What Happened When I Took On A Year-Long Quest To Change My Life

Today I finished a year-long effort of abstaining from alcohol while simultaneously improving myself in five key areas.  It’s been a year of tremendous self-discovery.  If you are unaware what the hell I am speaking of, I called it “The Quest,” and I started it on October 3, 2017.  “The Quest” started quite differently than how I am now finishing it.  I did, however, layout that it would be fluid in nature and I would change things as I saw fit.  I lived up to that much.  

As of now, I have decided I will be doing four quests in total, treating each quest like a year of college and adding onto the learnings and accomplishments of the year prior.  This gives me a direction to take my creativity and life goals, as well as an outlet to write.

I learned so much this past year and the results were resoundingly positive.  If you haven’t been following along on my path, the goal was to create lasting change by removing distractions, turning bad habits to good, and focusing on five “silos” for growth.  The five silos were: Mental Health, Physical Health, Creativity, Career/Learning, and Relationships.

Accomplishments (the five silos)

Let’s start here, with all the good things that I accomplished over the past year in the five key areas.

First, and foremost, I did not take a single sip of alcohol in 365 days.  I’ll call that, Accomplishment Number One.

Physical Health: Lost approximately fifteen pounds, maintained strength, increased endurance, aesthetically look as good as I’ve looked in years.  I feel healthy… very healthy.

  • My diet has been mostly on point.  I eat far less sugar and carbs than I used to.  Due to my activity level, I may actually need to increase calories, but I have become quite comfortable being leaner than my past bulky self.
  • Worked out approximately 4-6x a week over the course of the year.
  • Sauna, Steam and Cold Therapy 3-5x a week.
  • Regular outdoor activities and exercise (also mental health).

Mental Health:  Noticeably altered my perspective, removed negativity, gained clarity, learned to reframe my thoughts and how to fix a negative mental state.

  • Drastically increased my ability to meditate, which in turn has positively impacted my mental health more than anything I have ever done.  This is a habit that I practice about as often as I go to the gym.  Sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more.  I, as a result, find myself breathing through negativity and am less anxious than before.
  • Journaled regularly, which helped digest feelings, prioritize goals and work through emotional baggage and thoughts.
  • Regular exposure to nature.

Creativity:  Wrote more than I had written in many years, something I have always loved to do, but had been neglecting.

  • I started and continually expanded and defined a blog and vlog.
  • Improved my video editing skills.
  • Wrote blogs, book chapters and journal entries.
  • Recently started painting.

Career/Learning:  Started a new career, became truly self-employed, and had some early successes.  Learned a range of topics, read books, and applied new knowledge.

  • I committed to, put in the necessary 90 hours, studied for and passed the Washington state real estate exam, allowing me to start a new and exciting career.
  • Significantly cut back on indulging in unimportant time sucks and always try to choose the option at that moment that creates a better or more productive outcome.  This has led to many more hours reading, workouts, more informative viewing options (such as watching a show that teaches rather than just entertains), etc.
  • I read or listened to the following twenty books:

1. Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

3. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

4. Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss

5. Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

6. 4:2 Formula; Getting Buyers Off the Fence and Into a Home by Jeff Shore

7. Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahnuik

8. Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk

9. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

10. Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

11. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

12. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

13. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

14. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

15. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

16. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

17. I Can’t Make This Up by Neil Strauss and Kevin Hart

18. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babbin

19. 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson

20. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

21. All the other books I have indulged in, but either got distracted from or put down in favor of another before finishing.  This was probably the longest book I listened to or read all year 😆

  • Outside of actual book studies, I learned how to manage a blog, meditate efficiently, exercise better, control my weight, and other miscellaneous things.

Relationships:  I have cut out of my life most of the toxic people and have been working to improve my relationship with my girlfriend.  This is more of a personal endeavor, and one that is harder to articulate progress in.  I do feel closer to the people in my life that are meant to be there, and less worried about trying to fit people in that do not try to do the same for me.  Lastly, I am less worried what others think of me.  Although, I am unsure if this was ever a severe ailment of mine, everyone suffers from this on occasion and I can definitely can be a people pleaser.

Where Did I Fall Short?

  • Still a Procrastinator:  Using this post as an example; I should have wrote this last week and then easily posted it today by clicking a button, instead, I have had to write this all up this evening, which took an immense amount of time to do.  I procrastinated.  I tend to do this with most things.  A habit that I will be looking to address in Quest Part Two.
  • My God-Damned Thumbs: I still pick them constantly.  This must stop.  It’s such a bad habit, but I don’t know if it’s rooted in anxiety, or more so, just something I have started doing while I’m thinking or listening.  I did conquer this habit for about two months out of the year, but somehow it came back, probably around when I started practicing real estate.  What a fucking creature of habit, I am. 
  • Patagonia: Unfortunately I have some time before I will be able to afford this trip. 
  • I Like My Sleep:  God damnit, I need to get up earlier.  I, think, this week, I figured out the hack to this: Get excited about the day.  We’ll see the progress that comes from such an epiphany.  I realize that I dream really deeply and have a difficult time breaking from my dream and placing value on getting out of bed over the comfort I feel while lying in it.
  • Money:  Not where I want it, yet.  This will be one of the main focuses in Quest Part Two.
  • Feeds and Screen Time:  I know I just stated this as a positive thing that I have gotten better at.  That’s not entirely true, as I didn’t even have social media before I started real estate.  What I am getting better at is how to better manage this.  It really has to be a cognizant effort or it doesn’t resolve.
  • Writing:  I have, yet, to finish writing the book I said I was to write.  This will, also, roll over into Quest Part Two.
  • Yoga:  My weekly yoga practice never stuck and became something I do on occasion, rather than part of my weekly exercise routine.

What Did I Learn From This Process?

Mostly, I learned that anything I put my mind to, and fully commit to, I can accomplish.  I, also, learned that things happen faster than they seem to, but not without effort.  Patience is, however, key to seeing a goal all the way to fruition.  A year is less time than it seems to be, but longer than most attention spans can hold.  More can be done in a year than expected, but five years of continual progress results in a landslide of change.  I heard this somewhere… probably Tony Robbins or some shit.. but, whatever, it’s relevant.

Would I Do It Again?

100%, absolutely.  As I stated above, I will be taking on another three years of quests that will be different in structure and objective, but build off of what I have completed this year.  This is, again, in attempt to simulate a college-type learning scenario.

Abstaining from alcohol was not difficult once I got started, and though I am looking forward to having a couple beers, I do not plan on overindulgence and know that I have the ability to cut it off entirely at any given point.  I could happily go the rest of my life without ever having another sip of alcohol. 

What Would I Do Differently?

Pertaining to quests, less is often more.  I loaded too much shit into the outline of “The Quest” from the get-go and that resulted in periods of inefficiency where I became frazzled with all the “to-dos” and started neglecting things that were much more pertinent to take care of.  In fact, when I started this whole thing, I was more focused on writing blogs and making sure that I meditated than doing taking care of much more necessary tasks.  Structure is good, but too much structure kills creativity, progress, and is hard to sustain.  In regards to journaling, this was especially true.  As I made my journal more complex, I ended up abandoning journaling for a period.  Keeping a checklist and writing a daily or bi-daily entry seems to keep me on track enough; overcomplicating the process killed the habit entirely, exhausted the free flow nature of it, and was ultimately unproductive.

The same was true with other aspects of “The Quest.”  For example, trying to meditate every single day became a chore, albeit one that I enjoyed, but when it was left unchecked off my to-do list, I became disappointed in myself.  This is actually the opposite effect than the one I was trying to create.  I translated that into a learning experience not to force things and have found that if I just fit my meditation in where its comfortable, I get it done.  With that said, trying to keep on schedule for the first couple of weeks is a good way to kickstart the habit.

I, now, find that I meditate, read, journal/write more days than I do not. 

Exercise is the one area where this does not apply.  If you do not feel like going to the gym, then go to the fucking gym.  A workout, simply, solves most problems and clears the cache.  Also, if I do workout, I am more inclined to meditate and do a heat/cold rotation.  If you are injured or need a rest day, there’s always room for exceptions, but don’t compromise on your commitment to your health and well-being.

Linking these habits to one another, also, seemed to improve the likelihood that I would get them complete. 

What Aspects of My Life Changed the Most Drastically?

Well, first off, I look completely different than I did when I started this.  I wasn’t in terrible shape then, but there is a stark difference in fitness level.  I worked out pretty regularly before I started “The Quest,” and had already started a pretty solid regimen.  What I did not foresee was that I would somehow get down to, and sustain, my body weight at +/- 180 pounds.  Putting weight back on has actually become a difficulty, this is partly because I just don’t like eating a crazy amount of food, but also, my metabolism resembles more of what it did during my high school years than my post-thirty ones.

My overall well-being has significantly improved.  I feel much more dialed and cognizant of how I spend my minutes by actively trying to live in the present.  My perspective is positive and most of my negative thinking is kept at bay.  I, ultimately, learned to control this by noticing who and what I am talking about, stopping myself from gossiping, and framing things in a manner that end in a specific point, rather than some flow of consciousness-styled rant.  Mainly, I have stopped ranting entirely; something I used to do daily.

I have become a much better writer.  Exercising that muscle either through this blog or in my journal has become an irreplaceable outlet for my thoughts.  I will further curate this into an actual talent in the coming years.  Writing a book is still something I long to, and will, eventually complete.

Preparation, as mentioned in an previous post, is something I now consider necessary to advancement.  As well as, taking action.  Learning to balance the two to become more efficient is a necessary skillset that I has seen development.

Random Side Effects:

1.  Foul Language: I cuss less… like, much less.  I have been called out in the past for using “fuck” three-plus times in a single sentence.  The other day, while discussing some random topic, I realized I hadn’t swore in multiple strings of paragraphs.  This was not a work discussion, this was talking to my girlfriend.  Don’t get me wrong, I still probably cuss more than your average Joe, but much less than I used to.

2. Articulation:  My language and conversation skills seem to have greatly improved.  I feel as if I am talking, and perhaps, writing clearer and with more purpose.  That could be my perception, but it could also be from an increased mental acuity coming form mindfulness techniques and the knowledge gained from reading books.

3. Listening:  I’ve become a better listener.  I don’t know what combination of new habits to attribute this to, but I am less likely to cut someone off in conversation than I used to be.  I, also, try not to automate my responses.  I think listening to Audible is part the reason for this, as there is no place to interject oneself when you are listening to a book.

4.  Emotions:  Control, is what I most notice.  I am able to better control MOST of my emotions.  Especially anxiety or unease, as well as lurking depression.  When I do suffer full blown depression, it becomes harder to rebound from.  I have found the cure though, and that is becoming productive when it arrises.  Usually I can tie my depression to some sort of burden I feel I am carrying.  Once I make the burden actionable, it lightens the load and I can move past it.

5.  More Open to New Ideas:  I stopped shutting down ideas that I found imbecilic, and instead embrace new ideas with curiosity.  If for no other reason, to learn why people think the way they do.  So, although I find Alex Jones to be an absolutely insane, crazy person, learning what makes people believe in such obvious falsities intrigues me.  He is still a piece of shit, but one that can be shrugged off.

6.  Funny:  I cannot confirm if this is true or not, but I feel less funny than I used to be.  Maybe it’s an unfair statement, but I used to consider myself a pretty funny guy.  Now, I just feel more focused on accomplishing goals, and much less on making people laugh or being clever.

7.  Narcissism:  I am aware of the narcissism involved with blogging and vlogging, hash-tagging and just social media overall.  I would have relentlessly clowned on this very blog just a year ago, but I also wanted an outlet to write and a way to hold myself accountable to stay on track towards my objective.  It worked.  So, fuck it, I now blog and vlog…  I know it is self-indulgence at its finest, but until I accomplish what I have set out to, that will have to be an asterisk.

8.  Loss of Interest in Media:  I, currently, hate spending time watching TV.  More so, I hate spending time staring at my phone.  Although, I do still find myself on the couch watching Netflix, I have started turning it off when I am disinterested.  I had this conversation with my friend Jarod this week, and we both were on the same page here.  When I am watching TV, I should commit fully to watching TV.  No phone in hand, no searching for hours for something to watch.  Just turn on the show, watch the show without distraction to completion, TV off, next task.  This really should be applied to any activity.  Be present in everything you do.

What Habits Will I Continue?

Most of them.  Removing only the overly-structured constructs that I initially put around goals in an attempt to accomplish them. 

What Habits Will I Discontinue?

I think, when I started doing this blog, I said I was going to run regularly.  I don’t think that will stick as a regular activity.  I have no intention of running much, as it can hurt my knees.  Plus, I find hiking, biking, or even rowing, more enjoyable.  I do like trail running though, which I would gladly do more of.

What Would I Like to See More of Next Year?

More Alpine.  More Stability.  More Money.  More Adventure.  More Mountains.  More Learning.  More Yoga.  More Mindful.  More Hustle.  More Patience.  More Love.

What About the Future Most Excites Me?

I am done worrying about the past or the future.  Even getting pre-maturely excited about the future tags it with an expectation that may or may not conclude how it plays out in actuality; resulting in disappointment.  The excitement that I feel is towards the opportunity to tackle the goals right in front of me, right now.  I am excited to do that everyday, with everything I decide to do.  I am excited to approach every task with an enthusiasm and vigor that continues to grow as I further learn to hone my presence in the moment.  Balancing all the different aspects of my life gets me excited, too.  As does, increasing my knowledge.  This all fills me with a significant amount of purpose.  That purpose brings a sense of calm, and that calmness is better than excitement, it’s contentment.  Contentment is balanced and consistently a good place to be.

 

Cheers 🤙 ,

~Dane

Book Reviews: Jordan B. Peterson, Bone Clocks, Enlightenment Now, & Dark Matter

I have been reading, or pulling a cheat move and listening to, at least two books per month since the New Year.  Here are some short reviews on what I have read.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Fiction; Book)
Beautifully written fantasy-type novel that spans multiple decades and tells a unique story. The character development was the headlining act, the book is essentially written in 5 novellas that all intertwine.  The British styled writing was a bit hard to follow, and at times I found myself drifting into other thoughts and having to reread sections, but that seems more like a personal issue than an issue with the author’s ability to paint such vivid narrative.  David Mitchell is the same author who wrote Cloud Atlas.
4/5 stars.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Fiction; Audible)
This was a fun read with a good concept but it had a fair amount of, as I like to call it, cheese.  Terribly corny similes were making me laugh out loud, but the idea made for entertaining sci-fi.  At the end I thought I was listening to an episode of Rick & Morty.
3/5 stars.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson (Non-Fiction – Psychology; Audible)
Yawn.  For how much controversy surrounded this guy, I was underwhelmed and rather bored with his book. I think I heard him on Joe Rogan’s podcast and thought I’d check the book out. Some intelligent concepts and I understood his stance on many of the principles, whether I agreed or not, but I didn’t find them tremendously useful.  Furthermore, I hated, with a fiery passion, the heavily repeated religious sentiment that plagued the pages of this book and found myself following these parables down worm holes that ended with some bland and tasteless analogy for “Take Action” or “Be Responsible.”  My opinion: You can get a much better book containing many less words and without the religious undertones and proverbial nonsense, but you’ll catch a couple wise insights.
2.5/5 stars.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker (Non-Fiction; Audible)
I loved this book.  Bill Gates, apparently also did, calling it, something along the lines of, his new favorite book of all time… but I’m too lazy to Google that and find the actual quote… so, hopefully, that is close enough.  Anyways, it was a lot to take in, and there are many charts that I haven’t even had the opportunity to review yet, but this book argues, with statistics and valid reasoning, the case for why we are currently living in the best time humanity has ever seen.  It paints a realistic picture of a world where life has been getting better and better even though humanity seems to think the opposite.  It paints that realistic picture and it looks a lot like what reality is.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has had a disposition that the current world is shit.  Pinker will make you think twice to bitch about it and maybe even inspire you to step up and make the difference you want to see in the world.  With that said, there are still problems and the book also argues the counter points and brings to light the reality of current political landscapes and the cultures that arise from them, on both sides of the political spectrum, that could be harmful of the advancement of the Enlightenment’s ideals.  Not for everyone, but I enjoyed this thoroughly.
4.5/5 stars.

I forgot to review the two I read in January:  Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  Both of which were incredibly good and easy reads.

Cheers 🤙 ,

~Dane