“What do you want this year for your birthday?”
Year after year, that question always comes up around the same time (I wonder why).
How do you usually respond? If you’re anything like me, you probably stare at them blankly and shrug. Oftentimes, I don’t know what I want for my birthday! Furthermore, I’ll often just go buy anything I really want myself, so I don’t really need anything either.
That got me thinking…what are the best birthday gifts we can’t pay for?
Here are the 3 best birthday gifts you can’t buy.
1. The Gift of Health
Total disclosure: I’ve had pretty bad habits this year when it comes to eating breakfast.
Because my mornings are packed with 7am meetings, as soon as my alarm goes off in the morning, I want to get out of the house as soon as possible. After all, it’s much more efficient to skip traffic! In order to do this, my morning task flow is kept to the bare minimum: clean teeth, style hair, get dressed, smell good, and get out the door – all in 15 minutes tops.
Then, once I got to work, I’d quickly grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich from Tim Hortons or Starbucks - not the best fuel on a daily basis.
When I woke up on my birthday, I deliberately woke up 30 minutes earlier so that I could sit down and eat a full, healthy breakfast. After all, abs are made in the kitchen. Casually moseying about, I now had the time to throw the kettle on for a cup of tea, boil an egg, peel a banana, slice an avocado and toast my bagel.
In a complete relaxed state, I realized that I hadn’t been treating my body right all year. Despite eating well for my other meals and maintaining an active lifestyle throughout the week, I’ve been taking my health for granted. I realized how blessed I was to have good health and what a gift it was!
The older we get, the more important it is to proactively eat well.
With each birthday, one of the best gifts I’m thankful for is continued health.
2. The Gift of Quality Time
I wrote recently about how disconnected I sometimes feel with life being so busy.
Two weeks before my birthday this year, Arash messaged me to grab lunch. As we sat down for Thai food last Sunday afternoon, I was so humbled that he would make time to see me, especially knowing how busy he is with work, school and moving! As we caught up on each other’s lives, I truly felt how important the gift of quality time is.
There is truly nothing more valuable than someone sharing their moments in life with you.
Whether I'm with friends or family, it doesn't get much better than that.
I'm so thankful for those who still make time for me, and hope that I'm doing just as much of the same for you. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the last year with you!
3. The Gift of Life
In Canada, the average life expectancy is 81.24 years (World Bank, 2012).
At 27 years old, assuming we make it to the average, I’m only 33% of my way through life!
Of course, I may die sooner (a car could hit me, heart attack, natural disaster) and I think it goes without saying that you can’t really celebrate your birthday if you’re dead. On the flip side of that though, how cool is it that on each birthday, we made it another year! With our God-given time, life is such an amazing gift that we take for granted.
I was recently listening to Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, where they recounted war stories from their time in Ramadi, Iraq, along with the painful leadership lessons that they learnt through experience. As they spoke about comrades and teammates that became casualties during the war, they impressed upon me how fortunate we are to be able to live in peace here in Canada, where I (relatively) don’t have to worry about being blown up by a frag grenade.
The Simplicity of it all
As the years pass, these 3 simple gifts truly signify how the things we already have are sometimes the best gifts we can continue to receive.
On our birthday, or any other day for that matter.
As of November 14th, 2016
With a month a half left in the year, I took the time yesterday to review all the goals I set for myself this year to see where I was at.
With some goals, I fell flat on my face and failed.
With other goals, I completely gave up because I wasn't even close.
Lastly, it's important to note that despite missing a few, I managed to pull off quite a few!
I've categorized this update with three different statuses:
There's still time...
Although I've usually just done an annual goal-setting session, along with an annual recap, I felt it important to check in before the year ended to see if I could turn goals that would have otherwise failed into successes!
What else can you do before the year is over?
It’s November 13, 2016, and as I write this, drained, I feel like our world is divided.
A few global examples come to mind, like how South Korea is trying to throw out their President, Britain is trying to leave the EU, and America’s election has exacerbated division among its citizens.
Reflecting back on this year, I’ve personally never felt more divided from my communities.
Despite our connected, picture-perfect landscape of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, we are severely socially divided. As we bounce between feelings of fulfillment and connection with friends, teammates and colleagues, we are equally met with sporadic feelings of intense loneliness and uncertainty.
We’re like boats in the middle of an ocean that slow down just enough to see what other boats (our friends, our family) are up to. We’ll stop by occasionally to see what upgrades or progress each boat is making, before speeding off to our next destination and checking in with other boats (more friends, more family).
In this narrative, there seem to be more boats than we can give adequate time to.
If you’re like me, you might be sitting on a speedboat that loves the rush of life, zipping here and there. Our boats flaunt our trips, our accomplishments, our journeys. Like Twitter, everybody’s throwing bite-sized tweets out there about what’s going on, but there are far fewer people listening.
If you’re like my girlfriend, your boat might be slower, taking its time, moving at a relaxed pace. It might be wondering if it’s going fast enough, while I’m wondering if I should be shifting gears down.
I hate to say it, but many times, we’re alone in a packed room that we call the world.
If this seems pretty dark so far, it’s not. It’s life, it is our busyness and there’s actually a ton of sunshine.
When emotions run high, or deep, or dark, to better understand myself, I stop to find the sources of this divide.
The 2 Sources of Divide
1. Focus + Attention
Chase two rabbits, catch none. - Chinese Proverb
Name a day of the week and I’ll tell you what I have planned in any of the 24 hours available.
I even have days where I can be a kid and impulsively do whatever I want.
I began this year by wanting to conquer everything – read books, write blog posts, learn piano, hone volleyball skills, not die during floor hockey, study systematic theology, master Microsoft Excel, build deeper relationships with my mom and brother, travel the world – you name it.
With this process, you can probably imagine that I’ve become extremely productive, effective, and efficient with my time. While this is partially true for some of the items listed above, I’ve also fantastically failed terribly at a lot of these things. By dividing my focus and attention, here’s a big surprise: I’ve become fairly mediocre at a lot of things.
A friend of mine, James recently compared what we were doing in life to balancing multiple spinning plates.
This is the state of most adult lives; we’re all trying to balance multiple wobbly plates.
I think the first source of divide is this – we’re holding too many damn plates.
2. Width vs. Depth in Relationships
Where the loneliness comes in is that I’ve found it difficult to connect with all these people on a deeper level. When it comes to friends, I have my core group of 8-10 bros that I’ll always make an effort to connect with monthly. But when it comes to sports teams, sometimes even church, we’ll have a sprinkling of connection on the day of, but then won’t talk until the next week. The reason we feel divided is because we feel that we’re seeing a little bit of everyone, but not enough of any one person.
I think the reason I’ve felt this divide is that we seem to be individual boats proudly tooting our horns, trying to steer our own path, and trying to make sure that our boat is the best.
Sadly, I’ve moved away from building communities and building others up.
Since you’re still reading this, and because we’re doing so well with this boat analogy so far,..
Our course of action should be to move forward as a fleet.
Collective. Together, Unified,
It’s about time we stop worrying about ourselves, but instead worry about how we can build strong communities together, to lift one another up.
Is this cheesy? Yes, extremely. But I’ve been pretty wrapped up in myself this year, and I’ve become a pretty small package.
To combat that, I think it's time to take personal responsibility.
Questions I'm asking this week:
I'm going to try being more attentive to others this week and see where we goes.
divided we fall, united we stand.
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.