As I sit down to write this post – one I’ve been greatly anticipating writing for several weeks now – I can officially report that I am as happy, as balanced, as fulfilled, and generally as satisfied with my life as I’ve ever been.
It’s a great feeling.
It’s also one that sits in pretty stark contrast to how I was feeling just one year ago.
I wouldn’t say that I was unhappy, per se, because I’m a pretty naturally happy guy and never get to a point where I forget how blessed I am in so many ways. But last year at this time I definitely did not feel balanced in my personal life. And I didn’t feel fulfilled. And I most certainly was not satisfied.
The most obvious manifestation of how I felt inside last year at this time is how I looked on the outside. Sometimes these do not go hand-in-hand; other times they do. For me, they definitely did.
This was me then, sporting a face as round as a basketball and as soft as a baby’s bottom:
Here is another example, which shows that my own mother couldn’t even stand to look at me! (Thanks a lot, Mom.)
We were all at home last week when my Dad busted these photos out. They generated quite a bit of laughter, with some of the laughter being a bit uncomfortable, I think, because I think everyone had forgotten how, for a time there, I’d kind of just let myself go.
I said something to the effect of, “Well yeah, so I was kind of hefty…but I was still the same guy on the inside!” In reply, my Dad said something that struck me. He reminded me that it wasn’t just my waistline that had changed. It was more than the moobs, so to speak.
He reminded me that I was different.
The weight gain – and the reason why I’m starting this post off with these pics – was just the most obvious symptom of me having acquired the dreaded disease of “losing my way.”
I’d misplaced my motivation. I’d lost some of my zest for life. I was struggling to recapture the excitement I’d once felt to attack each day in a positive manner. I wasn’t the resolutely optimistic guy that I always try to be and usually am.
I wasn’t depressed or in some bad mental way. But over the course of a few years, while working very hard and achieving success professionally, I’d gotten complacent in my decision making in my personal life; and over time, little by little, that took me down a path I never intended to be on…a path to being an out-of-shape, out-of-excitement schlub. And that’s just not me.
But you know who is me? This guy:
We took this picture the same night the pictures of Fat Jerod were busted out for all to remember. You might notice that in addition to having one fewer chin, my smile is bigger, wider, and a hell of a lot more convincing. That’s no accident.
Just as a series of poor, lazy choices led to where I was and how I felt last Christmas, a series of focused, motivated choices this year, along with the influences of some truly wonderful people, have helped me reverse course and end up where I am this Christmas. Which is, as I mentioned earlier, feeling as positive and balanced and motivated as I’ve ever been.
And so I want to share the story of this year with you.
I don’t want to share it to toot my own horn, though I am really proud of the progress I’ve made. Rather, I want to share it to a) recognize the specific people and processes that have contributed to my year of positive change, and to b) send a very clear message to anyone who might read this – especially anyone who might be feeling a little less satisfied with their life than they want to be – that there is no reason 2013 can’t be for you what 2012 has been for me.
It’s amazing the difference a year can make. Here are the reasons why 2012 has made such a positive difference for me.
1) I started eating better.
The first big change I made was to my diet.
As I detailed in this post from January 4th, I began the new year as “real food flexitarian,” which basically meant that I ate very little meat and focused on eating whole, natural foods. The catalyst for this change was reading Michael Pollan’s amazing book In Defense of Food, which I recommend to everyone.
Immediately I noticed positive results. I had more energy. I had more focus. In almost every way I felt better.
I am so glad that I made this change first because it helped me build a foundation for all of the successful changes that were to come.
As I end the year, I am no longer so stringent about meat, though I still probably only eat it a few times a week at most. The change that has really endured is the focus on real, whole foods. When I snack now, it’s on a tomato or an avocado. I drink water almost exclusively. When I go shopping, I almost never venture into the middle aisles.
Pollan sums up his basic premise on eating quite simply: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. It’s become my guiding principle.
2) I canceled cable.
While my decision to eat better was a measured and meticulous one, the next change I made was rather knee-jerk. Yet I’ve never once regretted it.
As I wrote on April 30th, canceling cable paid pretty quick dividends. Among them:
- Less distractions and thus more focus when at home.
- Less “apartment inertia” – which meant more working out and social activity.
- Improved health and weight loss, because of the above.
And all of this contributed to me further leaving the complacent, chubby guy in the rearview and recapturing my misplaced spirit.
Understand: I’m not anti-entertainment. I may not have cable, but just in this year I’ve gotten through Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Lost, and watched plenty of movies. But what not having cable has done is eliminated the habit of turning the TV on as soon as I get home, which often used to lead to lost nights of accomplishing nothing.
Instead, I now come home and immediately look for something to do. And all of the alternatives – working out, going to see a friend, cooking a fun meal, visiting the family, reading, making a new music playlist – are better than wasting a night on the couch watching TV.
I can honestly say that I have never once felt like I was missing something not having cable. I thought I would.
3) I became a yogi.
After delivering a truly pathetic performance at the fitness assessment I took part in after signing up at LifeTime, I knew I needed to do something to become more flexible. The guy who administered the assessment suggested yoga.
Serendipitously, right around that time I just so happened to stumble across a Match.com profile of a very pretty young lady who mentioned how much she liked yoga. I’m one of those who believes in concepts like “the Language of the World” from The Alchemist so I took it as a sign and decided, what the heck, I’ll give yoga a try. If nothing else I could use it as an ice-breaker with her.
I cannot even begin to explain how grateful I am that I did.
My first class at LifeTime was with Ruth, and though it absolutely kicked my butt, and I must have looked like an uncoordinated buffoon, I loved it. So I went back. And back again. Taking more classes with Ruth, and Rene, and Michelle, and Jeanne, and Roxanne…and I just became hooked.
Whereas before working out was always something of a struggle for me, because I knew I should do it but never really enjoyed it all that much, I actually had to force myself to take days off from yoga. I was fatiguing myself because I was going so often. Now that’s a great problem to have!
Some seven months later, my motivation has not waned in the slightest. In fact, it’s only grown. Just this past week I went to three classes in the span of 25 hours, and made it through all of them feeling pretty strong – a good sign of growth I would say!
After class this past Thursday, Ruth complimented me on how far I’d come in terms of flexibility and weight loss, and how pleased she was that I’ve taken to the spiritual and mental aspects of yoga as much as I’ve taken to the physical component. It meant a lot to hear her say that, and of course I thank her and all of the LifeTime instructors for being such inspiring guides as I learn yoga.
I can’t imagine my life without yoga now. I start feeling off kilter a bit if I go more than two days without a class. The positive influence yoga has had on my life, and how it has helped me achieve a more consistent feeling of balance, is more profound than I feel like my words can do justice.
4) I made some great new friends.
I left some really wonderful friends in Indiana when I moved to Dallas 4+ years ago, friends who really felt more like family. And these friends still hold just as special a place in my heart now as they always did.
And for the first three years of living down here, I never really replaced them from the standpoint of having people to consistently go do things with. That, combined with doing so much blogging work for MSF (which is a rather solitary endeavor), led to me spending way more time alone than was good for me. And over time, it added up.
This year, I knew it had to change. So I stepped back from focusing so much on sports and decided to focus more on experiences.
What good was sitting in my apartment watching the Sunday night NFL game doing me? How much more fun and fulfilling would getting out and having some type of adventure be? I found myself burnt out on sports and craving new experiences with new people. And I’ve been so lucky to meet so many wonderful new people this year.
I met a friend who reminded me how to view the world in technicolor again.
I met friends who allowed me to share in one of the most special experiences they will ever have.
I took old friends and new friends on an epic four-week college football adventure.
I took part in a deliciously fun dinner rotation with my neighbors where we each rotated turns cooking meals for each other.
I could go on, but you get the point.
It is no coincidence that getting back in shape and getting rid of the nightly pull of cable have been huge contributors in me getting out, meeting people, making some great friends, and having some truly memorable experiences this year. It’s all intertwined.
And it certainly is no coincidence that I sit here feeling so much happier and more fulfilled after a year of adding so many new friends to my life.
5) I met a really special girl.
I guess you could say that after ten months of growth and positive change, I was finally ready to meet a special someone and put my best foot forward. That happened on Halloween night, when I met my now-girlfriend Ryan.
Our story, of course, is still to be written. And it’s been such a wonderful couple of months that it’s easy to forget that it’s just been, well, a couple of months. But it’s not hard for me to tell you exactly what I cherish the most about her presence in my life.
What Ryan sees in me, and what she appreciates the most about what I bring into her life, are the traits I’ve worked so hard recover this year: my energy; my excitement about even the smallest, simplest things in life; my indefatigable positivity and optimism.
It is an amazing feeling to have someone in your daily life who constantly reminds you of just how much they appreciate all you bring to them. And it becomes self-fulfilling. I want to continue being this person and doing these things on a daily basis, for her and for everyone in my life. This makes it so easy to stay focused every day on making the choices that will keep me on the path of 2012 as opposed to the path that led me to Christmas 2011.
Really, meeting her has been the perfect and most appropriate way to end such a special year. It’s like a reward for all the focus and hard work I’ve put into improving my personal life this year.
Congrats Jerod on working so hard to make 2012 such a positive year for you personally! As a reward, here is a gorgeous girlfriend who truly appreciates those exact traits you’ve been able to recapture and who just so happens to have fun doing so many of the same things you do!
Talk about positive reinforcement!
As I reflect on 2012, and on what a wonderful year it’s been personally, these are the five aspects that stand out the most. While writing I couldn’t help but notice how they all were tied together, and in some ways how one led to the next.
And they all stemmed from one pretty simple decision I made around Christmastime last year to initiate positive change in my life, starting with eating better.
Frankly, I had no idea if I’d be successful. I’ve made grand proclamations before, publicly and to myself, and failed to follow through on them. I feared it might happen again.
But fortunately the right combination of readiness and good fortune (I needed to meet and be influenced by some of the people I’ve met this year) coalesced, positive momentum built, and my 2012 became the overwhelmingly positive personal year it’s been.
What a difference a year can make, indeed.
And it can for you too.
It’s a cliche to say, “If I could do it, you can do it!” But I’m going to say it anyway. Because it’s true.
Contrary to what my mom might think, bless her heart, I’m no more special than you or anyone else who will read this post. None of us are. We’re all just people. We put our pants on one leg at a time. And we define the direction of our lives with the choices we make.
Choices got me to where I was at Christmas of last year — a lot of the choices that sounded great in the moment (let’s be lazy, watch sports, and devour an entire pizza!) but that built on one another to create an unsatisfying future.
Likewise, choices have led me to this incredible place I’m at as Christmas approaches here in 2012. The difference is that the choices of this year have been much more positive and productive.
My question to you is this: what choice are you going to make today that will help make your tomorrow better?
And then what choices will you make tomorrow that will make the days after better?
A year provides 365 opportunities to make choices today that set you up for a happier, more fulfilling, and more satisfying tomorrow. It’s up to each one of us to decide what we want to do with each of these daily opportunities.
I finally re-found my way and started making better choices, and it’s made all the difference.
What difference can the next year make for you?
Whatever difference you choose.