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Wow, 2016. You were an interesting year. I would say it’s been one of the most difficult years I’ve had in a long time in terms of my emotional health, and it seems a lot of people agree (and I feel somewhat reassured knowing I’m not the only one).
Negative things have happened, and positive things have happened. It’s a lot easier to let the negatives outweigh the positives, and I feel like I let myself focus on the negatives more often than not this year. I say let myself because I do believe it’s a choice. Sometimes we let ourselves take the easy route, even though it’s the one that hinders us from finding contentment in life.
Throughout 2016, there were feelings of restlessness, self-doubt, and an overall sense of being uprooted. There were also moments of joy, self-discovery, and forgiveness towards myself and others.
Today, I wanted to share with you some reflections and lessons I’ve learned in 2016. I also encourage you to reflect on your year and think about what you’ve learned, accomplished, let go of, and embraced. Here’s to 2016 and a brighter 2017!
Lessons Learned in 2016
1. Ask if you actually believe your thoughts.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in 2016 (and I only learned this at the very end of the year, of course), is to differentiate thoughts from fact. I was listening to Jess Lively’s podcast interview with Byron Katie, and I had a mega a-ha moment when Byron started to talk about how we create our own pain by believing thoughts that are simply not true. As someone who worries a lot of the time, I can create the most negative and ridiculous thoughts in my head sometimes. Since listening to Byron Katie’s advice, if I catch myself thinking of something in my head that worries me, I ask myself whether this is a fact or just a thought. I try to ask myself, ‘Do you really believe that? Do I know that it’s true?’ whenever I’m worrying or having a negative thought. I encourage you to ask yourself whether you truly believe your thoughts or whether you’re just creating fictional stories in your head.
2. Focus on what you’re doing.
One of the greatest lessons I learned this year was the importance of focusing on myself. I know that may sound a little selfish, but I mean it in terms of focusing on my own goals, values, and needs. I feel like I forgot who I was at the beginning of the year, and instead of working to become me again, I tried to impress other people, forgot about my own goals, and let my emotional well-being deteriorate. I became distrustful of others because I was spending too much time analyzing their words and behavior instead of paying attention to my own words and behavior.
Rather than worrying about what other people (family, friends, partners, strangers) are doing, focus instead on what you’re doing. What are you doing to get you closer to your goals, to improve your health, to create more joy in your life? I’m not saying you should disregard others and push your relationships aside. I’m saying don’t try to control other people, don’t let their behavior affect your motivation, and let yourself and others be free to do what they want.
Related Post: Are You A High-Value Person? Here’s How To Tell.
3. Always listen to your intuition.
Your gut instinct is way more powerful than you can imagine. If you really listen to what your intuition is telling you, you’ll realize that so many answers to difficult questions are already within you. More often than not, we let our ego cloud our perceptions of people, situations, and decisions. We try to rationalize people’s behavior and put up with crappy situations because we hope things will get better. Listen to what your inner voice is telling you to do. Trust that you know what is right for you, despite what anyone else says. Once I finally learned this lesson, life become a whole lot easier.
4. Don’t pressure yourself with too many goals.
Over the past two years, I’ve set myself three goals every month and shared them on my blog. You may have noticed that I stopped doing this after October. The reason? I felt so much pressure to come up with three goals every month that it wasn’t fun anymore. I would only ever achieve one of them at the most, and I felt like I was only coming up with goal ideas so that I could publish a blog post. I know many of you love these posts because you’re goal-setting peeps too, but from now on, I don’t think I’ll be sharing monthly goals anymore. That doesn’t mean I won’t have goals. It just means I won’t be forcing myself to come up with three new ones every single month. I hope you’ll understand!
Related Post: Planning vs. Flowing: How To Find The Right Balance
5. Forgive yourself.
We’ve all made choices we regret. Sometimes they nag at us in the back of our heads for much longer than they should, and it’s easy to think back and wonder how life could have been different had we not made that choice. Truth be told, we’ll never be able to revisit the moments before the decision was made. If we continue to dwell on the past and doubt our own judgment, we are only furthering our own suffering. There comes a time when our only choice to feel joy again is to forgive ourselves for our decisions, no matter how difficult, heartbreaking, or painful they may have been. You have to show yourself forgiveness and trust that you made the decision for your own good and for the good of everyone around you. Every life choice is a lesson to be learned, and only with self-compassion can we truly understand and recognize the positive impact of that lesson.