I’ve been wondering what it is about New Years and the desire to make resolutions. Sure there is the tradition and the date on the calendar that gives us a perception of starting anew. But there is something else going on, a desire inside of us to keep getting better, to evolve, to give more. And the start of a new year seems to be a good place to start.
This Year Will Be The Best Year Of My Life
This year will be the best year of my life.
It will be a return to enjoying the simple things like family & friends.
It will be the year of less complaining & more appreciating.
This year I will dance more, laugh more & love more.
And be healthier than ever because of it.
I will live more consciously, deliberately, joyfully.
(Excerpted from the poem “This Year” by Steward St. John)
Kier Barker cited this poem when we spoke together at a conference a few years ago. Kier was born with spina bifida. His parents were told that there was no point in taking him home as he would live less than a week. Kier is now in his 60’s and doing well. He has faced and conquered immense challenges in his life and he is an inspiration to all who know him. A note on Kier’s website says: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
The year 2016 brought me a few storms. My brother, Hal, continues his third year on his journey with brain cancer. Diagnosed in November, 2013, he was expected to live about eighteen months. He is still at home, being cared for by his amazing wife and dedicated caregivers. I still value my weekly visits with Hal and his courage and grace continue to inspire me.
My sister, Kate, was also diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, but thankfully, hers was operable. In December she underwent a successful surgery and had it removed. Turns out it was a Grade I Meningioma, so the prognosis is good compared to Hal’s Grade III Astrocytoma. (I’ve learned a lot about brain tumors in the past three years!) Spending time with Kate over the holidays, we reflected on how precious and brief this “candle in the wind” of life is and were reminded of how to make this the best year you have ever had:
1) Live well today. While it’s vital to have a compelling vision and focus for the future, we are made so that we can only carry the burden of twenty-four hours; no more. If you weigh yourself down with years behind you or the days ahead of you, your shoulders will bend and your back will break. The quality of your life is determined by your relationship with the present. The way to have a good year is to decide, every day, one day at a time, to have a good day. That good day will turn into a good year and that good year will turn into a good life.
2) Change your habits, change your life. Once you decide to live well today, it’s good to realize that all life is a series of habits. If you want good health, find out the habits of healthy people and practice emulating them, one habit at a time. If you want to build a successful business, find out the habits of successful business entrepreneurs and change your habits. If you want a good relationship, learn and practice good relationship habits. A good life is a life of good habits. Good habits can include:
- Walk everyday in nature. The sun and the air are good medicine for tired bodies and weary souls.
- Watch less tv and read more. Spend one hour a day reading something that stretches your mind and makes you think more deeply.
- Get more rest. Get to bed earlier. Learn to let go of all the stuff you can’t control, and relax. Breathe.
- Take the most important person in your life on a date once a week.
- Start the day s-l-o-w-l-y, and create pauses during the day to stop, appreciate, and go within. If you don’t go within, you will go without.
- Bring an attitude of gratitude to everything you do. Look for ways to be grateful during the day and ways you can help lift the life of another.
- Make it a habit of changing the habits in your life that aren’t producing the results you desire.
3) Decide to have a good year. It isn’t what happens in a given year that makes it good or bad. It is the response we choose to what happens that makes a year good or bad. Fortunately, we have the ability to choose our attitude and our response. One of the great revelations of our time is the awareness that changing the inner attitudes of our mind can change the outer aspects of our lives. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
Today I challenge you to choose to make 2017 the best year of your life so far. Some will think it is possible. Some may say that you don’t know what will happen in 2017 so how can you think it will be your best year ever? My reply is that my attitude and response will make it the best year no matter what happens. It is my choice.
2017 will be the best year of my life so far, and 2018 will be even better. How do I know this? Because I choose it to be.
When my father, who was once a nationally ranked gymnast, coached me in high school track, his approach to training came from University of Oregon’s track coach Bill Bowerman. The legendary running coach, Arthur Lydiard, who presided over New Zealand’s golden era in world track and field during the 1960s, had mentored Bowerman. He introduced Bowerman to a philosophy of training that revolutionized American track and field in the 1960s.
Bowerman’s approach to training had been the same as virtually every other American long-distance running coach: push hard until you are exhausted. This philosophy was based on the belief that the harder you trained, the more progress you made. The results revealed severe limitations. Prior to Bowerman, Americans were virtually absent in the world long-distance running realm.
After returning from New Zealand, Bowerman began exhorting Oregon runners to finish workouts exhilarated, not exhausted… His credo was that it was better to underdo than overdo. He had learned from Lydiard that rest was as important as work to keep a runner from illness or injury. Bowerman realized that his runners’ training was more effective when they allowed ample rest between hard workouts. He trained and raced his men to seasonal peaks but would back off before they crashed. To incoming freshman he preached: Stress, recover, improve…
While commonly accepted now, the idea of alternating hard days in distance running training, was revolutionary at the time. And it didn’t go down so well with the coaching community. When Bowerman first articulated the hard-easy method, he was widely despised for it. Kenny Moore, one of his legendary athletes and author of Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, wrote, “The anthem of most coaches then was ‘the more you put in, the more you get out.’ In response to Bowerman, coaches were morally affronted. His easy days were derided… called coddling.” Moore adds parenthetically, “His common sense approach is still resisted by a minority, and probably always will be.”
Bowerman’s response to his critics was to “crush their runners with his.” His “Men of Oregon” won four NCAA team titles. Over his legendary career, he trained thirty-one Olympic athletes, fifty-one All-Americans, twelve American record-holders, twenty-two NCAA champions and sixteen sub-four minute milers. During his twenty-four years as coach at the University of Oregon, the Ducks track and field team had a winning season every season but one, attained four NCAA titles, and finished in the top ten in the nation sixteen times.
Bowerman also developed the first lightweight outsole that would revolutionize the running shoe. With some latex, leather, glue and his wife’s waffle iron, he created a durable, stable and light Waffle sole that set a new standard for shoe performance and helped him co-found the Nike Corporation. My dad bought me a pair of those original waffle running shoes. It was an amazing shoe at the time. Bowerman also ignited the jogging boom in America. How that happened is another great story.
Since Bowerman’s success days at the University of Oregon, the physiological foundation for the “hard/easy” system has been validated. In short, physiology has verified what Bowerman learned and applied. The trick is first to provide enough but not too much stress, and second, to allow enough recovery to replenish energy stores, heal and adapt.
As in the outdated “no rest system” for training distance runners, I wonder if we aren’t living our lives these days with an outdated belief that doesn’t take into consideration the importance of rest and renewal. In today’s world, with its unyielding emphasis on success, productivity, and efficiency, we have lost the rhythm of balancing between effort and recovery. Constantly striving, I see so many people exhausted and deprived in the midst of great abundance. How many of us long for time with friends, family, important relationships, even just a moment to ourselves, as we constantly look down at our devices and strive to achieve more? We now find ourselves compulsively checking for messages from work while in the midst of our vacations and times when we need to be connected to who and what really matters.
My challenge for you is to create some structured time over the summer to rest, attend to what is important to you, and make room for whatever you would call renewal. Whether it’s a two-week break, a one unproductive renewal day per week, or an hour a day to just to rest, take the time to simply walk in nature, spend some time hanging with kids, or sit and read a novel. Carve out some time to rest your body and mind, restore your creativity, and regain your natural state of inner peace and well-being.
We are clever people, efficient and high-powered, but in our fervor to get things done we are forgetting the simple art of living. Let us resolve that we will begin today to take a little time to relax, to be idle, to go more slowly and be more attentive to the world around us. Let us take time to be still, to be present, to notice the beauty in this world, to watch the sun go down behind the hill.
Renewal and relaxation aren’t a luxury. They, along with hard work, are a necessity to a life well lived.
Bill Bowerman knew the importance of rest in training Olympic athletes. We can all learn from the legacy he left us.