The Best Version of Ourselves 2019

The post below was originally published in 2011, and it’s been updated each year to reflect where I am in my life and the new things I’ve learned in the previous 12 months. Looking ahead to 2019, I’m as committed as ever to the philosophy it outlines. The year 2018 was filled with so many wonderful and so many terrible things! We settled beautifully into our new lives in Prague and had so many awesome travel adventures—but the rise of fascism and anti-empathy around the world chipped away at my heart. In the coming year, my touchstone will be curiosity. I want to wake up rested and eager to tackle all that’s before me—to remember that life is like a Victorian cabinet of curiosities, filled with things that are beautiful, potentially scary, and always wondrous if they’re approached with with an open heart and mind.

Thank you for being here with me over the years. You have my best wishes for fortitude, strength, peace, joy, and curiosity in 2019.

I’ve had a weight loss goal since I was 13 years old.

That’s more than 35 years of living with a number hanging over my head. From Weight Watchers summer camp to the rice diet to Kathy Smith’s Fat Burning Plan to Weight Watchers to the Zone to Paleo… with aerobics videos and step aerobics and triathlons and boxing and Roller Derby and half marathons and CrossFit along the way.

My motivations have been many.

Fear of being fat. Health concerns. Peer pressure to conquer the 200-pound deadlift. A personal sense of pride. Unadulterated vanity. The notion that if my body looked a particular way, I would be happy.

Those motivations shaped my behavior. I ate “right” so I would reach my Weight Watchers goal weight. I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I would some day see my name on the RX or PR board at my CrossFit gym. I was driven by a sometimes-debilitating fear that I would never be “better.” And all of the work on the external me distracted from the things that were important to the real me.

Then a thought began to flicker in my subconscious. It started on holiday in Prague when I realized I liked exploring narrow, winding stairways. I was starting to loosen my grip on “destination” and reveling in “getting there.” That idea tickled me again when I was I was upside down during a handstand at the gym and during a fun, stopwatch-free run around the lake: What if I’ve been looking at this from the wrong direction?

My underlying motivation for all of it—the weight loss, the physical challenges, the healthy eating—has always been that I wanted to be the best version of myself. Happy, healthy, fit, strong, attractive, content. But that pure motivation was poorly translated into external measures that separated what I wanted from what I did.

So I got the notion to try something different. For the first time in more than three decades, what if I didn’t set a physical goal? No weight loss, no “leaning out,” no target time on the clock or weight on the bar, no SMART goals at all.

Instead, what if I simply behaved like the best version of myself?

Then I would become her.

The best version of me knows that all of my healthy behaviors—avoiding foods that make me feel terrible, sleeping eight hours per night, training wisely at the gym—are in service of the other things in my life that are important to me. The best me is free of worrying about what number might appear on a scale or a measuring tape. Instead of being intimidated or threatened by smarter, stronger, faster friends—in the gym and in life, I delight in their capabilities and steal their best tricks. And I remember to encourage the people around me to be their best, too.

Finally, the best version of me knows that I’m not required to eat do any particular thing—to eat clean or meditate or practice yoga or lift heavy or get solid sleep or write that essay. There is no accounting ledger keeping track of exemplary behavior for a reward later. There is no opportunity to earn a metaphorical gold star.

Those things are their own reward. They are the thing.

So I’ve banished “concrete” goals. I know that “Be the best version of me” doesn’t follow the traditional goal format. I don’t care. I’ve done it the conventional way; now I do it my way.

The best version of me refuses to be measured by some external yardstick.

The best version of me happily goes to bed early, reads lots of books, wakes up refreshed, eats paleo, trains wisely, lifts heavy things, remembers to play a little every day, spreads love, looks up, leads with my chin, dances in the kitchen, and sings out loud.

Not because I must.

Because I want to. Because that’s me. The best me.

What’s the best version of you?

Not the one you think other people want to see, or the one the media tells you to be. The one you desire to be, deep down. Can you work toward being the best version of you? Without judgment? Without punishment? Without reward? Can you revel in being you?

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Comments

  • Vikki says:

    Happy Holidays.

    Thank you for beautifully putting down in words what I felt over the last few years. Taking care of myself in a loving and nurturing way is the best gift I can give myself and the ones I care about. Life is full of curiosity and wonder ,not meant to be just a way to get to the finish line. I have learned to start enjoying the adventure, the finding out what is around the next corner.

    To more living!

    All the best,

    Vikki-an intrepid traveler through life

  • Kathie Gray says:

    What wonderfully wise words, thank you. I am in a similar point in my health journey and learning to take the best bits of diet and lifestyle advice and then do it my way, in my time, without feeling pressurised. I wish you great joy and good health as you follow your bliss in 2019.

  • Chris B says:

    Happy New Year! And thank you for this inspiring essay. Your words hit home:

    “What’s the best version of you? Not the one you think other people want to see, or the one the media tells you to be. The one you desire to be, deep down.”

    I’m adopting this happy theme in 2019.

  • Lucy S says:

    I feel the saying is overrated of late, but, I just have to say …. “This!”

    Inspiring, motivational, loving, kind, generous, joyful.

    Thank you …