8 things I learned about life this year

So grateful for these lessons

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The last 12 months have been life-changing. I want to share some personal lessons today learned from this weird and wonderful year in case they resonate with anyone else.

1. Intentionality matters

I’ve always struggled to make habits stick and that made me feel terrible about myself. I’m sure that the context of my new freelance life has given me the time to put the work into changing this, but one specific change has had an outstandingly positive effect.

I changed the wording of my habits to centre intentionality.

Instead of eating x grams of protein a day, or walking for y minutes every day or cutting things out of my life (which has failed 100% of times before), I changed the wording.

“Get outside today”, “intentionally add a variety of vegetables to each meal” (to which my boyfriend asked how I’d accidentally add vegetables..).

Regardless of the actual wording, the mindset behind it has retrained me to make consistently good choices but in a flexible way, not tied to a date or a time or a format, and it’s worked really well. It’s spurred me on to carry on making positive change with the introduction with harder to achieve habits.

I have a solid foundation on which to grow now, and centring intentionality with habits was the change I needed to build that foundation.

2. Rest matters

As well as changing the wording of my habits to centre intentionality, I’ve also realised that you need to rest and slow down outside of work and that gives you a better footing to make new changes.

I love my job, I love it all. But I can’t work all the time. I thought the previous work i was doing was the issue and for many reasons, yes it was, but so was the effect of never having any downtime.

Getting outside, reading, painting pottery. Something different to the thing that makes you money is important. Time to sit with your ideas is also important and stepping back from your work gives you the chance to do that.

3. Fresh air matters

I categorically don’t get enough fresh air even now, but I certainly didn’t for most of 2023. It was literally just my walk off public transport into work and that wasn’t enough.

Since mid-November, I’ve managed to go on a daily walk, sometimes more and that’s been game-changing. I listen to music on these walks, but I make a point to walk tall, look around me, see what’s going on, say hi to people in the street and pet the dogs that come running up to me, also on their morning walks.

It’s a really nice way to start each morning, and being able to essentially “walk to work” to a job I love, makes these walks far nicer than my previous walks to work, and it gets me ready to work.

4. A tidy house helps

As someone who needs things in front of her to remember to do things (see my Notion tour for more on that), I realised that a messy house is one giant task list.

I don’t want to see house tasks whilst I do work tasks, but a messy house is just that. Lots of testing later, I have learned that finishing dinner, setting a timer of 15 mins and tidying up is plenty for the day to day, and then we do a proper house clean whilst we wash sheets on a Sunday.

That works now we have a smaller flat, but we should be moving soon into a far larger house, so timings will need to change. However I feel confident we can do this, because we’ve practised good habits in the smaller flat. A tidy house means I wake up and feel ready to start the day, not a realisation that I have work tasks to do and all the house tasks too.

5. I don’t need choices (well, for everything but books)

Related to the tidy house point… I don’t need lots of physical things.

My life is online by design and I love that. So, I don’t need to spend all of my money every month in the middle aisles of Lidl. I don’t need a cupboard full of Tupperware. I don’t need 5 pairs of blue jeans. I don’t need 3 moisturisers. I don’t need several eyeshadow palettes. I think I used to spend all of my money on things because I wasn’t very happy. I’m more fulfilled now, so I’ve stopped that.

I have simplified everything and I feel so much better. I use one thing until it’s nearly finished, I order a replacement, and I use that up. The only thing I want multiple options for going forward is books. They make me feel peaceful and happy so it’s worth it.

6. Buy everything on black Friday

Also related… Black Friday actually left a bitter taste in my mouth this year.

Seeing brands slash so much money off their products, and pretend black Friday deals were ending before cyber Monday and then they were ending before cyber week… it just made me never want to pay full price for anything again.

Apart from things that run out or things I really need now, I will be saving most of my money for purchases at Black Friday even though I hate it. I just can’t pay full price for things I’ve seen so majorly discounted now.

7. Being selfish doesn’t feel good

I’ve been extremely self-centred for a while because I wasn’t very happy or I was burnt out, or I was getting used to my new freelance life. I have a standard for how I like to treat my loved ones and I feel I have fallen short of that whilst I’ve been figuring things out.

I am making changes already, and am determined to carry on trying harder next year.

8. You’ve got to do what works for you.

I’ve spent a lot of years trying to conform to what I’m seeing on social media, and over the course of this year I’ve finally found my confidence to do things my way.

This doesn’t mean ignoring everything other people say and being arrogant about it, but if something feels right to you, it’s ok to keep doing what you’re doing until that changes.

I often find that the changes I end up making and sticking to are things I’ve been advised to do previously, but learning things yourself is also part of the journey. Things mean more that way.

As much as learning these lessons were difficult at times, I am grateful that I’ve learned them now. I’m really excited to go into 2024 understanding these lessons and ready to learn a whole host of new things too!

What did you learn this year?

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