2012: The Year of Taking on Fears
This year, I did a lot of things that scared me: I learned to stand up paddle; I went surfing; I ran multiple off-road races; I paraglided; I went canyoning; I jumped waterfalls in Hawaii and in Japan; I went zip-lining in the Philippines; I traveled to foreign countries without ever having been there, without an itinerary, and without speaking the language; I moved halfway across the world (well, I moved twice within a year of each other, a quarter-ways across the world each time) to a country whose language I do no speak; I climbed Mt. Fuji; I ran several races; I made friends from all over the world; I taught in many different arenas outside of my comfort zone (elementary schools, classes of adults who speak different languages, Japanese high schools); I traveled by myself, risked getting lost and having to rely on my in-progress Japanese speaking abilities and problem-solving skills to figure my way out through new situations; I traveled by bike more in the past few months than I ever had in my entire life up to a few months ago; I started bouldering every week, in which I take on climbing trails, leaps, jumps, and falls that scare me.
Most importantly, I taught high school students in classes as small in size as 10 students and as large in size as 45 students.
I know that that last one shouldn't be a big deal, but it means a lot to me that I'm getting back into the swing of things doing what I aspired to do for so many years. I still get nervous each morning before I do a lesson, but continually feeling that nervousness and then going into the classroom and teaching through that nervousness has proven to be much more rewarding than doing any task that didn't scare me to begin with.
In 2011, I turned down many opportunities to face my fears. I would say that I felt sick, was busy, or wasn't ready to do X. In a way, it was true: I felt sick with nervousness, was busy trying to put together better and better versions of, for example, lesson plans until I had something that I felt was perfect, and I definitely wasn't ready to go get 'em and teach. I should have recognized these moments as "ready as I'll ever be" moments. I should have gone in to face the fray, assessed my losses, and strategized for how to have an ever-so-slightly better lesson the next day. I should have at least focused on showing up day after day despite any anxiety I had in order to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
2012 was different. 2012 was the year of facing my fears. And, in order to keep things interesting, I made sure to face many different fears as often as possible. I faced small ones and big ones. I can't say that I am now fearless, but at least I can say I did it. Even though the thought of climbing Fuji-san in the cold and pitch dark for 6 hours each way still scares me, I experienced personal growth in some way or another when I did it this past summer.
2013: The Year of Do
Next year will be the year of Do.
Too often, I fall into the trap of putting off a task because the goal I set for myself is too daunting and, to be honest, downright unachievable. I'm a "goal-oriented" person: I write goals for everything--What I Want to Achieve This Year; What I Want to Achieve Today; Things To Do This Week; Things to Do On My Vacation in Thailand. I then go about my days with these heavy lists that looming overhead and make me feel worse and worse about myself as each goal remains untouched. I want to move away from being someone who gets her feelings of accomplishment and self-satisfaction by checking off items on a goals list, towards being someone who gains a feeling of fulfillment.
For example, last week, I set out to run. I went out and did (run, that is) without pausing to think it out, set a goal, or plan. I didn't think to myself, "Today, I'm going to run 6 miles in an hour" only to proceed to sit in my living room and muster up the courage to get up and run and eventually become so overwhelmed at the task at hand such that I I decide not to run at all. This time, I didn't do any of that. This time, I just when out and did. I went home, ate a snack (I always run on a full stomach), got dressed, and ran. I ran until I felt about half tired. Then I turned around and ran the rest of the way home. When I checked my route, I found that I set a personal record for longest weekday run (over 8.5 miles).
This is the year of Do. Last year, I did things that scare me; this year, I'm doing little things that add up to big ways of taking care of myself. I'm forming habits without any thought as to measuring my success. Success lies in the act of doing, not in achievement.