year came about when I was uncomfortable.
- On the above - build discomfort into your day - hard training, a cold shower or a difficult conversation. The more you do it the more at home you will be with discomfort. The more at home you are the bigger the strides you will take outside your comfort zone. Innoculate yourself against the fear.
- Ask better questions. Listen to your thoughts, if they aren't helpful then it is because your questions aren't good enough. Change this. Start by listening to this podcast. Remember that the right answer to the wrong question is still wrong.
- Know what you are measuring. Are you measuring true outcomes or false outcomes? In other words are you measuring the results of a certain approach or are you just measuring how well you are using the given approach. Performance is all that matters, focus on it.
- Success is a transient, fleeting thing. When it lands with you savour it and celebrate it, it may not be around for long.
- Further to the above - don't base your happiness on achievement, this is a recipe for serious unhappiness and a mid-life crisis when you ask what it was all for. Instead connect with something deeper, what is your purpose, your values? What do you want your legacy to be? These are subtely different but far more useful questions than 'what do i want to have/do'?
- Embrace the darkness. Human's have an odd phobia of talking about our demons and difficulties, yet they make such a large part of us, to keep them in the dark is to give them strength and power. Find a trusted friend, pour a coffee and open up.
- If the above doesn't help then don't be afraid of seeking professional advice. If your mental battles are affecting your day to day functioning then reach out. I meet people every day that were previously afraid of talking therapies yet, having been through the process, cite it as a transformative experience.
- This advice extrapolates to all problems, if you are stuck then get help. Silence the ego and reach out. It is how you develop.
- You are who you surround yourself with. If you aren't happy with where you are currently at then audit your inputs. Who are you spending time with? What content are you digesting? Are these congruent with your goals? If not then change it.
- Social media isn't real life. Are you spending more time as the fake, edited version of yourself than you are a real person? If so then step out from behind the touchscreen.
- Help people. If someone clearly needs a chat then give them the time. Doing good feels good.
- Create a sleep routine. I read, do a breathing exercise and then use the Pzizz app before bed. I've done this 80% of the year and the improvement in my time to sleep and subsequent quality of sleep is markedly improved. Quality sleep then improves virtually every other marker you care to measure.
- Spend more time outside. Vitamin D is beyond crucial.
- Drink better coffee. Invest £20 in an aeropress/V60 and get your coffee from an independant roaster. the difference between this and supermarket stuff is life changing.
- Focus on systems above goals. What approach will help you develop skills or networks that will benefit you beyond the initial task?
- Ask people why your ideas or approaches might fail. 'Red teaming' allows you to road test your stuff before it is in the real world where it will likely fail in some way anyway.
- Understand the difference between you and your ego, spot when you are acting with which. Ego is the enemy and will divert you from the good work that you will eventually look back on with pride, even if it is the easier voice to listen to in the moment.
- Eat Real Food - the only nutrition rule that you need.
- What are your daily standards? How you do anything is how you do everything - if you are sloppy with the little stuff then you will be sloppy with the big stuff. Be accurate, always.
- Basics: Squat, deadlift and chin. Go to bed early and wake up early. Eat simple, wholefood meals. Life isn't that complicated if we nail the basics.
- Read these books: Ryan Holiday - Ego is the enemy, Matthew Syed - Black box thinking, Caroline Webb - How to have a good day, Carol Dweck - Mindset and Charles Duhigg - The power of habit.
- Live simply. Seperate what you need from what you want. You need food, water and shelter. You may need transport. You only want fancy clothes, cosmetic products and technology. Understand this difference and adjust your spend accordingly. You will soon have the finances to do big impactful things rather than bleeding it away on a series of little 'wants'.
I hope this list has been helpful for you. What will actually be most helpful is for you to do one for yourself. Pour that decent coffee and take a couple of hours out to reflect and journal on this. No one has to see it but keep it safe and re-visit it throughout 2017. It will prove it's worth.
Thank you for following this and all my other posts through 2016. Happy New Year. Here's to a big one.