Have you heard the saying about getting in shape for the summer? In my younger days, I assumed summer was the best time to prepare for summer. The reality of it though is that winter or even fall is the ideal time. Because you don’t start running on a Monday and feel confident in a bathing suit on Wednesday. It takes time to get the fitness results you’re after.
We’re in a similar position right now. Both literally in terms of the upcoming summer season, but also as life returns to normal. When do you think is the best time to start improving yourself? Is it when you get back to the office and are surrounded by donuts every morning? Or is it now, before you find yourself in that environment?
You know the answer. The question is, what will you do about it? As the world slowly resumes its social ways, you have a decision to make:
- Return to it the way you started;
- Or go forth as an improved version of yourself, avoiding missteps of the past.
Spring (in more ways than one)
The world has been a dark place for far too long. Families, friends, all unable to see each other. Events shut down, businesses closed. A pall of despair spread out across the planet. Yet barely, just barely, a ray of light made its way through. A minor, glimmering beam of hope, filling us with optimism, with a promise of a better tomorrow.
It started small, like the earliest hint of the morning sun. But with time, it has grown more prominent. More visible. Now, finally, the light has become truly unignorable, able for all to see. A light that shines loud and clear. A light that day by day pushes back the darkness that has encircled us. The pall is being lifted, slowly but surely nonetheless.
And how coincidental – at least for my friends in this part of the world – that spring is upon us. A time of literal rebirth, renewal, growth, falling in line just so with the de-escalation of a disease that has impacted every one of us.
As the winter of darkness fades and spring renaissance comes to life, I have one question for you: What are you going to do differently this time around? Because you have an amazing opportunity before you. And sure, it’s not the ideal fall or winter for preparing for beach season, but as the famous Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
If you’re waiting for when life goes back to normal, it’s too late
You’ve been sequestered in your home for over a year. Separated from social activities, distanced from what was normal. And in that, you’ve had space. Space to see who truly mattered, what truly mattered. Space to see what you were made of. And now, as the ice melts and we can leave our homes once again, how will you choose to spend your time?
Will you fall back into the negative cycles that left you unfulfilled in the past? Spending your hard-earned money and time in bars, drinking away your ambition with people you don’t like? Will you resume that gym membership to only drive past it each day on the way to that bar? Will you return to the office for a job that you hate? Or will you take advantage of the moment, this moment, to renew your very self? To understand what it is that you actually want and to make it so?
This spring has more to it than simply blooming flowers. You have much more at stake. Unchained from the social responsibilities and daily triggers of routine, you can now return to the world anew. You can step out your front door, get in the car, and drive to where you want to go. Not to what circumstance has placed before you. Because there is no circumstance, there is no precedent. You get a fresh start! Will you take it? I hope so.
What does fulfillment look like to you?
Even if you wanted to make a change, figuring that out can derail you before your first step. So, where should you begin? Here’s what I recommend: Look around at the various aspects of your life.
- For instance, career;
- Personal style;
- Finances, etc.
Now, consider what fulfillment looks like to you in each of those categories. When I say fulfillment, I mean those things that give you meaning and purpose. That get you out of bed with a smile and the hope of a better day. What kind of career would do that for you? What type of friends would allow for that?
Don’t speed through this activity. Sit with it for a while. Ponder it. Then when you have your answer, write it down. The more concise, the better. For example, one of my life categories is marriage. For me, a fulfilling marriage looks like: A loving, supportive, and fun relationship with my wife! I have another category called knowledge. For that one, a fulfilling knowledge-base for me is: To be constantly growing and learning from books, courses, and audiobooks.
How to bring the concept into reality
It’s fine if your answers go on for more than one sentence, but do your best to keep it concise. A concise definition of fulfillment will help you be crystal clear about what you want. Again, take your time with this activity. You only hurt yourself by not giving it your full time and attention.
By the way, if you sit with a certain aspect for a while and nothing comes to mind, just write TBD next to it and move on. You don’t need to answer them all immediately, especially if a certain category is newer for you. For example, community is one aspect that I haven’t spent much time on or thought about too greatly (because, you know, community is shut down at the moment). So next to that category, I’ve written: Hmm… TBD. I’ll fill that in as I gain a better understanding of what fulfillment looks like for me in that regard.
Once you have a good sense of what fulfillment looks like for you across the various planes of you, it’s time to do something about it. The best way to make that so is through goal setting. You know what a meaningful relationship with your family looks like, now set a goal to make it a reality. You know what fulfilling physical health looks like to you, so set a goal to bring it about.
When life goes back to normal, play it differently, play it better
Let’s look at my own life. I mentioned two categories of fulfillment for me are:
- Marriage: A loving, supportive, and fun relationship with my wife!
- Knowledge: To be constantly growing and learning from books, courses, and audiobooks.
From there, I’ve set goals to make those a reality. In the case of my marriage, I have a goal to: Go on a date with my wife once a month. Every month for well over a year, my wife and I have dropped our daughter off at the grandparents’ and have gone on a date, just the two of us. For knowledge, my goal is to: Complete two books per month (physical book, audiobook, or Ebook). Last year I completed 52 books with this goal. And so far this year, I’ve already completed 15. *Note: You can see all of my current goals here.
Through goal setting, I’ve gone from theory to action. From pondering about a fulfilled life to making it so. That’s something you can do as well. Fall has passed along with winter, but spring is still here. Start today and take advantage of the summer that we’ve all been so looking forward to.