“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." – Buddha
It was at the 2012 Rutgers University Dance Marathon (RUDM) where I discovered this simple, versatile tool. It can and should be used in almost any situation, and it is easy enough to do that even the most excuse-prone among us can’t rationalize avoiding it.
I’ve written about RUDM before, where I described 32 lessons that I learned from my experience. I’d like to focus today on one of those lessons in particular.
Many of us take our own accomplishments for granted. Even when we have done an incredible job with something, we may not give ourselves proper credit for it. I know someone who had lost 80 pounds in a little over a year (in a healthy way, no crash dieting, etc.) but who regularly ignores their own strength and determination. The fact is, you can’t pull something like that off without demonstrating what an exceptional person you are.
Besides this small blind spot that people often have with regards to their accomplishments, it is so easy to forget to appreciate them, particularly while busy or when time has passed. You feel as though you have too many things to do that you can’t focus on what you’ve already accomplished, or that your accomplishments are a thing of the past and irrelevant today.
Well, I’m feeling a little nostalgic, so I’d like to remember the advice (as well as the accomplishment itself) I had learned during the 32-hour….well, marathon, that is RUDM.
The head of the organization, Dean Arnholt, told us this during one of her several inspirational speeches during the event (paraphrased): “I know that you are all busy, tired, and have a million more things to do before this event is over. But don’t forget to pause and reflect on the incredible accomplishment that you guys have spent thousands of hours to make happen. Before DM is over, make sure that you take at least one minute to stand up here on the second level to look down at what you have accomplished with your hard work."
I heeded the Dean’s advice, and damn, she was right. Not only was the event an incredible thing to put together (and a wild success), but it was very difficult to fully appreciate what I had done to contribute without a moment of dedicated time to reflect on this. For even just a few moments, I had to let go of the drive to continue doing task after task, and just stand there in awe at what was transpiring in front of me.
Each of us on the board had a different role, and could appreciate different parts of the Marathon in different ways. I had been in charge of raising the operating budget (a princely $84,000), which paid for all expenses related to RUDM. So it was an incredible experience for me, looking at the gym, seeing all of the tables, video games, computer stations, the whole catering section, the production team and DJs, and a thousand other things, and realizing that it was through my efforts that all of this was actually paid for. For just a moment, I stood transfixed, awe-struck at the totality of what we had created.
This is a great demonstration of the more general idea that you ought to take time out of your day, even for just one minute, to appreciate the things that you’ve accomplished.
To the person who lost those 80 pounds, how can you possibly call yourself lazy, claim that it is difficult to motivate yourself to exercise, or, most ridiculously, say that you feel “fat"? Take stock and remember all that you’ve accomplished!
Everyone can do this. You need not have done anything “exceptional," however you may define that. Even very “ordinary" things that you have done can be awe-inspiring with the right perspective, such as graduating from college, closing that business deal, talking yourself out of a traffic ticket, raising a child, saving money, learning a new skill, or winning a belching contest.
It’s so easy to take your accomplishments for granted, but the occasional one minute pause can help you remember the great things you’ve done. Specifically, I’d like to do that right now, as a small “thank you" to the readers of this blog, and particularly those of you who comment, share, or engage in any way.
When I first started blogging a little over three years ago, I had high hopes that I’d become an “A-list" blogger, that I’d help hundreds of thousands of people with my words, that I’d be a “location independent lifestyle entrepreneur," and so on. I can unequivocally say that this has not happened (yet).
I could look at the thousands of hours I’ve spent blogging, call it a waste, and dub myself a failure. But while I may not be the international playboy that I had hoped at the outset, I have accomplished quite a lot.
For instance, when my original Dance Marathon post was published about 38 months ago, I was receiving fewer than 1000 monthly visitors. As I write this, I am closing in on 40,000 per month. And I did all that while finishing up college, living in a foreign country, multiple job changes, working full time, trying to keep my girlfriend happy, and even starting another blog on the side.
I often take this for granted, and writing about it is cathartic. It would be easy to look at my experience blogging, compare myself to some of the big names, and feel like I’ve done very little. But while I may not be “A-list", I’ve still built something really cool. I’ve still learned a ton from my experience. And while I may not have influenced hundreds of thousands, I do still hear from people who claim that my writing has improved their lives in some way. If that’s not awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is.
So thank you all, because you guys have helped get me off the ground. You’ve been the fuel that has helped me do what I consider to be a really cool thing.
Take a moment and do this yourself. Pause, reflect on your accomplishments, and realize that you have done some truly impressive stuff, overcame serious setbacks, and made yourself a better person. And remember that feeling every day.