How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I can’t believe a year went by so fast.
Time to see what we have time to see.
~j. larson

Approximately one year ago I sat down, looked at my life, and decided that enough was enough. Since I wasn’t blogging at the time, I’d like to present a recap of where I was and where I am now… and the process that I’ve taken so far. I feel like I built a solid foundation over the past year and now it’s time to supercharge everything I’ve learned. But first, with gratitude, let me reflect on a year of lessons learned.

People ask me for advice – generally for advice on a problem that seems to overwhelm them. The advice I give is always the same: “how do you eat an elephant?” – the answer: one bite at a time. (Yes, this is a book. No, I have not read it yet.) The principle of the question when I ask it is: take your huge, elephant problem, and break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces. Make a list, and then make a sub-list for each item on your list, and keep going until you feel you’ve got a firm grasp of what the hell you need to do.

Well what kind of hypocrite would I be if I didn’t follow my own advice?

I call this the “fix my life to-do list.” Here’s the first one I did to kick off this journey:

I knew that, in order to fix my life – after years of trying this and that, here and there, I needed to break things down. The list, in no particular order, was everything that I knew I needed to do to get things moving. I call this the “fix my life” to-do list.

  • Attend therapy to dedicate some real time and resources to my mental health – processing trauma, and looking into the root of my – at the time – undefined issues
  • Attend an improv class – I used to do it a lot, I’m still quite connected with the community
  • Fitness – oh boy have I been in rough shape – especially when I wrote this list
  • Budget and get control of my finances including my spiralling credit card debt and $0 of retirement savings.
  • Moderate drinking – when you think it might be a problem, it’s been a problem for a while
  • Wardrobe – oh what a slob I could be
  • Clean house – declutter your environment, declutter your life
  • Live like you’ll die in a month – what would you do if you knew you had a month to live? I know that I would probably not play video games, get wasted every night, watch TV, or be chained to my desk. So why not live like you could die tomorrow? Because the fact is: you could.
  • Spend more time outdoors – get fresh air, cure your nature deficit disorder (NDD).

And here’s what I did:

  • Attended therapy thanks to my company’s employee assistance program. This pointed me in the right direction and helped me uncover and put me in the direction of dealing with childhood trauma – more on that in a future post.
  • Joined an improv class at the Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto. It was really great to remind myself that an improviser is fearless – the unknown is the new problem to solve, and all you need to do is give an enthusiastic “yes” (bonus points if you add an “and”).
  • Fitness has been slow to get off the ground but I am happily enjoying yoga in the comfort of my own home thanks to “Yoga with Adriene” and her 30 Day Yoga Challenge. I have an increased sense of my body, my being and I am learning more and more just how important breath is.
  • Budgeting is a long and painful process. But I’m happy to report that I have begun saving for retirement (just start – doesn’t matter how old you are, just start. NOW. You can afford it.) and I have more than halved my credit card debt – and will be debt free in the coming months. I’ve found Mint.com to be a great way to get your shit together.
  • Moderate drinking – or, in my case, after one rather disturbingly drunken night, I gave it up altogether thanks to Alan Carr’s “Stop Drinking Now” and the “Recovery Elevator” app. As of the time of this writing I am 83 days sober, I’ve gained 110 productivity hours, not consumed 334 drinks, saved 33,390 calories, and lost nearly 30lbs. THIRTY. Stats aside, I’m sleeping better, thinking clearer, looking younger, feeling fitter, and loving my life for the first time in a long time.
  • Wardrobes are always complicated but thanks to Project 3:33, the whole concept of how to shop and style a diverse wardrobe of only 33 items for the course of 3 months added a fun challenge/twist – and made me realize that 33 articles of clothing is more than enough, while keeping the clutter down.
  • Clean your fucking house. Not only is it a useful way to put off doing that other thing you’re supposed to be doing, but your environment is a reflection of who you are. I took a look at my house with this question in mind: “what kind of person lives here?” After looking at the table full of empty beer bottles, my never-painted condo walls, and a balcony with only a bistro set and an ashtray, I knew it was time for some radical changes. So I painted, sold a bunch of junk, purged the vast majority of my belongings, and hit reset on my environment.
  • Live like you’ll die in a month has been the hardest principle to follow. It’s way too easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day. This is actually the focus of the next chapter of my life so stay tuned.
  • Get outside. Gotta love summer in Toronto! There’s always something going on and an excuse to leave the house. I find myself searching for reasons to leave. Having a Fitbit and needing to get 10,000 steps a day or I’ll be disappointed with myself certainly helps.

In addition, I have found meditation to be a great way to process problems, gain new insights, relax, and recharge my batteries by plugging into the cosmic energy of the universe.

To to recap – I made a list, and then I checked things off that list. In retrospect, it seems pretty simple and, in retrospect, it was pretty simple. I just needed to stop making excuses and reclaim my life. It’s mine. Nobody is going to live it for me.

So for you, dear reader, whoever you are, tl;dr: stop making excuses and reclaim your life. It’s yours. Nobody is going to live it for you.

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