Lessons I learnt in 2015

On the last day of the year for the past few years now I’ve blogged a review of my achievements during the year. 2015 however has been quite a different year and I want to mark it in a different way. There have been some great times this year, but unfortunately there have been some not so great times, and through the good and bad I have learnt some key lessons that span across all areas of my life. I wanted to document these, both for myself to aid my reflection, and for others in case these may also apply to you. So here’s the main lessons I learnt this year:

Quality not quantity

It’s a common cliche (in fact many of these lessons may be, sorry!), but there’s definite truth in this for me. By this I mean quality of everything – items, experiences, and people.

I read a number of books that struck a chord with me this year, including Stuffocation: Living More With Less and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I used to be a bit of a hoarder but a project I managed in 2009 taught me the value in decluttering. I managed a special collection that needed attention and following a huge weeding process found that users thanked me for buying new stock though actually it had been there for a year or two but was previously difficult to spot amongst all the other material. The books I read this year, and my experience in preparing to moving house, cemented this lesson for me and I now have a lot less stuff and feel so much better for it. I can now focus on enjoying what I have and not feel crippled by decisions from having too many options.

Did I really need this many nail polishes?
Did I really need this many nail polishes?

I’ve also begun to echo this focus on quality in other areas of my life and am appreciating it (e.g. a smaller number of current projects, focusing on things I’m really passionate about rather than spreading myself too much with too many things going on).

Focus on fulfilment in the short term, not striving for happiness in the long term

For as long as I can remember I’ve dedicated a lot of energy on working out what makes me happy and planning to do more of that or similar things in future. That seems like a fairly reasonable thing, however thanks to some conversations with a therapist and lots of personal reflection (and shared reflections thanks to my amazingly supportive partner and some fabulous friends), I’ve realised it doesn’t work for me. Two small changes to the approach have made a huge difference to my life. The first is the change from happiness to fulfilment – yes, it might just be semantics to some, but for me it makes a big difference. The second is the change from long term to shorter term, which is still a work in progress and something I think I’ll always struggle with as a natural planner, but definitely something I have benefited from and hope to incorporate more. The Power of Now was an interesting read on this topic (though some of the book really irked me!). In the past I have done things because I planned to, rather than because I wanted to. By the time it came round to doing them however, I may not actually have wanted to; I never really considered it as it was on the plan so of course needs to be done! I realise this makes me sound a little crazy but fortunately Claire did a much better job of explaining this in her blog post on A New Chapter where she says:

People change and adapt over time and what you really want today might not be what you want in a year

This year I’ve been more open to this and have been making more decisions based on the present situation.

Previously I have also been guilty of focusing so much on saving for the future (financially as well as in other aspects) and not focusing on what’s happening in the present or trying to enjoy the process of getting to the elusive future happiness.

Learning to focus on the present, and leading a fulfilling life now rather than punishing myself or denying myself of things because of the past or the future, has been transformational for me. This blog post is one example; I’m not following my usual structure of my annual reflection because ‘that’s what I’ve always done’ isn’t an acceptable reason to do something for me anymore. It’s also massively changed my approach to personal finance which is a good thing but is taking some getting used to!

It’s OK to be vulnerable, and to share any struggles

I’ve always had a lot of respect for people who are authentic and not afraid to show their weaknesses, but I don’t feel like I was fully doing that myself. Because of this people sometimes seemed to have an inaccurate perception of me which I found a little unsettling. For example, I speak in public quite a bit through my work, and I enjoy it. I also find it absolutely exhausting, and am usually a bag of nerves before I start to speak. I’ve developed coping mechanisms over time and sometimes the nerves and tiredness aren’t as much of an issue, but I think they’ll always be there to some extent.

When I spoke at the CILIP Conference earlier this year I was really nervous
When I spoke at the CILIP Conference earlier this year I was really nervous

I haven’t consciously tried to hide these things, but because people tend to just see the bit during the public speaking, and I’ve been told I come across as competent and confident, I don’t think people realise how hard public speaking can be for me. I’m not after the sympathy (please put away any mocking violins you have in your mind!), and I fully intend to continue speaking in public as the pros massively outweigh the cons, but I’be realised I need to share the things I struggle with more. Partly it’s about being fully honest (by not hiding anything), partly it’s about showing I’m human and have weaknesses, partly it’s about developing a more emotional connection with others, and partly it’s about setting an example so others don’t feel afraid to accept and share their struggles. Also sometimes others can help out which is always a bonus (some of my closest friends know to give me time to myself before and after public speaking for example, and that helps me a lot).

Have more fun

Unfortunately it took a therapist, a fair bit of money, a few worksheets, some soul searching, and some tricky conversations to make me realise that I need to have more fun in my life. Fortunately since then I’ve had a lot more fun (seeing family and friends more, trying new things, going on holiday) and am much kinder too myself too.

Post zipwire at Center Parcs in September
Post zipwire at Center Parcs in September

And on that note, I’m going to end this blog post there. I hope you all learnt something from your experiences in 2015 (please feel free to share in the comments if you’d like to), and I hope you have a fabulous 2016. Cheers! ????