Reflecting on 2017

Like every year, you can choose to remember 2017 however you like: the good, the bad or the ugly. For me, I like to take a moment this time of year to remember all of the good things that happened in my life over the past year, and use that to set up next year to be another great one.

So here goes, my 2017 in review!

Travel to Indonesia

2017 started with a bang; two weeks into the year, my wife and I took a trip to Indonesia to visit her family. At two weeks, it was the longest trip I’ve ever taken. If you’re not from North America, you’re probably shocked at that, but there you have it.

Indonesia was a life-changing trip for me. It opened my eyes to the way people in other areas of the world live, and it made me realize, clearly and for the first time, that the key to happiness doesn’t lie in “stuff” – it lies in experiences and relationships with loved ones. I mean, look – it’s easy to say “you only JUST learned that?” but it’s not that simple. I always knew that was important, but this trip brought it to the forefront – it made it the number one thing I needed to focus on moving forward.

I was worried that this realization would fade over time, but even a year later it’s still as fresh as day one. I might owe that to the second good thing that happened to me in 2017…

Creation of This Blog

I was so inspired coming back from my trip to Indonesia that I started this blog. I wasn’t sure where I would take it, or whether it was the right choice, but I did it anyway. And almost a year later, I’m still doing it.

This blog makes me proud for a few reasons. For one, it lets me share stories, lessons I’ve learned, and advice with the rest of the world. And I’m still surprised that a few people actually listen!! It’s more than that though – it’s also a way for me to document important things in my life, like an online journal of sorts.

I’ve written over 75 posts to date, on topics ranging from personal finance, to travel, to karate and photography. I didn’t know if I’d get this far, but I’m so glad I did – like any good habit, it takes time to develop the mental muscles to commit to something that’s good for you. But motivated by my trip, I stuck with it long enough that writing is now part of my weekly routine. I don’t want to stop!

Mudansha Grading

In May, my wife, friends and I had our pre-black belt grading for karate, something I had been looking forward to for quite a while. We prepared for that grading by voluntarily training extra days of the week, and committing to a rigorous and comprehensive schedule to reviewing everything we had learned up to that point.

What makes me proud looking back on this is the dedication we all showed to giving our best effort. We did it of our own volition, when nobody was watching, and that is a habit I have tried to carry through in other aspects of my life.

Our Puppy, Phoebe

In June, my wife and I welcomed Phoebe into our lives. Phoebe is a Havanese puppy, and since the day we brought her home she has given us love, laughs, and tears. She lives like there’s no tomorrow, and there are few days that go by that we haven’t learned something by watching and taking of her.

Phoebe is in her teenager phase now, where every command becomes a question of “why should I?” Even still though, she is a loving puppy that brings everyone around her great joy. I’m so lucky to have her!

Travel to New Brunswick

In August, we had the opportunity to take a road trip out to New Brunswick to visit and friend’s family. This was one of those opportunities where you just have to say “to hell with it, I’m in.” What this trip reminded me of is that, more often than not, when you say that, great memories follow.

We partied with the locals, ate amazing seafood (tasty no matter whether it was hot or cold), meditated in the forest and walked along beautiful Atlantic beaches. The drive there and back was grueling, but I look back on it with fond memories and a good story to tell. And after all, isn’t that what life’s all about?

Wedding Anniversary

September brought around my second wedding anniversary with my wife. I still get that silly giddy feeling when I call her that, and I never want to lose that. It was hard to believe two years had already gone by since we tied the knot. It feels both like we’ve known each other forever, and yet also like we’ve only just started dating. This milestone will always be a bright spot in my year, every year into the future.

Ohsweken Lantern Festival

Later in September, my friends and I attended a lantern festival a couple hours outside of Toronto, along with 10,000 other people. The idea was that we’d gather in one place and, come sunset, all collectively light 10,000 biodegradable paper lanterns and send them soaring into the night sky.

In Chinese culture, you light a paper lantern to send a loved one who has recently passed away off into the afterlife. Given my nonna had just passed away less than two weeks prior to this event, it was a no-brainer to dedicate my lantern to sending her off. What was a very sad event in my life was made slightly more bearable by the opportunity to do something beautiful to honour her memory. I will never forget this event for its significance to me.

Earning my Black Belt

Following our pre-black belt grading, my wife, friends and I were fortunate enough to earn our black belts later in the year, this past October. It’s an accomplish I’m extremely proud of, since only around 5% of people who start training karate ever stay with it long enough and work hard enough to attain their black belt.

When I accepted this belt from my sensei, I accepted more than a belt – I accepted a responsibility. I made a commitment to my sensei, my peers and myself to strive to live by the black belt ideals – honour, integrity, courage, humility, respect and compassion. My 2018 resolutions center largely around doing more to stick to these ideals.

Work Achievements

I have been very lucky in my work life in 2017, in that I got to work with an amazing team doing interesting work throughout the year. The team I am a part of now has a special dynamic, the likes of which I’ve seen only very rarely elsewhere. They are the reason I am happy to get up and go to work each day, and they played a big role in my ability to accomplish what I did throughout 2017.

When you work in an organization, your ability to perform is intertwined with those around you, for better or worse. Working with my current team this past year has shown me the “for better” side of the equation, and the accomplishments I can speak to through that partnership are some of the proudest of my career so far. I think it’s important not to forget to acknowledge this area of my life.

Wrapping it Up

As I write this, it became clear to me that 2017 has been an incredible whirlwind of a year for me. But it doesn’t always feel that way when you give it a quick thought in your mind.

To that end, let me throw out a challenge to you: before you make any New Year’s Resolutions, stop and write down all of the incredible things that happened to you in the past year. It’s only when I committed to making a full list that the detailed memory of everything came flooding back. And it’s only when I have the full list in front of me that I’m able to set proper goals for the coming year.

Personally, I have three. I want to do right by my body, by committing to doing a least 50 pushups a day in the first half of the year, and 100 per day in the back half. I want to do right by my mind, by training my positivity muscles. I will write down one positive thing that happened to or around me, every day for six months. After that, I will review the progress I’ve made building my mental muscles and see if there’s more I can do. Lastly, I want to do right by my soul, by working to live by the black belt ideals I mentioned earlier. That needs to manifest in tangible ways, and so I plan to start small, for example with less frustration and more compassion on the roads.

These may not sound like big goals to you, but that’s kind of the point. I believe that lasting change starts with small adjustments, not major shocks to the system. I’ll come back to you in six months with an update on how I’m doing on these!

Until then, do yourself a favour: take some time to sit down and really reflect on the year you’ve had, and the year you’d like to have in 2018. Let’s really make this one count together.

Already have some New Year’s Resolutions? Share them with us in the comments! Writing them out can be a powerful motivator, both for yourself and for others that will look to you as an example.

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