2016 – Not the worst year ever

I always umm and ah about doing Year in Review type posts because they feel self-indulgent when I’m writing them. But then I read other people’s reviews, especially people I know well, and always find something surprising in there. The subtle nuances of life that get lost on social media and in rushed conversations really emerge when people have time to reflect properly. I know a few things surprised me about my own year when I went through the exercise.

So here’s my year in the review (using questions from here). If you prefer listening to reading, Brooke and I answered some of the below in this episode of Let It Be.

WHAT WORKED

What did you enjoy?

I loved podcasting. Loved it. I thought it would take ages to find my feet and I was sure there would be many, many moments of “Oh no, I wish I didn’t say that” or “Gee, I could have said that SO much better”. Maybe it’s because I have two legend co-hosts in Brooke and Carly. Maybe it’s because I’ve cut back on overthinking this year (more on that later). But so many of my fears about podcasting simply did not eventuate while so many rad things happened because of it. I’m excited to see where it takes us next year.

I enjoyed moving into our new house. It’s been everything I hoped it would be and more. I sometimes feel bad deriving such happiness from something so material. But then I realise our house is so much more than a house. It’s a home. It’s space. It’s ‘ours’. It’s the ability to entertain family and friends. It’s the ability to be generous.

I also enjoyed getting back to running for two hours. I know this sounds like a weird thing to enjoy but I love running, and I love being able to run long distances. I’ve not been able to do that for four years – first because I was pregnant with Mia, then because it took a while to get fit again, then because of a persistent injury. An injury I am finally, finally on top of.

Who did you enjoy spending time with?

Smart people – and there are so many in my life. The people in Dan’s Mastermind group, my aforementioned podcast co-hosts, the people at Tropical Think Tank, the people in the Straight and Curly and Let it Be groups on Facebook, my friends, my Flying Solo colleagues and Ant. I’ve always believed if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. This year I have benefited hugely from the cleverness, influence and advice of the smart, motivated and generous people I’ve surrounded myself with.

It also goes without saying that I loved all the time I had with my family, particularly in the second half of this year. Once we were settled in our new house suddenly we had so much more quality time and headspace to enjoy each other, and that’s been a real treat.

What was your biggest achievement?

A bit of cool stuff has happened this year. I released two books: Practical Perfection and 20 Simple Shortcuts to Small Business Success. The Straight and Curly podcast was named in iTunes’ ‘Best of 2016’ list (WHAT?!). I achieved a long-held dream of having a guest post on Copyblogger (and in fact ended up with four posts there – all of which did really well!). I also became an expert contributor for Problogger and, in addition to my monthly column for Flying Solo, started writing a weekly editorial piece for them too. I’m also pretty proud of some of the stuff I’ve published on my blog this year – especially in recent months. Most notably:

But probably my biggest achievement of the year has been the breakthrough I’ve made with regard to overthinking. I used to spend SO much time and energy re-visiting conversations, being angry about things I could have said better and trying to divine what the flicker of an eyelash during an interaction meant. I also used to spend a lot of time having conversations with people in advance. ie If I thought someone was mad at me and getting ready to confront me with their madness, I’d try to anticipate everything they were going to say so that when they said it during the real conversation, I’d be ready for them. Of course, 90% of those conversations never happened. And when they did – they never panned out how I expected so all the ‘work’ I did in advance of that conversation was always for nought.

How did you achieve it?

How did I get on top of my overthinking problem? Well, during an episode of Let it Be, Brooke was counselling me about meditation because I was lamenting how bad I was at it; how “I couldn’t empty my head of all the thoughts in it.” She said, “That’s not the point of meditation. Next time you meditate, don’t try to empty your head. Instead, when thoughts drift into your head, choose not to engage with them. Just let them sit there.”

Whoah. Game changer. The next time I meditated, that’s when it really hit home:

We are not obliged to engage with every thought that enters our heads

This changed everything for me. Now, instead of constantly trying to squash worries and wrestle with anxious thoughts, I just let them sit there. I don’t try to rationalise them away. I don’t have conversations with them. I don’t try to put them in a box like I used to. I’ve found that in not engaging with them … they kind of evaporate. Incredible. And hugely freeing.

What are some new things you tried or went through?

I tried a lot of new things this year – podcasting being an obvious one. But the major ‘new’ thing I did this year came from dealing with sooooo many different trades working on our house.

In the past, I’d assume the person was a professional and would do their job at the level I expected. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t call them on it because I don’t like conflict. I still don’t like conflict but I finally got tired of people doing half-assed jobs. So now, even it risks offending someone because ‘Of COURSE, I would be doing that thing in that way’, I make my expectations crystal clear from the outset.

Like the guys who recently came to take off a few branches of a tree next door (which we were paying for). I told them “I expect that you are going to be respectful to my neighbour, watch her plants and remove anything you cut down.” Should I have had to make this crystal clear? No. Did I run the risk of the tree man being offended at me telling him to do something that he, as a professional, would always do? Probably. Do I care anymore? No. Did they do the job exactly as expected? Yes. #win

What did you learn?

When you swap assumptions for absolute clarity in all communications, people seldom let you down and you reduce the amount of angst in your life considerably!

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

What didn’t you enjoy?

Conflict. I’m hugely conflict averse (<< understatement). While I’ve learned to put my big girl panties on over the years and deal with it better, there’s no escaping just how triggering conflict is for me from an anxiety point of view. This year, there was far too much conflict in my life. I spoke here about emotional bandwidth and I lost count of the number of times I fully tapped mine in 2016.

Who didn’t you enjoy spending time with?

There’s no one in my real life I don’t enjoy spending time with – most likely because I’m quite ruthless about only spending time with nice people. Online, however, I found I was friends with a lot of people on social media who were consistently negative. Negativity of any description takes me down very quickly so, as much as I liked some of the people who were being consistently negative, I found that unfollowing them took an emotional load off.

Was there a goal you didn’t achieve?

I would have liked Practical Perfection to resonate more widely with people. It went well, and the people who read it enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. As much as I adore the title, however, it didn’t seem to catch the attention of the people the book was written for (highly driven, high-achieving, ‘holds themselves to high standards’ types). Something I recently identified was this: most perfectionists don’t self-identify as perfectionists because they think a ‘true’ perfectionist needs to be perfect at ‘everything’. Yes, that’s right. Most perfectionists are even perfectionistic about perfectionism. So they see a book titled Practical Perfection and don’t feel it speaks to them.

All that said, I’ve tried to think of another title for the book, one that matches the content while appealing to the typical over-achiever, and can’t think of one. I really like Practical Perfection!

What did you spend time on that didn’t add value to your life?

Worrying. Goddamn, I spent a lot of time worrying this year. And it did not add one skerrick of value to my life.

What would you like to spend less time on in 2017?

When Brooke and I tackled this question in our final show for 2016 I said, (other than worrying), that I wanted to spend less time trying to impress people. The only problem is, I am not sure how to make this happen given one of my core values is ‘Recognition’. Maybe I need to dial back the number of things I want to achieve ‘Recognition’ for. Feel free to share any suggestions in the comments of this post 🙂

What would you like to spend more time on 2017?

2014 was a sad and emotional year (I attended six funerals). Mia was also a baby then. Most of 2015 was spent trying to recover from a major business disaster. 2016 was emotionally draining for a variety of reasons. Given all of that, I’ve cut myself a fair amount of slack with regard to how slowly my writing has developed in that time. Nevertheless, the gap between where I am and where I want to be has been a fairly constant source of frustration.

I finally feel like I’m in a place in life where I can close that gap. To do that, I need to spend more time writing and less time doing other stuff. Like worrying and overthinking.

My intent is to make 2017 the year of ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’ with regard to writing. Let’s see how I go freeing up the time and headspace needed to do that 🙂

BYE BYE 2016, YOU WEREN’T THE WORST

Many people I know can’t wait to see the back of 2016. It’s been a tough year on a global scale, and a lot of people I know have lost people they love. (Perhaps it’s a sign of the age I am – the ‘good’ years are the ones where you don’t lose anyone close to you.)

For me, however, 2016 has been productive, stabilising, validating, satisfying and exciting with a healthy serve of personal growth thrown into the mix. I feel some strong foundations have been laid down and I look forward to seeing what can be built on those foundations over the next 12 months.

How was 2016 for you?

 

Comments 24

  1. I felt like I spent a lot of time treading water, my chin just above the waves, in between I just drifted. I want to be more goal-oriented and purposeful in 2017.

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      I know exactly what you mean. I feel the past three years have been very ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are’. Time to be more proactive in 2017!

  2. For me 2016 was the year I started to come out of the fog of PND and see that it has actually improved my life in the long term.
    PS: I’m really looking forward to reading practical perfection! I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I’m quite drawn to dropping just that tiny wee bit from total perfection ;p
    PPS: glad that you found the workbook helpful!

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  3. Loved reading your year in review. Very insightful reflections worth sharing. “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. I don’t need to wish you all the best with that because there is no doubt in my mind it’s already happening and will continue to do so. 2016 has been all over the place for me and even though quite a few months were absolutely disgusting it’s safe to say I’ve had worse years. Love and warm wishes for Christmas and the year ahead Kel. Thanks for all you share. Xx

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      Thank you so much Sandra. It sounds like 2016 has been both the best and worst of times for so many. Here’s to a smoother ride for everyone in 2017

  4. 2016 was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I had some successes and some things didn’t quite go to plan. Who knows what 2017 will hold but I am looking forward to it.

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  5. 2016 has been a real rollercoaster for me. I started the year newly married but suffering with anxiety, had an amazing honeymoon in Australia and NZ (I’m based in the UK) and then quit my job and started my own business. I’ve been self-employed for three months now, and am LOVING it. I know 2017 will have its ups and downs, but I’m really looking forward to the ride! Thank you for sharing your year with us, Kelly, and loads of good wishes for a practically perfect 2017! x

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      Rollercoaster is the word I see a lot of people using and it accurately describes my year as well! Maybe this is just life now?!

  6. Kelly, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to you. I feel like you have been such a big part of my (also kinda difficult) life this year (you helped it be less difficult!). You inspire me with your podcasts, your writing & your humble offerings of advice. I’m officially a groupie & pretty much just do whatever you say now!! Thanks to you & your fellow podcaster friends who I also love to listen to, I feel excited about the approach of 2017 & what it has in store for me (with you by my (virtual) side, of course!). Have a wonderful Christmas break with lots of 2 hour runs, coffees & solid family time xx

    1. Hey Katie – thank you so much for reading here, listening to the podcasts too – and these lovely, kind words too! It means a lot and here’s hoping 2017 is a cracker for us both!

  7. It sounds like you achieved a lot this year!
    I feel like everyone has a bad year but me! I’ve been lucky to not have had many bad years yet in my life (probably not at athat age yet where I start losing a lot of people close to me, I’m 28) but usually they are quite underwhelming. This year though I achieved my two life goals in one fell swoop: Go to Europe and Get Pregnant (Paris baby!).
    We had a tough year with my husband’s business being owed a large sum of money but we didn’t go under so it was a lot better outcome than it could have been. I forsee 2017 being a lot more up and down, meeting my beautiful baby but also adjusting to being a first-time mum and going to a single wage generated by my husband’s still fledgling business. I have high hopes though!
    Merry Christmas and lets all have a Happy New Year!

    1. A Paris baby! How wonderful. My husband and I also tried to make one of those. Didn’t quite happen 🙂

      I am so glad you’ve had a lovely year (despite that tough bit with your husband’s business).

      Best of everything for 2017. Welcoming your beautiful baby will be magical!

  8. hello lovely Kelly,
    I love your thinking, writing and blogging skills!
    and much more!
    i’m glad you are so happy in your new home too!
    have a really great Christmas and hope 2017 is wonderful for you!
    for everyone really!
    2016 can go now! … be gone begorrah!
    I don’t really compartmentalize that well, as one thing flows on to another!
    sending much love, peace and hope … m:)X

  9. Wow Kelly! It sounds like you accomplished a lot of positive stuff this year!

    On wanting to spend less time trying to impress people when Recognition is one of your core values…

    My experience has been, I get more recognition (the good kind), when I decide that I don’t care if people are impressed and just do what I love. That goes for all or most areas of my life, but has been most striking in things where impressing people seems like most necessary.

    For example, when entering my photography in local art shows, I decided to throw out what I’ve learned about what is most well received as well as the advice I’ve been given, and just go with my heart on my selections. It kind of felt like a big FU, but it also felt like the right thing to do because it was my best work and what I loved instead of what I thought people would like the best.

    And you know what happened? I actually won some awards and got a lot of positive feedback on that work!

    People were impressed, even though I consciously chose to throw that goal out the window, and it meant so much more to me that they were impressed with what spoke to my heart instead of something that was lesser to me but chosen to impress them.

    I think it works the same way when the issue is how much you do (vs. what you choose to put out there). Doing less with more heart = better results. Sometimes that means putting less time and effort into perfecting everything. Sometimes it is choosing fewer things to take on and perfect to your heart’s desire, or just do wholeheartedly. But in the end, trying to impress can work against gaining the recognition that goes deep and rewards the soul.

    (I apologize in advance if I’ve misinterpreted your meaning of Recognition as a core value. :-))

    1. Sandi – you know what? You are so right! This is exactly what I’ve found in the past – when I’ve simply not cared one way or another whether someone liked something, that’s usually when the thing I did really went off!

      I think I need to take some pressure off myself, especially when it comes to writing. Because that’s the area I most want to impress people in!

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      I felt like 2014-2016 were ‘do what you can, with what you have, where you are’ type years! Shattering to see how many people desperately want to see the back of 2016

  10. Really enjoyed doing my own review after listening to you on Let it Be. I’ve had a great year, finished my Textiles Degree and got a first. Then tried to work out what is next! lots of procrastinating and ‘ought to’ and guilt about procrastinating…. ready to move on, I have plans, and a much better idea of how to make them actually happen having listened to Let it Be, Slow Home and Straight and Curly doing 2016! Thanks Kelly

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