Happy new year, friends!
I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, but over the last few years, I’ve instead set themes. Themes, in contrast to goals, are something I keep in the back of my mind as I make decisions on how to manage the different elements of my life. They are more of a north star to follow than a specific end result.
When I finished my reflection last year, my 2022 theme was: “Keep it going, keep it steady.”
As I do every year I looked back through my calendar, journal, and daily reflections to read through all the highs and lows of the year.
You can read about the steps I went through for the annual reflection in How To Do an Annual Reflection to Get The Most Out Of The Year Ahead and more about how to set themes in Take Aim: How To Reflect, Set Direction, and Make Progress In The Year Ahead.
Looking back, I definitely kept it going, I kept some things steady… but not everything. After my reflection, I saw that in practice my annual theme wasn’t actually “keeping steady”.
It was: “Keep it going, even when things aren’t steady”
And I did that. It was a tough year in some respects but one that also had plenty of wins and joy.
Here is my annual reflection for 2022 and what I learned to take into 2023!
Looking back at 2022
1: Resilience through the messy middle
Early in the year as I struggled through our endless Albertan winter, I realized I was in the messy middle of this particular phase of my entrepreneurial journey. I rode the high motivation and energy of starting something new through a good chunk of 2021, but it was a different story in 2022!
Writing felt hard throughout the year. I battled low energy and motivation and grappled with self-doubt as I navigated through some of my more challenging times.
But I kept going:
- I wrote nearly every day.
- I published my articles on schedule (without fail!)
- My newsletter subscriptions continued to grow. I have subscribers in 45 countries!
- I kept up my fitness streak. 1830 days as of publishing.
- I continued great work with my productivity consulting clients and added my first clients outside North America.
I kept going through the messy middle by leaning on my daily habits (writing, fitness, reflection), as well as the community of people that support my work (including you!). On the harder days, I tried to practise my own advice by taking Minimum Viable Days. On the good days, I tried to celebrate my wins and take joy.
I’m still in the messy middle and I think I will be for a while, but that’s ok. All I have to do is keep going. How hard could it be? 😉
2: Hard goodbyes and joyful hellos
Grief and joy were interwoven throughout 2022.
Both our senior cats died, Toby just before last Christmas, and Penny in May. As anyone with pets knows, our furry family members become integral parts of our daily lives. Over 15 and 13 years respectively, they were with me through many of the most significant happenings in my adult life as well as a large part of my daily rhythms.
While I knew we wouldn’t have them forever, it didn’t make it any easier to lose them. Penny’s sudden death was (and still is) particularly hard for me. She was my little shadow, a constant purring companion.
But we got to enjoy Penny in a new way as she adjusted to being a solo kitty for a while after Toby passed. And then, a few months after Penny, we welcomed our new kitties.
Winston and Stella have been a wonderful, energy-filled, addition. Life with two kittens after many years with senior cats has been no joke 😅. They keep us on our toes and it has been fun to learn their personalities and settle into new rhythms with them (except the one where they wake us up at 6:30 am every morning, I could do without that one 😴).
This year has been a reminder that grief and joy come hand in hand. We had many years of joy with Toby and Penny and, while I still grieve them both, we now have Winston and Stella bringing new joy each day.
3. The silver lining of missing something is the immense joy when you get it back
During the pandemic (I can't believe I can say those words 😩), we all experienced the seemingly endless stretch of the stops and starts of what you could/should and couldn't/shouldn’t do.
While Covid is here to stay, getting vaccinated and being able to go out and do things again in 2022 was wonderful.
- I went on my first post-covid trip outside of Canada to enjoy our annual NBA Summer League trip to Las Vegas with my brother and sister-in-law.
- I got to go to Vancouver on one of my writing retreats and, for the first time, met an online friend I made over Covid in person.
- I went with my niece and nephew to their first concert (Imagine Dragons) and got to experience their joy and excitement as they heard some of their favourite songs live for the first time.
- I got to celebrate with friends for 3 weddings, one of which I got to be a groomsperson for the first time and went to my first bachelor party!
- I was able to restart many of the traditions with our families that we had missed over Covid like pumpkin carving and gingerbread house construction.
- My husband and I celebrated 20 years since our first date with dinner at a favourite restaurant.
I also continued to do all the things that normally bring me joy: I played video games, ate a lot of pancakes (my favourite food!), enjoyed our garden, went for walks, watched basketball, and went for runs in the sunshine.
Regaining all of these opportunities and connections made them all sweeter.
4. Practicing what I preach
Starting in mid-October, I experienced my first MS relapse in the 5 years since my initial diagnosis. I knew it was going to happen eventually, but it still rocked me. All of the fears and grief I had when I was first diagnosed, which I had neatly tucked away, came roaring back.
As I write this I am still “in it”, experiencing symptoms. It’s scary, uncomfortable, and frustrating. It’s hard not to get tied up in knots about all the what-ifs and why is this happening to me.
But I am working hard to practise what I preach. l have been and will continue to keep going back to daily habits, rituals, self-kindness, and the things I listed above that bring me joy. They are the foundation of resilience.
All I can do is my best every day, knowing that sometimes “best” is 100% and sometimes it’s 20%.
What I learned in 2022 for 2023
These are the things I want to take with me into next year:
1. Life is not linear
Each time I do these annual reflections I am reminded that life is never a straight line from one thing to the next but a series of twists and turns. It’s like real-life Snakes and Ladders, with some lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) occasionally thrown in.
Sometimes we arrive where we thought we would, but often we end up somewhere entirely different.
In many respects, where I am today is not dramatically different than where I thought I would be. I took the initial turn to start this career path and from the outside, it looks as expected. I am growing my consulting practice, writing my newsletter, and speaking at events.
But it’s significantly different in that I am beginning to (or at least trying to) accept where my health fits into building and growing this business.
As I have written about before, there are things that matter and things that don’t, and I know that my health has to be at the top of my list of what matters. The challenge will be to have the courage, heart, and brain to listen to my body and accept that sometimes I have to avoid a snake and take a ladder elsewhere.
I may not end up where I thought, but I have no doubt it will still be pretty great.
2. I can always begin again
The practising part of practising resilience and practising what I preach meant I sometimes wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t always listen to my body as well as I should have. I have sometimes squandered opportunities for rest and recharge with half work and guilt. I let my boundaries and habits slip. But each time I realized what I was doing, I began again.
That’s all I can do really. Notice, begin again, and keep practising all the good things I know help me.
3. Now is not forever
In the worst moments of my MS relapse, I felt hopeless, afraid, angry and sorry for myself. I felt lost and like all the things I had imagined for myself had gone up in smoke. But they were moments. Fleeting and not a representation of my life now, and certainly not my life forever. I have and will feel all those things again, but they will pass again.
Part of still being “in it” is that it is harder to see the light. One of my friends, who is experiencing a similar health challenge, described it as waiting for the clouds to part.
There have been peaks of sunlight and I know it can’t stay cloudy forever. Eventually, the sun will shine through.
My theme for 2023: Space and grace
My theme for 2022 was: Keep it going, keep it steady.
In practice, it was: Keep it going, even when things aren’t steady.
As I look to 2023, I want to still keep it going, but the theme that I am starting the new year with is:
Space and grace.
I can keep it going. I know that. I kept going this past year despite the hard parts! But the going will be easier if I give myself the space to do things in my own time, in my own way, when my body feels up to it. I have to give myself the grace to rest when I can’t push any further.
Allowing myself space and grace means I will still push myself, keep building my business, and continue to grow, but do it gently.
“Space and grace” in action mean:
- I will do what I can each day, and that will be enough.
- I will plan for the best and be flexible when things need to change.
These are easier said than done, but I have them written on a note on my desk to remind me since I am sure I will need them!
What will your theme for 2023 be?
As always, my annual reflection provides me with so much valuable perspective. It has been especially helpful as I navigate my health situation. I can’t know what 2023 will bring but each year brings with it new trials and adventures and I am always excited to find out.
There will be ups, there will be downs, and I will do my best to live my theme and find all the joy I can. I hope you do too.
What will your theme for 2023 be?
Going through your annual reflection and setting your theme for 2023 can feel overwhelming. If you could use some help to work through these processes, get in touch for a free consultation and we can talk about how I can help you.