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  • Keenan Harrell

What 2018 Taught Me

At the end of every year, I take time to reflect on the meaningful experiences and lessons I learned throughout the past twelve months. I do this to proactively prepare myself to tackle new goals, challenges and to hold myself accountable for making tangible progress in the year ahead. I hope that in sharing this, you too, can grow in your journey and gain momentum in your life heading into the new year. Here’s what 2018 taught me…


Lesson 1: Take action, even if you’re not ready.

This year, I learned that the worst action is inaction and that a dream without execution is merely a wish. When it comes to achieving your most ambitious goals and creating opportunities that will lead you to success, there is no such thing as the “perfect time to start.” I realized that many of us tend to hesitate on chasing our dreams because we are attached to the concept of “being ready” in order to start. We think that we must already know everything there is to know just to begin moving forward. We talk ourselves into believing that despite our preparation, passion and ability to learn, we are not worthy or ready to act in putting our goals into motion. This type of thinking often stems from a fear of failure, risk of embarrassment or even a severe sense of self-doubt.


It is true, there does have to be a level of proper preparation to move forward on your journey (i.e. you cannot just walk into a hospital, claim to be a heart surgeon with no formal training and operate on a patient), but in most cases, it’s all just a matter of you taking action, regardless of how prepared you feel or don’t feel.


I abandoned the idea of “waiting for the right time” to start chasing my dreams. Since high school, I always had the dream and vision of being a motivational speaker; inspiring people to overcome their challenges and educating others on how to reach their full potential. Prior to 2018, I had been “preparing” myself to be a speaker. I listened to podcasts, watched instructional videos, read books on the art of effective communication and regularly attended Toastmasters meetings to improve my speaking ability. It wasn’t until this year that I asked myself: What are you waiting for?”


Since then, I haven’t looked back.


I’m learning as I go, and I’m enjoying the journey of getting better at my craft. I’m taking action daily and closing the gaps between me and my goals. Don’t buy into the belief that you have to wait to be great. Even if you fail on your first, second or third attempt, you still learned something new; something you can apply and improve upon moving forward. Understand that the best way to learn is by doing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be crippled by the thought of impostor syndrome. Don’t let others tell you are not ready. Just go for it!


Lesson 2: Balance is key.

2018 taught me the importance of prioritizing proper rest, recovery and balance. As adults, we all carry a certain level of responsibility. Whether it’s our duty as a student, employee, mentor, caregiver or parent, there are a lot of different roles that we play and owe the best version of ourselves to. When we are passionate about something, we devote our precious time and energy into it (as we should). This can be an extremely rewarding feeling, but it can also become exhausting if we do not take care of ourselves properly along the way.


We sometimes have a fantasy of working for hours and hours with no rest because that’s what it takes to be great, take care of our loved ones or accomplish our biggest goals. To an extent, I do agree that we must work hard and dedicate meaningful hours towards our highest priorities, but you cannot produce at a high level or dedicate 100% to anything in your life when you’re running off 2 hours of sleep, eating poorly and neglecting your health. Simply put, you cannot give what you do not have.


You must constantly strive to find balance in all areas of your life. Never neglect the importance of your physical, mental and spiritual health. Take breaks. Spend time doing a hobby you enjoy. Go for a walk. Read a book. Take a nap…do anything you have to do to give your mind, body and soul a break and time to recharge. Allow yourself time to relax, reflect and be still. Don’t neglect yourself or your health.


Lesson 3: Believe in yourself (cliché, I know).

2018 taught me to truly believe in myself, my vision and my capacity to accomplish anything that I commit my entire mind, heart and spirit to.


It’s important to understand that before accomplishing anything, you must believe that you are capable of actually doing it first. I’ll admit, this can take some practice. For some odd reason, we often doubt ourselves and the worthiness of our vision and our goals. Our subconscious mind then falls victim to the belief that happiness, success and prosperity is exclusively reserved for a special group of “lucky” people. This belief cannot be further from the truth!


All the amazing things you dream about in life are attainable but none of it can be gained without belief in yourself and your capabilities. At the end of the day, it all starts (and ends) with you. You must be willing to work towards cultivating the greatness that already exists inside of you. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes vulnerability and a desire to be extraordinary. The biggest disservice you can do is to sabotage your own life by simply not believing in yourself. Believing in yourself will give you the confidence you need to move forward. It will help you find your voice, grow into your identity and embolden you to be the person that you say you want to be and are meant to be.


One of the best quotes I came across this year was “If you tell yourself something enough times, you will start to believe it.” If you tell yourself you’re capable, then you will be. If you tell yourself that you’re not capable, then you won’t be. So, make it a habit of saying good things to yourself and visualizing what it is that you want to accomplish. Ultimately, it’s up to you to give yourself the confirmation that you need to move forward.


Lesson 4: Block out the noise.

We are constantly bombarded with countless forms of distractions (“noise”) every single day. From television, advertisements, digital entertainment, social media, gossip, unprovoked opinions etc., distraction is all around us. There’s a surplus of outside entities fighting for our attention and we often make the mistake of giving away our mental energy without hesitation. Your mental energy is one of your most valuable and finite commodities that you must use wisely.


I believe that we are in an unprecedented time where distraction and lack of focus is legitimately stopping us from being our absolute best selves and reaching our fullest potential. This “noise” that is thrown at us daily often offers no significant value to our lives. Too often, we allow such noise to enter our minds and consume our thoughts. Now more than ever, we must make a concentrated effort to avoid the “noise” and focus on what’s important to us if we want to have a life well lived.


So, cut down on your phone use, turn off the television and invest your time and energy into things that will add significant value to your life (i.e. education, healthy relationships, personal health, career growth, etc.). Focus on what’s important.


Lesson 5: Focus on the good.

Practicing gratitude everyday has shown me how to focus on the good in any situation, no matter what. Making a conscious effort to show appreciation for everything in your life will help you to see that no matter what’s going on in and around the world, no matter what your circumstances are, no matter how good or bad things may seem, that there will always be things in your life that deserve to be savored, appreciated and celebrated. Nothing in life will ever be “perfect.” As a matter of fact, many things in life will be far from it. I am a firm believer that there’s a bigger purpose to our individual existence and honing your ability to find the good through adversity will make that purpose clear to you. Committing to a life of gratitude will enable you to find meaning and to see the beauty of any situation. It will elevate your consciousness, enhance your quality of life and manifest the energy necessary to see things through. Despite the inevitable adversity that we will all face in life, practicing gratitude will cultivate a level of appreciation, clarity and optimism in you that will make you strong enough to face any challenge thrown your way. There is always opportunity in difficulty – it just takes the right perspective to see it.


Practicing gratitude has changed my life for the better. In my field of work, I often see heartbreaking situations, difficult circumstance and people fighting to overcome unspeakable challenges. I am beyond grateful for being exposed to all these things daily because it helps me to cultivate perspective. As of today, I have my health, support from loved ones that I cherish and opportunity to pursue my passions; all things that I value tremendously. I’ve grown to understand that I could lose any of these things at any given moment without warning. But in practicing gratitude, I’ve been able to take full advantage of the good that currently exists in my life and have wasted little energy on giving attention to the things that aren’t “perfect” or that I have little control over.


I’ve also made a habit of going over all the things that I am grateful for before going to bed each night. Doing this has allowed me to shift my perspective for the better and to see the small, daily miracles in life that often go unnoticed. Practicing gratitude will always free you from the constraints that negativity often brings.


For those of you reading this, I encourage you to personally reflect on your 2018 for continued growth and personal development. The new year can represent a blank slate and a fresh start for many of us, but remember, you do not have to wait until 2019 to start embarking on new goals and finding ways to live a better life; you can start right now. Happy holidays and may your 2019 be your best year yet!

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