Howdy, friends. I’m back from Australia and my month-long hiatus from writing. I’ve missed you, and I’m so excited to share all the big life lessons and crazy photos from my trip. (Like these.)
But for now I want to squeeze in a different kind of post before 2012 ends: an Annual Review. In case you’ve forgotten, an Annual Review (created by my blog crush, Chris Guillebeau) is an excellent way to reflect on the highlights and lowlights of your year, and plan for a better future.
Last year I demonstrated how to conduct a simplified version of one for yourself by posting the results of my own personal Annual Review. Which, by the way, felt a bit like giving people a tour of my underwear drawer or something, but it was for a good cause. After all, with an Annual Review you are more likely to…
- accomplish your goals for the year.
- experience an increase in your self-esteem, level of gratitude, and sense of well-being.
- learn important lessons from past successes and failures.
If you’re new to all of this, here’s a quick recap of the guiding questions for conducting an Annual Review:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go well this year?
- What were the results of the goals you previously set for this year?
- What are your plans/ goals for next year?
- What is your theme for next year?
I’ve already typed up my answers to these questions for my own personal records. But instead of giving you a personal tour of my proverbial underwear drawer again, I’ll simply discuss a few helpful insights that have come to me since completing the activity.
1. Success is about progress more so than reaching 100% of your goals.
You’ll never have everything you want all at once. That’s just not how life works. And anyway, 100% success isn’t even necessary to feel happy and fulfilled. If you define success too rigidly you’ll set yourself up for perpetual misery (and possibly a heart attack). So instead of focusing solely on whether or not you accomplished your goals, look at how much progress you’ve made toward reaching them.
This year I accomplished several personal goals in the categories of health, finances, travel, relationships, cooking, and reading. However, I only reached one goal I had for this website (albeit one to be proud of). And I didn’t hit any of my goals in the categories of my music or charitable giving/ volunteer work. (Not one?! Arrg!)
But this is all good news. Why? Because there are 2 instances when people feel motivated to strive towards important goals:
- when you’ve made enough progress to know that you have the potential for eventual success
- when you’ve done a sh*tty job at something, and you can’t live with yourself if you repeat your mistakes
Fortunately, I’ve got both of these motivators lighting a fire under my ass. How about you?
2. Let go of your rigid timeline.
We all have a timeline for how we’d like our lives to unfold, and possibly even a specific deadline for certain goals.
For example, I wanted to grow my online counseling practice into my full-time, income-generating job within 3 years of its start so that it would coincide with the birth of my first child. My dream was to be a work-from-home mom. (You can inconspicuously breastfeed while Skyping with a client, right? Oh. Well, anyway…)
Listen, it obviously takes time to build a business, but it takes even longer to build something right and not make damaging sacrifices along the way. Be patient. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, even if you feel like you can’t wait any longer for the big prize.
So what does this philosophy end up looking like in my life? Well, there will probably be no breastfeeding while Skyping with clients. But more importantly, since releasing my private practice from the confines of my own rigid schedule, I’ve continued doing the daily foot work to build my dream, but I’m doing so without clinging to control, ego, and self-imposed deadlines out of fear. I’m happier. And that’s the point, isn’t it?
3. Turn failures into your greatest teachers.
I have had 2 unexpected challenges in my online counseling practice this year. If I were 8 years younger, I would have referred to these challenges as “humiliating regrets that were proof I’m a loser.” But I’m not 8 years younger; I’m a full-fledged grown-up, which means I choose to learn from the past, continue forward with my head held high, and be an even more competent clinician because of my mistakes.
If you don’t see failures as life lessons, failure is all you’ll ever experience.
4. It’s okay to change your mind.
Life is all about change, and people get anxious or depressed when they try to resist it.
So when I launched A Brave Life one year ago, guns blazing with 100% confidence about what kind of website this would be, I should have known things would shift, and that the anticipation of change would feel awful.
In fact, things are still very much in flux. (Is A Brave Life a personal blog? An online self-help magazine? A platform for my counseling practice?) But nowadays I’m okay with active evolution. In fact, I’d rather be on my way to something great than stubbornly– fearfully– clinging to what doesn’t work.
5. Get better at knowing what makes you happy.
With all the outward successes I’ve had lately, I confess that this was not one of the happier years in my life. It wasn’t a bad year, per se…just not a joyful one. And I’m realizing that joy is different from success. Joy is a state of being. And if you’ve really got it, it follows you no matter how near or far you are from reaching your goals.
So here at the end of 2012, I’ve decided I want a joyful life, not just a successful one. Which brings me to one last thing…
My theme for the upcoming year is: The Shift.
I’m interested in shifting my priorities, shifting my perspectives, and finding my way out of the hamster wheel that typically keeps driven people perpetually stressed/ anxious/ miserable. Because after my 2012 theme of Planting Seeds (which led to a very busy year of setting the stage for success), I’ve learned that reaching my personal goals is worthless if the journey itself does not lend itself to deeper joy and purpose in life.
Your Turn: What lessons did you learn (the hard way) this year? What are your hopes for 2013?