Recently, I spoke at ManTalks event in Vancouver on the subject of New Years Resolutions and personal transformation in a modern era.
When I was asked to speak at the event, I began thinking about resolutions and where they started. When did this become a part of our culture and what were the origins?
Well, it turns out there are a few different versions of history, but the Greek’s version was the most interesting to me.
As it goes, the Greek God Janus is the guardian of gateways, passages, transitions, endings and beginnings. The Greeks worshiped him when making transitions such as the turn of the season or a new phase in life.
Some versions of history state that the month of January actually has its origins with Janus. The Greeks prayed to Janus in the New Year for prosperity, health and so on.
When you look at depictions of Janus, he is typically sculpted or painted with faces pointing in opposite directions. One face looking into the past and one face looking into the future.
This is a useful visualization for all of us as we move through transitions in our life.
Generally, we look ahead at the future. The new toys we want to buy, the places we want to go and the things we want to achieve. It is not as common to look at the past, to examine what worked and what didn’t, what fell by the way side and what was avoided. By reflecting on our past, our circumstances and our general feeling about the position of our lives we can take action to course correct and move ourselves into the direction we want.
Unfortunately, I failed to do this in 2017.
The end of the year was approaching. I had returned home from a small gathering of friends sharing beers and whiskey. I was laying on my bed staring into the glow of my iPhone and considering what I might get done in 2018. With 4 pieces of pizza in me and the cloth of my t-shirt draped over the round of my belly, I decided to sign myself up for the BMO Vancouver Marathon. For those that are unfamiliar with a marathon, participants run 42km to a finish line. Yes, 42km in a row. No, not in a car.
The thought had been marinating for a few weeks after hearing David Goggins speak on the Joe Rogan podcast.
My motivations were mainly rooted in seeing what was possible for myself. How far could I push myself? What is possible for me?
On one hand, I wanted to be unstoppable. I wanted to demonstrate my “crusher mentality” and my ability to achieve great things. There would be no goal that I couldn’t achieve.
On the other, I wanted to be appreciated, to be seen, to be recognized, to be loved, to be worthy.
I think that these motivations are rooted in many of our decisions and I am not hear to demonize them, but just to acknowledge them.
If we bring awareness to our motivations and our “why”, we can make decisions more clearly and with more confidence.
I ended up running hundreds of KMs in my training. Some moments, I was crystal clear about why I was doing what I was doing and in others I had doubt. After 4 months, I had run over 350 kms and felt physically sick of running.
All I could think about was sleeping, eating, stretching and what the weather might be like on the next run. While I was training, I had to make a lot of sacrifices in order to get myself into the condition that would be required to finish the race. The reality is that any great achievement in life is going to require some level of obsession and a significant level of commitment over a period of time.
The point is that, I had set this goal to complete the marathon. For what? Where was I trying to put myself in my life? Was I planning to run in the Olympics? Was I going to become a professional runner? No, I had no intention of that.
I had made a commitment to something that really did not serve my immediate priorities and most important values that I have for myself.
If we are clear about our personal values, it can serve as a powerful guide for the decisions that we make in our life and where we need to put our effort.
So let me give you an example of what personal values look like. For each of us, they will be different. Some of us have kids, families, partners, businesses and a host of other responsibilities. Many of us value the same things, but just in a different order.
For example, for me 1st is physical and mental well being. 2nd is my connections with friends and family. 3rd is Romantic Relationship and 4th is Financial Freedom. When I was first asked to establish my personal values, I thought that financial freedom should be #1. After some thought, I realized that my health and social relationships are actually more important to me. If I have a billion dollars, but no depth in my connections with other people, my life will feel unfulfilled and meaningless. There would be no one to share it with.
If each one of us is able to establish our personal values in a hierarchy, it will clearly reveal where we need to put our time and energy.
I chose to run a marathon. I am glad that I did. I learned a lot along the way.
But during this time, I didn’t go on any dates, I didn’t see my friends very much and I became a lonely, long distance runner.
In many ways, the running was symbolic of moving in a different direction than the core issues that I wanted to address in my life.
At the time of the race, I had been single for years, moving through a series of short term relationships and didn’t meet any partners that I felt a strong connection with. In my mind, I had decided that romantic relationships were not a priority for me and I could focus on that later.
Instead of focusing on being at work, making money, saving cash and contributing towards the small amount of debt I had, I chose to spend money on new running shoes, training, nutrition, massage therapy, physiotherapy and so on.
The point is, I had immediate priorities that were of importance to me. Things that I had been struggling with for years and I put them aside to focus on a new goal.
In many ways, the marathon was easy to tackle in comparison to other areas of my life that required my attention. Whether you are single or in a relationship, you know full well the challenges associated with romance. The marathon was easy by comparison. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and try my best not to shit myself.
With the clarification of personal values and setting our sights on key targets, we have a shot at actually getting there.
If you are seeking personal change and transformation in your life, I highly recommend seeing a counsellor or therapist. There is a strange stigma around therapy. Some people believe that therapy is for people that are “broken” or “fucked up”. The people that talk this way are often in need of the most help and have created stories to keep their ego, identity and behaviours safe. If they aren’t challenged, if they aren’t tested, if they don’t make themselves vulnerable, then there is zero risk and they won’t have to change.
For myself personally, the reason I am where I am today is by working with people in groups. Over time, I became comfortable with the experience and am now able to open myself up in front of people. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, which is why I suggest a counsellor, therapist or mentor to help guide you.
If you are growth oriented and think “Nick, I am ready for a group”, then there are a lot of options out there for you. For men, check out the Arka Brotherhood.
Working in a mastermind or in a circle is extremely useful. The group dynamic has a unique ability to quickly transfer wisdom between a large group of people with different skill sets and experiences. It is immensely valuable.
A mastermind group is not something that you do once. It is a continued, regular practice where you meet with a group of people that are focused on improving their lives.
You need people that you can count on to speak the truth. To challenge you on your bullshit and to listen when you just need someone to help explore your thoughts.
There are groups that meet in circle all over the city. Some form digital tribes and others meet in person.
It is very hard to create lasting personal transformation on your own. We often need other people to guide us and mirror back the way we present ourselves, the way we speak and the way that we think.
With inspiration from the Greek god Janus, a clear reflection of our past and how we want the future to be, we can use our learnings to support our journey forward. It won’t always be easy, but we don’t have to do it all alone.