2012 has been one of many milestones for me, from graduating college to moving across the country on my own to falling into a relationship to working my first real job to procuring my first pet that I can call my very own. If I had the time and you had the patience, I would sit here and babble on for a couple thousand words to tell you about everything I’ve gone through and all that I’ve learned.

I’ve also had a lot of screw-ups. I mean a lot. I’m not just talking about in the realm of my fitness career either; I mean in my social and family lives, too. Instead of hanging my head in shame, however, I’m putting a positive spin on all of my failures and viewing them as a learning experience. My dad once told me that even if I were to have the world’s worst boss who very ineffectively runs his business and I see a thousand and one things that can be executed better, I should use my situation as an opportunity to watch, observe his actions, and figure out the one thousand and one ways not to run a business. I’ve adopted that same mindset in my approach to every other ostensibly negative circumstance I find myself in. After all, the learning process never really ends.

As I look back on the past 365 days, I can list a number of ways in which I believe I’ve become better – whether that be as a writer, a daughter, a girlfriend, a coach, a friend, or what have you. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m on my way there and I’m having a blast of a time in the process.

And along this journey have come many lessons in which I’ve learned things I hadn’t known before. At the same time, I’ve also realized that many beliefs that I had steadfastly onto a year ago I now know today not to be true. Such is the process of continuing education.

I’ve taken the liberty to elaborate on some of the more prominent lessons that I have unlearned this year. Enjoy.

One of the many things I do in the gym.
One of the many things I do in the gym.

Being a fitness snob is something to be proud of.

A number of years back, I used to be one of those fitness buffs who would roll her eyes at the gym whenever anyone used the yes-no machine (the technical term, I believe, is the adductor/abductor machine) and shake my head at all the other chicks who would never do anything but spin around on the elliptical for an hour everyday. I used to think that lifting weights was the only way for anyone to obtain the body of their dreams and that consuming a meal with minimal protein was a crime. I held my head up high because I knew more than the average gym-goer about how to structure a proper training program and I got that my diet accounted for much of the way that I looked.

But I’ve come to learn that not everyone is like me; not everyone has the same desires that I do, and for many, even getting in a little bit of physical activity is an accomplishment in and of itself. Today, I’d much rather see someone in the gym doing nothing but hammer curls and triceps kickbacks with pink dumbbells for an hour than to stick exclusively to the cardio section – or worse, to never step into the gym at all. Everyone is fighting their own battles, and some people may be wielding their swords on the gym floor. Ignorance never justifies cruel treatment.

Do I love when a woman tells me she just wants to “tone” her arms and abs like Jessica Alba? No, but I understand exactly what she’s trying to get at. Sometimes I forget that I used to be in those same shoes, and it humbles me when I do remember. I’m not proud of the fitness snob mindset that I so readily used to judge others in the past, and my new approach is to welcome anyone willing to tiptoe into the world of fitness with open arms.

Everyone loves to exercise, of course.

Given that fitness is one of my passions, it goes without saying that many of my closest friends are individuals I’ve met through some fitness-related situation or another. This means that most of the people I interact with on a regular basis are fitness buffs; we exercise consistently, we discuss our training, and we celebrate any and all PRs. For people like us, working out is often the highlight of our day, as it helps break up the monotony of a 9-to-5 desk job or gives us that mental break and that “me” time that we so crave. Our hearts race at the thought of getting under the bar and squatting the damn thing; we simply can’t get to the gym fast enough.

But there are also exist individuals for whom exercising is actually the hardest part of their day. I once had a girlfriend stop just short of the front doors of the gym and experience an anxiety attack. I’ve heard stories of people so intimidated to be out on the training floor that it takes them a full 20 minutes to even get out of their cars. For some, so much as taking that first step into the gym is monumental.

While it’s obviously important to exercise our muscles, I think that too often, we forget to exercise compassion as well. I don’t know about you, but if you ask me, instead of keeping these people out of the gym, we should all make an effort to make the gym a positive place. Some people flat-out don’t enjoy the gym, and some fear it. We should try to change that.

First impressions are everything.

I’m terrible with first impressions. I’m a shy introvert who experiences a mind block whenever I meet someone for the first time. I become way too serious, sometimes I stutter, and I have trouble relaxing and being myself. So why should I look at others and judge them by theirfirst impressions?

By the same token, I’ve been quick to conclude that so-and-so was soooo great and wonderful and a morally upright person with intact character, only to learn a number of weeks later that he’s actually unreliable, untruthful, and hypocritical. Imagine the disappointment I’ve felt when I’ve trusted someone to look out for me and have my best interests in mind and then to be severely let down.

The moral of the story is: withhold judgment of others for as long as possible. I now make an attempt to understand someone first, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and never put all my eggs in one basket. Everyone has their own insecurities and shortcomings; who am I to judge?

The more you work, the better off you’ll be.

The mentality that you must work harder and longer to earn more money is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, many individuals still think this way – which explains why it took so long for me to figure out the truth. There’s something fundamentally wrong with the picture of a father of three kids working 60-80 hours a week at a job he doesn’t even enjoy, only to continue to fall further and further into debt each month and be forced to resort to financial aid from his parents. Trading time for money is old news.

This becomes even more pronounced when something that used to be a passion of yours – coaching, for example – becomes an obligation, as you grow bitter about how little money you’re bringing in and you enjoy your job less and less.

What about freedom? What about happiness? You can have them both now if only you are willing to re-allocate your energies into other sources with much greater return.

Note that this isn’t really about money; it’s about maximizing the most of your time so you can still find enjoyment in what you do, live comfortably, and spend your precious time with those you love and doing what you want.  For me, I’ve made a commitment to invest much more in my personal life in 2013 and let go of the mindset that I have to continue working 60+ hours weeks to be successful. [Tweet "I refuse to let myself feel guilty for relaxing, laughing, and allowing myself to be happy."]

My priority: spending time with the loves of my life. 
My priority: spending time with the loves of my life.

I don’t expect you to necessarily jive with everything I’ve had to say. Who knows – maybe in another 12 months, I’ll change my mind once again about some of the things above. But that’s life, isn’t it?

Here’s to a better, more exciting new year chock full of failures and, simultaneously, achievements.