In recent years I’ve noticed a backlash against the hype around the New Year holiday. “It’s just another day,” the critics, say.
No, it’s not.
Maybe it is for you, but for me it certainly is not.
The end of one year and the beginning of another is a time for reflection, evaluation, and goal setting. Sure, I could do this anytime, but it seems like there’s no better time to go through these exercises than when we get ready to turn the page on another year.
For me, a big part of the reflection and evaluation process happens by doing what I call the Best Days Exercise. I’ve written on this in the past, but the basic idea is to ask yourself, “What were my best days in the previous year?” As I begin to think about what I want the next year to look like, I ask myself, “How can I have more days like those in the year ahead.”
My goals for the past year included a good number of physical challenges, but as the year unfolded I took on more and more goals in this department.
The past year has quite possibly been the most successful of my life in terms of achieving goals related to sport and physical excursion.
This first occurred to me as we were wrapping up 6 weeks of travel in Central America and I was trying to learn to surf at Playa El Tunco, El Salvador. I thought to myself, “you know that feeling in life when you get pummeled by a wave and before you even have a chance to catch your breath you see that you’re about to get pummeled by another one…”
“Yeah, that’s what surfing is like too.”
In the previous year as my wife and I have continued the process of building our re-invented life, I have been continually reminded of the importance of having physical goals in front of you.
My advise to anyone dealing with a string of failures in life is to set physical goals. Taking on and conquering physical challenges reminds you of what success feels like. I first learned to ski after coming off a very bad year in terms of my career and my finances. Looking back, I think learning to ski at that time in my life helped me find my mojo again.
And while there may be all kinds of factors in life, in business, in relationships that you can’t control, when it comes to physical goals it’s just you and the mountain.
This year I took on a few mountains.
Although this physical challenge reaches back into the year prior, most of my skiing was done this calendar year. I skied 51 days and covered more than 600,000 vertical feet. More importantly, this past season I really took my skiing to a new level. I became a tree-skier for the first time and worked on other challenges to make myself a better skier.
When the ski resorts closed, I left our home in Tahoe and headed to Santa Barbara for a few weeks, but not before getting my bike tuned up. In Santa Barbara I started riding. I’ve never been much of a cyclist, but I set a goal to ride in the 72 mile Tour de Tahoe. I kept riding more and more and working up toward my goal. A week before the Tour de Tahoe I went on a grueling 40 mile ride with more than 3,000 feet in elevation gain. Then, on September 9, I achieved my goal. It felt great! [Read more about my Tour de Tahoe experience].
After the snow melted and we returned to Tahoe, it was time to start working on wood. We heat our home almost exclusively with a wood burning stove, all with wood that I gather, split, and stack myself. So in May I started gathering wood. With a free permit you can gather as much wood that’s being cleared for fire protection as you want and gather I did. It’s a big job. Every step of the process. The first week of October, just as we prepared to leave Tahoe for two months, my work was complete. [Here's a video where you can see just how much wood I'm talking about].
Each year my wife and I do something real special for our anniversary. We’ve gone on a cruise, taken a train trip to Seattle, and even lived the high life in Vegas. This year we went on a hike. A serious hike. We covered 18 miles with more than 7,000 feet in elevation changes in the Desolation Wilderness, hiking from Echo Lake to Emerald Bay. You can read the full account of our journey here, but this was an accomplishment that both my wife and I are really proud of. We really did push ourselves to our physical limits.
At the beginning of the summer I set a goal to standup paddle the 14.4 mile roundtrip from El Dorado Beach in South Lake Tahoe to Emerald Bay and back. I spent some time paddle boarding throughout the summer, but wasn’t doing nearly enough training to get myself ready for a paddle of that distance. Then, I just decided to do it. Working with South Tahoe Standup Paddle, I set up my own 30 Days to Emerald Bay Challenge. Each of the 30 Days of September I did something (a lot of paddle boarding) to train and eventually do the paddle on the 30th day of September. I had a lot of fun preparing and making a story out of the whole thing. On September 30, just before sunrise and paddling into a beautiful full moon setting over the mountains, I pushed off the shore. I’m really proud of this accomplishment because of the way I didn’t let this goal get away from me. [You can read my blog pots for South Tahoe Standup Paddle about my experience here].
Although I lived in Santa Barbara for almost 10 years, I never learned to surf. I got out in the water a few times but I never made any serious effort. This year, I was determined to learn, and I decided my best shot for learning was in warm water where I’d be comfortable and where there are waves big enough to carry my 6 foot, 4 inch – 250 pound frame. We ended up in El Salvador. By some turn of bad luck, when we arrived the waves were small. Too small for me to actually ride but nice for me to learn some technique and get the feel. Then, things changed. The waves got big. While earlier I kept saying to myself, “I just have to keep trying…” now I was saying, “if I keep trying, I may die.” After a week at the beach, I left without truly riding a wave. While I didn’t achieve my goal, I gave it my all. I’m proud of myself for trying, and I’ll get out in the water another day.
With each physical goal I achieved, I was reminded what success feels like — and what it takes to get there. Of course, there are other benefits too. General health and wellness. Lots of endorphins. Better sex.
Exercise is also a great time for clearing your head or taking a step back from your work. For me, especially when I’m doing something like paddle boarding or hiking or snowshoeing like I was the other day, it’s a great time for contemplation and for prayer.
You can be sure that when I sit down to write my goals for the year ahead there will be plenty of the physical variety. I’m already pounding powder on the ski slopes of Tahoe. I’ve got my eyes set on a 100 mile bike ride. Maybe I’ll paddle the 22 miles across Lake Tahoe. And then there’s Tough Mudder, a 12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces.
What about you? Your goals can be big or small. But do something.
Leave a comment below and let me know some of your physical goals for the year ahead. If we connect on Facebook or Twitter I’ll make sure to drop you a line or two throughout the year to encourage you to keep going after your goal — and I’ll cheer for you when you do it!