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Change Your Life: Be Honest with Yourself and Make Conscious Choices

Standing in the Sun

“If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.” ~Fay Weldon

During the last year I have made significant changes. I have changed my habits, values, thoughts, and perception of life. It has been an amazing journey and I have learned some valuable lessons that I want to share with you about happiness, motivation, and standing up for decisions you believe in.

I have always loved attention and I have always loved to party. In Denmark, it is not unusual that students drink two to three times a week, and I used to do that, as well.

Last year I went to Australia for six months to study and travel. I continued this insane habit of drinking, and sometimes we ended up drinking five to six times a week.

I started to realize the profound negative effects of drinking excessively.

Concentration became a challenge sometimes and I could feel my brain was slowing down. That made it harder to speak English (as a non-native speaker), and I was never motivated to work hard on anything. Furthermore, I sometimes felt stuck in an endless cycle of emptiness.

On October 31, 2012, I made a conscious decision that would change my life. I had been drinking for six days in a row and I decided to go for a walk one morning. I walked twenty kilometers in the most beautiful rain forest in Australia, thinking about what I wanted to do with my life.

I once read a quote that read, “Set a goal so big that if you achieved it, it would blow your mind.” I was trying to figure out what that goal was for me.

When I read that quote again I realized that I had the potential to live a far more dedicated and purposeful life. I wanted to realize my potential and become proud of who I was.  

I decided that I would stop drinking alcohol for a year and I would do Ironman Copenhagen in 2013. I had never been on a road bike before, I did not know how to swim, and I had bad knees.

Despite the tiny chances of success, I had a desire to begin this adventure to become more and prove that I was capable of anything.

Making a conscious decision had a powerful impact on me and I was convinced that I could do it. After that, I started looking for ways to accomplish my goal and people that could help me.

I went to the swimming pool the following morning and approached the most experienced swimmer there.

I asked him for the best advice for a beginner, and after three months of intense training, I could swim. I sought advice everywhere and learned new lessons all the time. I was developing and my habits were changing for the better.

I was training six days a week, sometimes several times a day. When my friends were out partying, I was either training or resting. When my friends were running ten miles, I ran twenty. Everything I did was a reflection of my priority to reach my goal. Nothing was more important to me.

Even though I felt like snoozing in the morning, I refused and said “no.” Voices kept telling me to stay in bed but I didn’t ask their opinion anymore. Instead, I listened to the voice saying there was a reason I’d set my alarm in the first place.

I was out running ten miles on New Years Eve at three in the morning, and I felt a motivation that I had never felt before because I was moving toward a goal so challenging, and at the same time running away from the old me. I had a desire to become a better version of me.

On August 18, 2013, I crossed the finish line of Ironman Copenhagen in eleven hours and twenty-two minutes, finishing forty-three in my age group. I had been sober for ten months and I had never been in a better shape.

I experienced an increase in focus during those ten months, and I had never experienced that level of happiness before. The feeling of staying true to the decision I made felt amazing.

Twelve months ago I was capable of drinking a case of beer in eleven hours. Now, I was capable of swimming 3.8 kilometers, biking 180 kilometers, and running a marathon in the same period of time.

I developed from being a boy, depending on approval and attention from other people, to an Ironman, staying true to the decisions I made and being comfortable about taking my own path.

I have learned several important things about life over the past twelve months. Today I want to share the three most important lessons I learned:

1. Others will respect you for making your own choice—and you will respect yourself.

Going from drinking six times a week to training for an Ironman is a radical change. I had to give up some of the things I used to do. In addition to giving up alcohol, I had to decrease the number of social activities I attended.

In the beginning, I was scared that people wouldn’t accept my choice and would talk me out of it.

Some tried to do this, but most of my close friends supported me because they could see that I became happier pursuing this dream.

Others may accept you if you choose the usual way of life. However, people will respect you even more for making your own choices and sticking to them. More importantly, you will start to respect yourself more, as well.

2. Success is a choice.

I was nowhere near the shape of an Ironman when I decided to compete in one. I had never tried to ride a road bike before and I couldn’t swim. How did I accomplish this anyway?

I made a commitment to myself that no matter what I had to overcome in order to complete an Ironman, I would overcome it. I made sure that success was a choice and not a wish.

If you commit to seeing something through, you accept no excuses but only results. When people start giving up, you keep going!

Always remind yourself that with one step comes the decision to take another. Believe the voice that says you can run a little faster and work a little harder.

When we commit to do this, success is no longer a wish but a choice. Keep in mind that success is not equal to winning or being the best. You are the one who defines what it means. Regardless of what you achieve, waking up every morning and doing what you said you’d do can equal success.

3. Be honest with yourself.

After completing an Ironman I was convinced that every success starts with a conscious, honest decision. I made a conscious decision about doing it because I had an honest, deep desire to show myself that I was capable of anything.

Don’t fool yourself into pursuing goals that do not make sense to you. Chasing goals that align with your values and priorities is what brings happiness.

I always aim to keep in mind that motivation is like a fire within. If someone else tries to light that fire in you, chances are that it will burn briefly. When we are the ones to ignite that fire inside, we will experience more happiness and increased motivation.

You can only ignite that fire by being honest with yourself about what needs to change and which choices supports your values.

I experienced that something temporary can become permanent because we love our new situation more than the previous.

What I thought would be a year without alcohol is now becoming a more and more permanent choice. I did something unexpected and something unexpected happened. I changed from a boy to an Ironman.

Living a happy life is about taking responsibility and making conscious decisions. When are you going to change for the better? When are you going to experience more happiness? Start today.

Photo by fromthevalleys-

Avatar of Anders Hasselstrøm

About Anders Hasselstrøm

Anders Hasselstrøm is a motivational speaker and athlete from Denmark. He completed Ironman in 2013 and has won the following awards: “Talent of the Year” and “Most Outstanding Student.” He’s a dedicated and enthusiastic person with massive dreams. Based on implementing healthy habits and experience I show you the way to your personal success.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Darshan

    An awesome story. Congratulations on your success Anders, and thank you for the motivational tips, especially as we approach the New Year! I used to be an early morning bird to get my daily workout in. Your post has inspired me to start that again. Off we go, Happy New Year everyone!

  • Deanna Lang

    Way to go, Anders! You’ve inspired me to make some changes of my own this year!

  • Sarah

    Thank you for sharing your experience! You ROCK!!! How wonderful to have finished the Ironman Copenhagen 2013!!! Congratulations and thank you for the inspiration!!!

  • Nette

    Wow! Amazing story. Thank you. You are an inspiration. I am on the threshold of making significant changes in my life and this story has motivated me even more.

  • himanshu

    i came got this link on the eve of new year and i was deep down but this helped me a lot in getting up again and be something better, thanks a lot anders, thanks a lot :)

  • Adam

    Thanks for such an insightful article, Anders. This particularly resonates with me since I’ve recently made the same decision to quit drinking for a year. I realized the amount of money I’ve poured into drinking and it truly astonished me. There are people who truly struggle in this world just to drink clean water and that made me feel terrible when my biggest struggle was getting rid of a hangover which was self induced. That’s why I’m taking a portion of the money I save from not drinking and donating it to a clean water charity. The rest of the money I’m using to buy a bike so I can enjoy the beautiful part of the country I’m blessed to live in. I think you’re exactly right when you say the fire has to come from within and you’ll experience more happiness and increased motivation. I can already see the domino effect this is having with other areas of my life :)

  • Scott Dougall

    how deeply truthful this is – I have all this fear around those things I want to do – doing nothing is not working – in fact its a disaster – I have just had the worst year of my entire life – but when I sit here and think about it I have all the answers in front of me – all I require is the courage to act… thank you so much for sharing your experiences and your insight

  • Aisha Abdulla

    How inspiring! Congrats and Keep Inspiring people! :)

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Hello Deanna,

    Thanks for the lovely comment. I appreciate it :o)

    Have a wonderful 2014. If you believe I can help you with any of your changes I’d be happy to help.

    Best,
    Anders

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Dear Sarah,

    What a wonderful comment to see. Thank you so much. Being recognized for an achievement I’m proud of myself means a lot to me. Being able to complement other people for their achievement is a mark of the superior personality, I believe.

    Best,
    Anders

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Dear Nette,

    Thanks for the comment. Sounds interesting! What are you up to in 2014? I’d love to hear your goals and dreams. I’m uploading a blog post within 3 weeks with my own personal goals for 2014. I’m looking forward to sharing it.

    Best,
    Anders

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Dear Himanshu,

    It makes me happy to hear that I have helped you. Whenever you feel like this Himanshu try and find some inspiration and joy in what you already have. Make a list of all the things in life you are truly grateful for and keep reminding yourself. Life is what we make of it.

    Best,
    Anders

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Dear Adam,

    Thanks for commenting.

    I truly admire your change and your realization. If everyone started to think a bit more you I believe we would live in a better world. Why do we drink alcohol after all? Most people probably do it because everyone else does it. Making a conscious decision to stop drinking is admirable in my world. Your donation means more to other people than you think. Good job my friend. Thanks!

    You should bring your bike to Denmark and then I’ll show you the beautiful landscape we have here. Where are you from?

    Best,
    Anders

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Thanks Aisha :o)

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Dear Scott,

    Thanks for your comment. 2013 is long gone now Scott and what matters is what you start doing today. Have the courage to act and chase your dreams. I’d love to help if you believe I can help with anything.

    Best,
    Anders

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Hi Darshan,

    Thanks for commenting and the positive feedback. Makes me happy to hear. I actually made a post about “10 Awesome New Years Resolution Ideas” – Maybe you can find some inspiration in this: http://andershasselstrom.com/10-awesome-new-years-resolution-ideas/

    Please keep me updated on your progress my friend,

    Best,
    Anders

  • Scott Dougall

    thank you – I am finding this holiday – a sort of rest between one thing and another thing has been helpful – the malady of last year was quite multi faceted – principally to do with my family but also involving work and some other issues in my sport – together it felt destabilising and created quite some sense of shock – it was hard to deal with any one thing without some sense of stability – however this will not come until I act to regain my balance – reading and reflecting on articles like this is a huge help along that path – thank you.

  • Happy Chick

    Thank you! That was great reading.

  • Veganzombie

    Nice. I currently going through a similar situation. Partying seemed like a relief for my constant depression though it has become more destructive for me. I was afraid to lose myself but since I broke up with my boyfriend and depression felt just a big burden I decided to be alone to clarify my thoughts and be true to myself. Thanks for this article.

  • Chai

    My fear is holding me back for the past few years. Now it’s about time to face it and make a change. I know it will not be easy but the fire inside me will make the impossible possible . Thank you for writing this very inspiring story. All the best to you!;)

  • iamjay

    Deep. Thanks soo much for posting!