2019 Review: What I Learnt And Experienced
This is where I do an annual review of what I've done over the past year.
Much of what I tried to do this year was to consolidate good habits that I wanted to keep. Professionally, this has been a tumultuous year, with a lot of changes (good and bad), which has meant an increased importance in ensuring my personal life was humming along smoothly. There are therefore a lot of similar themes to last year, where I've focused on my health, nutrition and fitness.
Sleep - Following on from last year, sleep is still a sporadic problem for me, though I feel like I'm able to nip issues in the bud quicker. When I feel the insomnia pattern starting at night, I'm quicker to get out of bed and do some reading in a separate room, or if less severe, to do some deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to slow down my heart rate and clear whatever anxiety is going through my head. My sleep routine is still poor, but getting better as I've slowly been putting in place new habits. These include stopping the consumption of coffee after 3pm (genetics says I'm a fast metaboliser of caffeine, otherwise I'd cut-off at 12pm), not working after leaving the office, eating my dinner as early as possible, and when timing permits, doing my daily high intensity exercise earlier on in the evening.
Nutrition - I've decided to remain relaxed over eating eggs and dairy, though I am still eating plant-based about 90% of the time. A new ferment that I've added to my home brew lab is water kefir, as new information continually streams in about the importance of having a healthy gut biome. I've also been working on diversifying the different plant foods I eat weekly, just to ensure I'm getting a range of nutrients from different sources, to improve my cooking knowledge and again, to encourage new beneficial strains of bacteria to colonise my gut.
Fasting - I've carried on doing the Prolon fasting-mimicking diet quarterly, but still no water-only fasts (I have to say I'm still uncertain about how conclusive the research is on fasting for women). I've found each Prolon cycle easier and easier though, which maybe says something about my body's improving ability to switch into ketosis faster. I've found that I'm able to complete high-intensity exercises fasted without the feelings of fatigue I used to get. And fun side note, also managed to get to around kilometer 60 of an endurance cycling event fasted (I kind of forgot to eat as hunger wasn't even on my mind). Hopefully this all means that I'm getting fat adapted. What's also helped is sticking to a 8-9 hour eating window daily (i.e. 15-16 hour overnight fasts).
Genetic testing - Following on from getting my 23andMe sequence done in 2017, I've delved deeper into this, using tools like Promethease and FoundMyFitness to further analyse my SNPs. My aim is to better understand my genetics so that I can make more informed, personalised lifestyle choices in line with any SNP variations I might have (something which 23andMe doesn't do well). A good example is that I now know I'm a poor ALA converter. I've therefore stopped relying on omega-3 sources like flaxseed and chia seeds, and am instead taking straight-up (plant-based) sources of EPA and DHA.
Mindfulness - My sit-down meditation practice went out the window this year as I've struggled with a lack of sleep and thus waking up early. I need to figure out a better solution for this, this year. One thing that I am pleased about however, is continuing my daily journaling. I started by keeping a daily log over 2018 which I've continued this year. I also starting doing a spot of gratitude journaling every night, along with writing one thing that I learnt that day. Towards the end of 2019, I also introduced 5 bullet Fridays (hey Tim Ferriss!) where I write down up to 5 things I've learnt / reflected on / realised in the week just gone. Whilst I still feel friction and dis-ease at having to write something every evening, the gratitude piece in particular has been instrumental in making me a calmer, more empathetic and positive person.
Yoga - For the first time ever, I've managed to sustain a yoga practice! Madness! I was one of those people who never "got" yoga - it was too slow, too boring, wasn't intense enough to be counted as exercise, blah blah blah. Turns out, it's all about finding the right studio / teacher, and making it a habit. Over 2019, I did yoga consistently over 8 months, on average 3-4 times a week. It helped to be able to physically feel the progression in my flexibility and how it translated to all the other exercises and sports I do. I'll definitely be continuing this in 2020.
Executive coaching - I passed my coaching exam and got my AoEC certification in executive coaching early in the year. Most memorable for me was helping two clients hit their goals for getting promotions across the 6 months that I worked with them. 🥳
Sci-fi books - I came to the realisation this year that I actually really enjoy sci-fi books! (I had just not been reading the sub-genres that piqued my interests previously.) Sci-fi books I particularly enjoyed reading this year are Contact, Ender's Game, Dark Matter and Exhalation.
Drums - I decided to take the plunge this year and start learning how to play the drums. This has been on my bucket list for years and I'm glad to have finally started on this journey. I've been mostly learning on my own, on an electronic drum kit, and have been trying to exercise all I've learned around habit formation and how to learn effectively. It's been supremely fun picking up a musical instrument again, and exercising a part of my brain that's lain dormant for years.
Skiing - I managed to squeeze a ski trip in with family over the Christmas period this year, in Méribel, Les 3 Valées, France. Courcheval is still my favourite valley out of the three, but it was more about spending time with family this time round. Having said that, I have no complaints, as the snow conditions were absolutely fantastic. I feel like my skiing progress has somewhat plateaued, so it might be time for me to look into skiing classes the next time I'm on the slopes. I am just supremely happy though, to have been able to end a stressful year, in the beautiful French Alps, breathing in crisp, cold air, whilst being physically active daily. All year round, I work at trying to be focused. Well, skiing is one of the ultimate forms of focus exercise for me as I continue to work hard at striking the balance between going down fast and not falling flat on my face. 😄
Marathons - None this year, though I entered, and failed to get through the Tokyo Marathon ballot. I did complete the Prudential 100 mile cycling event in London though, which I managed to finish in around 6.5 hours. This was the longest cycling event I've ever done and I was just happy that I managed to complete it without doing any cycle-specific training.
Geographic location - The physical location of where I'm based constantly weighs on my mind. I'm Malaysian, but have now lived in London for more years of my life. I feel that I don't fit in Kuala Lumpur anymore, but I'm not completely comfortable being a Brit either. My partner is French. My colleagues are British. My parents are in KL, but my siblings are global. I've been increasingly aware of how important it is for me to be able to be geographically independent and so, decided to try working out of KL for about 1 month. Also knowing that I might decide to leave London shortly in the future, I wrote a London bucket list and worked through ticking them off over the year. This was fun and very satisfying (I love a good checklist!).
Travels - I visited two, slightly off the typical travel destinations path this year, which I absolutely loved. The Azores (a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean) and Israel. Both were amazing trips in their own special ways.
Living sustainably - I've been making more conscious decisions on how I live my daily life to try to reduce my impact on the world. This started with going pretty-much plant-based nearly 5 years ago. I can count on one hand, combined, the number of single-use plastic / paper bags, water bottles and coffee cups I've bought / used in the last year. I've been vermi-composting my household food waste, to the extent possible (worms are not the fastest decomposers), for 7-8 years now. I don't own a car, and rarely buy takeaway food (packaging!). It all helps in some way, but this is a continuous journey and I've still got loads to improve on. This past year, I've started paying to offset my carbon emissions through tree planting. I've also stopped taking single-use cutlery (but still need to remember to say "no straw" when buying drinks!). I'll be working on improving other aspects of my lifestyle over 2020 which I can hopefully report positively on next year.
Exiting my company - Probably the biggest news this year was finally exiting the startup company I co-founded over 5 years ago. The way it's ended has been positive, where the main thing for me had been to ensure that whatever happened, I would be leaving with my reputation intact and head held high. Happily, I feel that we have accomplished this with our investors, team, clients and industry. I am now excited to move on and explore what I want my next move to be.
So 2020 will definitely be a year of changes. I wish us both luck as we see what the next year has in store for us!