2016 lessons

2016 has received a lot of flak for being a generally crappy year. On paper though, my 2016 has been a pretty good year. We sold our house after a stressful and drawn out process – hoorah! We settled into a new area in a house we love closer to family and friends. I’ve had some great days and evenings exploring places, discovering new restaurants, and doing fun activities. I came to the realisation that I wanted to freelance so I left my job and I’ve had a successful first few months as a freelancer. I’ve strengthened existing friendships and relationships, and built new ones.
However, I think 2016 has been one of the most challenging years of my life. I’ve learnt a lot; and thought I’d share my main lessons. I do look back at my previous ‘end of year’ blog posts (I’ve been doing them since 2008!) so this is partially for myself to look back on, but as before I’m sharing publicly in case this is of value to others too. So here’s my main lessons from 2016…

Being authentic and comfortable with showing my true self leads to greater fulfilment

Authenticity is something that’s been important to me for a while, and I’ve been striving to learn more about myself to enable me to live more authentically. I’ve learnt a lot about my values, my strengths, and my motivators. I’ve been fortunate that in most areas of my life I’ve been able to align more strongly with these, though it hasn’t always been easy. Going freelance has been incredibly helpful in this respect; everything I do in my work is now up to me, so not only can I ensure I align the work I do with my authentic self, but I can also align the way I do it. I attended my first event as a freelancer a few weeks ago, and during the networking someone paid me a great compliment when they joked that I shouldn’t be so honest if I want to sell my work as a freelancer (I think I said something about enjoying working for myself but that my boss was a bit of a slave driver!). I loved this; I don’t want to ‘sell’ myself or my services in any way other than the truth because there’s no point misleading people and working with people who expect a version of me that is different to who I really am. I’m a hard worker, I’m passionate about the work I do, I’m a night owl rather than a morning person, I’m not a huge fan of phone calls, I’m silly, I make fun of myself, I enjoy giving and receiving banter and I have a filthy mind. I’m fortunate to work with some amazing people who accept and value me because of, or in spite of, all these qualities.

I’ve also found that I’m fortunate to have people in my life that I can be completely honest with. I love that I can have conversations where I don’t have to filter what I’m saying and I can show my vulnerabilities and know that they will still respect me and won’t judge me negatively for this. Living more authentically, both in what I do and how I do things isn’t something I can achieve like an item on a to do list but is something I aim to practice as much as I can and when I am able to do so I find it incredibly fulfilling.

Time (and money) spent with those I love is worth every second (and penny)

This might seem an obvious one, but my actions in the past might not have shown this. Family and friends have always been the most important thing in my life, yet although I always valued my time with them I used to spend far more time and energy on other things (such as my career) and used to save money to the extent that it was detrimental to both myself and those I love. This year I’ve started adjusting my priorities in terms of how I spend my time and money. I am fortunate to have a great support network, and I appreciate the people who are part of this. I want to show that in my actions so this year I’ve spent more time with family and friends, both in person and texting/chatting online, and I’ve spent more money travelling to see people and doing fun things together. I occasionally regret purchases I’ve made, but I don’t regret any of the money spent on experiences with those I love. At times my priorities shift in a different direction, but I’m much more aware of how important it is to invest in my relationships so try to make sure to prioritise this more. One example of this is that once a week my partner and I try to go out for lunch/coffee/walk/cinema; we’re now both self-employed so try to make the most of being able to do so during quieter periods, and I really cherish this time we spend together.

Constantly striving for perfection can be debilitating

When we went to therapy last year, one of the things which touched a nerve with me was when the therapist mentioned that I was a perfectionist. I’d never really realised this, or accepted it anyway, and was quick to defend it by showing that I just always want to improve and for everything to be the best it can be and for people to perceive me and my work in a positive way. Then I realised I’d basically just described a perfectionist. Oh. I’d always seen my drive to improve as a positive thing, but this year I’ve seen a negative side to this. At times I have been so wrapped up in trying to do the right thing and get everything perfect that I’ve neglected basic things such as sleep. It’s also caused delays on things I’m really motivated to do and have spent a long time thinking about though often avoided actually making concrete progress on because I’ve been worried things aren’t quite perfect. I need to let go of this more often, accept things are very rarely perfect, and that actually things don’t usually need to be perfect – good enough is often OK.

Sometimes I experience emotions that don’t make logical sense… and that’s OK

Up until the last few years, I’ve not really let my emotions show much; I haven’t consciously held them back, just not felt the need to let them show often. I prided myself on being a fairly rational person, so my emotions have made logical sense most of the time. This year however I learnt that sometimes your emotions don’t make logical sense, but that’s OK. Sometimes great things can be happening in life, but you might feel some elements of sadness. This is particularly the case when going through change; dealing with change is an emotional rollercoaster whether you perceive it as a negative change or positive change (amusingly it took leading a workshop on change management to make me realise I was going through this process at the time!). Sometimes you might feel differently than you thought you would about something, or someone, and that’s OK too. I now pay more attention to my emotions, though I try not to spend too much time worrying about them. Which leads me to my final lesson…

Being a reflective person who analyses all situations can be totally paralysing

After almost 10 years of introspective blogging, I think it’s safe to say I’m a reflective person. This is something that has been beneficial in my career – as a reflective practitioner I really enjoyed working towards my CILIP Chartership (and Fellowship which I’m currently doing). However, there’s a fine line between reflecting and overanalysing. Reflecting on what you have learnt (like in this blog post) I find helpful; overanalysing a situation or a conversation I don’t find helpful. I do it though, and this year I’ve done it a lot. I think this is partly due to self-doubt due to changes in circumstances, partly due to a general lack of confidence, and partly because I’m just so damn curious that I want to understand and make sense of everything. I can’t. I’ll never know everyone else’s interpretation of a situation, and I’m even less likely to be able to understand their interpretation, and I don’t need to. Though try telling that to my brain sometimes. This one is definitely a work in progress to try to stop overanalysing things and focus more on living for the moment.

What have you learnt this year? Any words of wisdom to pass on?

I’m struggling a bit at the moment with my physical and mental health, so for 2017 I’m not going to set specific resolutions and instead am going to try to continue to follow the principles that help me live a more fulfilling life. I’m going to make more time for self-care (reading, crafting, walking, exercising, pampering, spending time with family and friends). I’m going to try to live more in balance every day – incorporating work, hobbies and interests, family and friends, physical wellbeing, and mental wellbeing. Oh, and I’m going back to Disneyworld!

Hope you all have a great 2017 🙂