Have you seen those memes that say, ‘me at the beginning of 2016’ and then ‘me at the end of 2016’ with a fresh faced, full of hope Kate Winslet/ Winona Ryder/ Lisa Simpson on the left and a much older, utterly ravaged version of them on the right?
Lady, I feel them.. but I don’t mind. You see, I’ve learnt that hard/ painful/ challenging/ big years are the ones where, on reflection, I’ve grown the most. And this past year sure did give me a lot of opportunity for growth and personal development.
I’m not gonna lie. There’s been a whole lot of love, laughter and delicious food this year. But there were also plenty of tears, tiredness and shitty times. And on reflection, there’s been a flood of golden lessons.
Here’s some of the biggest – 5 Hard Lessons I Learnt In 2016:
(BTW this post is a little different from my regular ones. This week I’m opening up and getting vulnerable and personal. I hope you don’t mind! Read on and you’ll see what I mean.)
Lesson 1: I need community to flourish
The truth is I’m most comfortable as a lone wolf. I have a lot of experience going my own way and smashing myself to do everything that needs to be done alone. Yes, I’d have people helping me out with Betty Means Business… but they were always geographically dispersed and scattered around the world. My day to day experience was one of being alone and working in isolation for most of the day. My introverted nature loved it… so at first it wasn’t apparent, but over time – and following a traumatic event about 2 years ago – I started to struggle.
It took me a while to realise that happiness had snuck out the back door.
I used to desire a location independent business, but once I achieved it, I realised the isolation that came along with it, didn’t serve my highest self. In fact, these days I’m yearning for a light, bright HQ and a small team actually working alongside me there. Working as a team, building something together, and creating a fun, fulfilling working environment for others: these are some of my goals at the moment.
As soon as I woke up to this, I started connecting more with friends and family, focusing on building team and looking for opportunities to be part of in-the-flesh co-working teams.
My daily baseline happiness levels soared almost instantly. The anxiety I’d been experiencing basically vanished. Friends, family and even strangers noticed. Now I get comments almost daily on how happy I seem.
Lesson: I had to get to a pretty dark place for this lesson, but it was worth it. Figure out which working environment makes you happiest, and get creative about how you can create opportunities to bring those environments to life.
Lesson 2: Real holidays are non-negotiable
At the beginning of 2016, Rod and I went to Japan for about 6 weeks. I took my work with me. He didn’t. You guys know by now, I really REALLY love what I get to do. I love working with clients and blogging and everything that goes along with it… but even as I was welcoming in new coaching clients I was excited to be working with (some of them even became my favourite ever clients!)… a part of me felt resentful.
Rather than letting myself completely switch off for a good block of time, I found myself in a grey limbo: working reduced hours each day to be sure, but never letting myself get much mental distance from things. I was never having a proper break.
I realised I’d defined my location independent business as one that I never take a break from… and how ridiculous and unsustainable that definition was. (Interestingly, this definition didn’t apply to anyone else’s business, just mine, because, you know, I have different hard-ass rules for myself.)
I packed up my laptop and hid it under the bed for a week. And proved something to myself that I’ve since proved over and over again: I have my best ideas and flashes of clarity when I’m offline and mentally away from work. Also, I don’t know why, but PayPal payments always seem to come through when I’m offline.
Lesson: Proper holidays and regular time offline are essential.
Lesson 3: Doing THE RIGHT things is more important than doing A LOT of things
This year I’ve been busier with client work than I’ve been in a long time. At first, I tried to keep up with everything I’d normally do, but that just saw me regularly losing my shit.
I recently watched a documentary about minimalism. At one point the main characters said something along the lines of ‘making the decision to let go is the hardest part, after that the benefits are immediate’. I was struck by how this idea applied to my workload this year. It was difficult to mentally make peace with the idea of not getting everything I’d like done exactly the way I’d done it before, but after prioritising/delegating/outsourcing/just plain removing tasks things got easier for sure.
Through necessity, I’ve become a lot more essentialist in my thinking and doing this year. I’ve still got a lot to learn/improve on with this, but I’m more focused on my highest-impact habits, doing way less in my business than I was at the beginning of the year, and things are going well. In fact, Betty Means Business is growing faster than ever.
Lesson: Figure out your highest-impact habits and tasks, and do ONLY THEM each day. Re-evaluate often.
Lesson 4: Time is precious
When it comes down to it, health and relationships are all that really matter.
A little while ago someone important to me got really sick. After the initially terrifying news and subsequent worst-case-scenario-projecting panic, I started thinking about grand gestures I could do. Should I organise a huge overseas holiday? Should I quickly get married? BUT I soon realised that actually it’s just time together and really knowing each other that’s the most precious thing to me. You know, genuine deep relationships, realness, and all that good stuff.
This illness also put my own health in the spotlight for me personally like it hasn’t been for a long while. You see, I’ve never been great at really putting my health first; it’s always felt a little selfish BUT these days if I’m not vibrantly healthy, I could be A) putting someone else’s life at risk, or B) unable to spend time with them at all.
So, I made a personal commitment to sleep more, exercise, meditate, eat well, take supplements, and use hand sanitizer. And surprisingly, I don’t feel like a wanker about it. I’m not perfect, It’s a daily practice and I’m working on it, but so far so good.
Lesson: Our grandparents were right: Time is our most precious resource. Get clear on what’s really important and then dedicate more of your time to it.
Lesson 5: Busy times need an anchor
The busy-ness and big-ness of 2016 meant that there were times when things (ok ok, when I) quickly got out of control.
Out-of-control-Kate is well-meaning but completely unproductive and unable to switch off at night. Small things that go wrong for out-of-control-Kate feel like A VERY BIG DEAL. All in all, out-of-control-Kate is frustrated and exhausted most of the time.
I realised, after experimenting with a few different approaches, that an hour to myself first up each morning made a massive difference, even if it means having to wake up early. (Actually, I gave myself the opportunity to learn this lesson a few times over because, well, getting up really early is a challenge.)
I discovered that a solid morning routine transforms my day immediately. And the benefits last all day. I also learnt that sadly, those incredible benefits don’t seem to last longer than a day or two, so I have to be vigilant and rock my morning routine every single day if I want to consistently feel great.
If you don’t already, I really urge you to think about your own morning routine and how you could start your day off right. If you’d like to learn more check out the book, The Miracle Morning. It sounds cheesy, but these days I think about my morning routine as a little daily gift to myself.
Lesson: Design and stick to a morning routine, or other rituals, daily to stay grounded and well.
Thanks for reading! I think looking back and capturing the lessons of the past year while they’re fresh in your mind can be so valuable. Did you learn any big lessons in 2016?