Pick A Direction And Move That Way

by Nate Nicholls · 4 comments

Here’s a scary experiment.  Take 10 minutes and reflect on your last year.  What have you done?  Write it all down.  Well, not all of it, maybe.  But, write down the things that matter to you.  Write down how many goals you accomplished.  Write down how many adventures you had.  Just pick something that’s important to you, then write down how many times you did that in the last year.

I’ve done this.  It’s scary.  And it’s awesome.  Let me tell you my story.

I used to think my life was pretty boring.  I don’t do much.  I’m overweight and out of shape.  All my friends fly to exotic locations for tw0-weeks of vacation every summer…I fly nowhere. These are the thoughts that weigh me down sometimes.

Then, I decided to just start doing stuff.  It’s been nearly a year since I started “doing stuff” and so I thought I would write a list of some of the things I’ve done since making that not-so-radical change.  I was impressed with what I saw!  I’m not the coolest guy to ever walk the earth, but I’m way cooler than I thought I was!  I say that in all humility, of course.  😉

Check this (partial) list out.

In the last 12 months….

  • I learned how to sea kayak and even earned a couple of basic certifications.
  • Gabrielle and I have explored part of Prince William Sound by kayak.  On one trip alone, we kayaked under a Kittywake Gull rookery that was home to 2,000+ Kittywake Gulls, and were escorted for a ways by a rather large sea lion.
  • We hiked into the fairly remote Kachemak Bay State Park (accessible by boat) and spent three days and two nights there, living out of an old trapper’s cabin.
  • We hiked several miles over rocky beach to an old army fort (timing the our hike with the tide, so we wouldn’t be trapped by the water).  We spent two nights there.  It was some of the best hiking of my life!  Truly amazing!
  • Speaking of “we”, later in the summer, Gabrielle and I became engaged on that same rocky beach!  I’m thrilled to be spending my life with her!
  • I ran three 5K races, one of them being in the middle of winter in Alaska.
  • Altogether, I estimate I logged around 75 miles of running in the past year (a very conservative estimate).  Not many miles by a runner’s standards, but not too shabby for a chubby guy!
  • I lost 20 lbs without even trying…just by staying happily active.  (Just over last summer….I’m still losing weight, so stay tuned for updates!)
  • We spent nearly every weekend of last summer either camping, hiking, or kayaking.
  • After several years off, I re-learned to downhill ski.  Before the end of the season, I was skiing the black diamonds with confidence (for the most part).
  • I brewed a kickass (if I say so myself) batch of Raspberry Wheat Ale…from scratch.  I even milled the grains myself!  Just under 5 gallons of goodness!
  • I started this blog!

I did some other things, too, but this is what came to mind in about 5 minutes.  I feel really good about myself, when I look at that list!

I put together another list a few months ago of the goals I was achieving.  It didn’t make me feel as great.  That, in part, is what prompted me to set my theme for 2011.

But, I want to focus on what went well, because there’s something to learn there.

Reflection (on both lists) taught me a valuable lesson.  I get done what I make room for. I didn’t plan for everything I did in the last 12 months.  In fact, I planned very little of it in advance.  I simply stayed open to possibilities and took them as they came.  It was a mindset.

One thing I tried to do last summer is stay active.  I wasn’t trying to be a fitness buff or anything, but I just tried to be into something whenever I could.  Most weekends, Gabrielle and I didn’t plan much.  We just did stuff.  Every Saturday we’d be off, going somewhere – anywhere!

Part of this year’s focus is to get more than just adventures under my belt.  I also want to accomplish a few meaningful things.  I want to get closer to some lifelong goals.  That includes fitness goals, relationship goals, and financial goals.  I have a few specific things that I would like to achieve this year and I’ve written them down.  But, there’s also a general direction I would like to go with my life and I’m not always sure of the particular goals that need to be set to achieve the long-term goal.  I don’t have all the steps figured out but, I have chosen a direction and I stay open to possibilities.  I keep moving in the right direction.

Here’s one example.  I want to work for myself someday.  I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be able to do that, but that is my goal.  I’ve set an immediate goal of making an extra $500/month, doing something on the side…not overtime at the regular job.  I’ve had a few ideas of what I could do to make some extra money.  Recently an idea fell out of the sky.  It probably won’t make me an extra $500/month, but it will most likely make me something, so I’m running with it.  It may take me 5 projects like this to make my immediate goal, but that’s fine.  I’ll do what it takes.

I’ve been paralyzed for too long by not having “the perfect plan” to make my dreams come true.  Screw that!  That plan got me nowhere.  I’d rather be somewhere between here and my ultimate goal, than stuck here! I’ll take incomplete plans, half-assed plans, hope-and-a-prayer plans…I’ll even take no plan.  I just don’t want to sit around anymore.

I know I didn’t set any records for being awesome in the last 12 months, but I sure increased my standard!  I figure if I can do that, I can certainly make a dent in the long-term plans I have for my life.

I don’t expect the next year to make me wealthy or incredibly successful by most people’s standards, but I do intend to be closer to my ultimate goals than I am now.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but this blog isn’t about answers.  It’s about my journey and the lessons I pick up along the way.  I hope something I say here will help you to move closer to whatever it is that make you the happiest.

What are you doing today that gets you closer to your dreams?

Photo credit: freefotouk

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ellen stevens April 13, 2011 at 9:39 am

i love this, nate. i’ve often said to myself, “what are you doing today to become the person you want to be?” and then i go do something that rarely relates to who i aim to become.

i’m going to write my list. it will be much smaller, and definitely less exciting than yours. but i know it will include at least two things: 1) i adopted three boys. 2) i found the 20 pounds you lost. 🙂


Nate April 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed it, Ellen! Adopting 3 boys sounds like way more action than my last year, but packed into one bullet point! As for those 20 lbs. of mine that you found, keep ’em! I have no use for them anymore. 😉


Peter April 28, 2011 at 6:11 am

You have always been one of the coolest guys in the world. What makes you special is not kayaking with seals, brewing ales or playing poker on the way to The Cities. Its the fact that even though to the rest of us you may be wandering you always seem to know right where you are.



Nate April 28, 2011 at 9:27 am

Thanks, Rev! I think that’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received! Thank you.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: