17 Lessons of 2016 for Bridging into 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

New Year is supposed to mean New  You, right? It’s the time we get to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Get rid of the junk. Remove the toxicity. Dream. Set forth a plan.

In essence, it’s a do-over.

For some people, that works. I, however, have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. They never seem to work out well. New Year, New You seems to end with more frustration and disappointment than success. It’s too much expectation. We have the ability to change or do anything we want at any time! No need for all of that pressure. We don’t need a new year to dawn in order to work on ourselves, clean up our lives, dream, or do something new. As one of my favorite professors in college pointed out to us at each lecture: every day is a do-over! That power is ours at every moment of every day.

I’m a proponent of “New Year, New Growth.” Instead of resolutions, I like to use the changing of years to reflect on the year that is waving a fond farewell, to see take inventory of lessons I learned and how I continue to grow as a person. As I stare proudly back on what I have learned through the year’s ebbs and flows, I get myself excited about what lessons the new year will bring. It’s a very conscious shift in perspective to bring gratitude and self-love to New Year traditions. Instead of looking at a list of goals and weighing what I didn’t do, what didn’t happen, or what went poorly against to what I did do, as my brain will inherently do, I give myself a hand and feel pride and gratitude for the lessons I learned, no matter how many or how few. (Though, it is amazing how many lessons that you learn in any given year, when sit in silent reflection, digging each up!)

In the moment, lessons may not feel beneficial. They can feel yucky. They can hurt. They can be anxiety producing. Sometimes, they are a cool drink of water after walking in a desert or the first steps after being stuck for too long. (I tend to fluctuate between the grateful child, singing “thank you, God and Universe!” for every lesson and the frustrated, pouting, temper-tantrum-threatening child, who is grumbling and dragging their feet despite God tugging me forward, because I’m so done with this lessons-shiz.) Whatever form the lessons take, no matter how beautiful and sweet or mucky and painful, their is a blessing in their opportunity expansion. Like the beautiful lotus emerging from the mud, each sticky lesson is for your own growth, so that you can rise above the muck and blossom, shining your light to the world!

17 Lessons of 2016 for Bridging into 2017

For me, like many of us, 2016 was full of many hardships and challenges. These hardships and challenges served as channels for many, many lessons. Writing down  a handful of lessons learned is my way of harnessing gratitude for every step along this year’s journey.  To recognize the presence of a lesson is to acknowledge the light in the darkness. For the joyous lessons, the gratitude adds to the light’s brightness, making that lesson sweeter.

Here is my list of 17 of the most prominent lessons that arose throughout 2016, some reoccurring from years to prior, some new. The number 17 felt right, a number to tie the lessons of 2016 into the new year, where they, hopefully, will be replaced with new ones. (I can only wait with baited breath to see what 2017 will bring for lessons and growth!)

  1. You and God have two different time tables. Your timing may not be divine timing, so, just because something doesn’t work out in your specific time-frame, doesn’t mean catastrophe. Sometimes, the largest blessings come from “failed” plans, if we can see past our own disappointment to God’s greater glory.
  2. When people show you who they are, believe them. There is beauty in always being able to see the light in others. This gift should be cherished and nurtured, always. But it will do you, nor those around you, any good if you cling to that spark of light when it is only a fleeting spark, too often drowned in toxic darkness. See the light, love everyone, but do not live with blinders or rose-colored glasses, keep your eyes open.
  3. Embracing uncertainty is terrifying, but is the ultimate reliever of anxiety and stress.  This one, although valuable, has not been easy for Type A: Planner Katie. I continue to get constant lessons in going with the flow. One day at work, I pulled a “The Unknown” angel card, urging me to not fear the unknown as it is a time of exploration. God has a sense of humor, friends.
  4. Don’t wait until you have courage to do something; the #1 way to find confidence is to do something that terrifies you, that is out of your cushioned comfort zone. The confidence follows in the steps of the pride in knowing you faced your fears.
  5. Focus on the dash. On an episode of The Middle I was watching one afternoon, Mike mentioned that we all have a dash on our headstones. A simple “-” between two dates, our birth and our death. The important part is in how we live that dash and what we do with it. What do you want your dash to mean? How will you fill your life? (With accomplishments, career, family – how?) Thinking in terms of that dash helps me keep a focus on making life richer in every aspect!
  6. Stop rushing! There is time enough to get everything done you wish in life. Rushing only leads to problems or accidents.
  7. My self-talk is toxic; I need to be as gentle, motivating, and supportive with myself as I am to those I love. If I wouldn’t say it to my child, my friend, or another loved-one, I shouldn’t say it to myself.
  8. Whatever you desire, whatever your dream is, if you want something bad enough, anything is possible. This ties in very nicely with….
  9. You are always capable of so many amazing things, far more than you believe. You have every tool to that you need to climb whatever mountains encounter your path. You will hit a wall. You will despair, for sometimes despair is a necessary precursor to success or transformation. And then, suddenly, you will find foot holes until you realize you are sitting atop that wall.I had a very wise calculus professor named Balcomb at my first college. Prior to a very difficult examination period, he gave us a few sage words of wisdom, including: “You will never know your true ability unless you push yourself to the brink [of what you think you can accomplish].”Push yourself to the brink and break through to the other side.
  10. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be a better human / person/ you. These people will hold you accountable and, most importantly, lift you up in the most positive of directions.
  11. Self-care isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity.  If you want mental-emotional wellness, if you don’t want to feel burnt out, you need to have regular self-care rituals.
  12. Be a goal-getter. (But don’t be afraid to revise your goals or break them into smaller, more manageable pieces along the path!).
  13. Be your own advocate. People don’t know what you need if you don’t tell them and if it is really important, keep advocating! (Naturally, everything needs balance… don’t be afraid to compromise, either.)
  14. We all need a Mental Wellness Day. Some days we just gotta blanket burrito with a mug of hot cocoa or stroll on the beach or get lost in a book or wander in the woods.
  15. Trust your inner knowing; stop seeking outside validation. You already know what you want or need, you just have to clean off the gunk that life, other people, or society has smeared over that knowledge in order to remember.
  16. I am not a victim. I am an active participant in life.  If something happens, I have a responsibility in that, even if it is simply holding someone to a version of them that was untrue or not standing up for myself or others.
  17. Taking responsibility is NOT blaming yourself. Blaming is shaming yourself, which is literally the opposite of taking responsibility. Think of shame in the terms of the dark side of the force. Blame leads to Shame. Shame leads to self-loathing. Self-loathing leads to suffering. Suffering leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side.Okay, so, maybe it is slightly exaggerated there; but, it is a fairly accurate portrayal nonetheless. Blame and shame are rolled up tightly together in this messy, gooey ball that makes it difficult to distinguish where one begins and the other ends. Blame and shame involve feelings of being bad. Shame is toxic and self-esteem crushing, involved in every emotional state from anger to depression.Taking responsibility is different than blame. It involves acknowledging an action was bad, but still feeling you are inherently a good person. Accepting responsibility allows for acceptance, connection, growth, apologies, and the ability to admit one’s imperfections and work on them.(If you are intrigued by this topic, I highly recommend Brené Brown’s novels The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.)

Now that you know my 2016 lessons, what were some lessons that came up for you in 2016? Are there any repeating lessons that you notice overlapping from previous years, indicating an area or issue that you need to focus on so the repetition ceases? Share with me in the comments!