Phew. We made it. It did feel touch-and-go for a few moments there, huh? A spiralling global pandemic…again. Disconnection. Isolation. Confusion and uncertainty. This year called us to confront some of the more challenging aspects of being a human being alive on planet earth, and while I won’t lie and say it was easy, I will say that it provided many opportunities to work through challenges, confront discomfort and practice asking for, and accepting, help (as difficult as that can feel).
Something that I kicked off last year, inspired by James Clear’s Annual Reviews, is to take stock of what the year held for me – particularly how I was able to live in alignment with my values, move towards goals, live with intention and just bloody enjoy myself sometimes.
I share these publicly on my blog not with the intention to boast and whine (although, no one can deny the reality of mixed motivations) but in case it can be of any help to you. Of course, you will need to reflect on your year in the context of your own life, but this might lend a little structure to your own personalised look-back and allow you to take pride in your accomplishments, learn from challenges and create momentum towards fresh goals.
What went well for me this year?
Raising A Baby
Guys, raising a baby is hard f*cking work. I wasn’t sure whether I should put this in the “what went well” or below in the “what didn’t go so well” section, as the nature of child-raising is relentless and chaotic. It can be difficult to know if you’re doing it right. However, if Levon is anything to go by, then he is a shining star of joy and curiosity, and I feel bloody proud to have helped support his journey through the world so far. I’m grateful for the time I spent with him – even all the days that seemed aimless, dull, frustrating and never-ending. And I’m hugely grateful for the help of my wonderful parents – who model the most incredible love, support and mindful presence that a grandchild could want. One of the untold joys of bringing a kid into the world is undoubtedly watching family and friends extend their love and time to your child. I’m so happy (and Levon is so lucky) to have so many people like this.
In the year coming… I would like to make time to be fully present with Levon, to visit new places, try new things, dance, sing, play, read, watch movies and laugh…a lot. I want to be open to all that he has to teach me about patience, curiosity, openness, freedom and autonomy, and I want to do the The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment on him. 😅
This year, I worked a lot, so it’s a good thing that I love what I do!
- I am almost ready to submit for my General Registration as a Psychologist (wiew!) after a big year, which involved passing the National Psychology Exam, submitting all my case reports, conducting tests & assessments and working with my incredible clients.
- It was a big year for workshops and I’ve found so much joy in putting them together and facilitating them. I’m grateful to have worked with some amazing organisations and companies, including Pinterest, Linktree, Pedestrian TV, Linktree, APRA/AMCOS, Live Nation, UNIFIED and heaps more. I am also proud of my bespoke well-being booster pack workshops, that I hope to facilitate into the new year!
- I held my first in-person (okay, half in-person, half via-zoom ~ thanks COVID) course Get Your Sh*t Together, for The Indigo Project.
- I was involved in a range of awesome projects with Support Act, including their monthly On My Mind webinars, the Plug-In workshop series for Aussie music crew workers, and heaps of workshops & Insta-lives. They offered so much support for the Aussie music scene through this past year and I’m proud to be working with them.
- I also contributed to a number of articles and publications, for The Guardian, ABC, Refinery 29, Sydney Morning Herald and Zee Feed. My favourite of which has to be the smh mental health profile on Succession characters.
- I launched Heavy Mental, and with that, a bunch of custom merch which people actually bought. Which was so cool.
In the year coming… I would like to secure my general registration as a psychologist (big life goal), hold more in-person workshops (COVID, move aside, kindly) and continue to create impactful, evidence-backed psychology and self-development content with passionate, like-minded people.
Friends & Family
This year, I made social self-care a real priority, as it’s true that once you have a kid, it’s easy to tumble down a parental abyss and lose touch with important people. However, socialising looked a little different this year, thanks to Lockdown 2.0. My birthday was spent celebrating at home, but we set up an impromptu photoshoot, and my friends threw me an awesome murder mystery zoom party. I’m grateful for the extra time I got to spend with my partner (who didnt get to work a whole lot), and for all the thoughtful check-in’s people sent me throughout the year.
In the year coming… I would like to be open to cultivating new friendships, particularly in the psych and academia world, and I’d like to host more dinner parties!
While it definitely took a few years to get into a good groove with my habits, I’m so proud to have done the groundwork for what is undoubtedly some very supportive and helpful habits, that help keep my mental health in check, and that allow me to feel like I’m living into my values a little bit everyday.
My DuoLingo “German” streak is at 674. That’s almost two whole years of commitment. I still feel like I can barely string to words together, but alles in ordnung, it’s about the process not the product.
Daily Meditations using the Waking Up app (as well as Insight Timer and Headspace, depending on what my needs are). I feel like Sam Harris’ guided sessions have invited me to connect with mindfulness in a new and empowering way.
Regular posting on Instagram. I know, a boring one, but something that allows me to write a reflect a little each day and noodle about with fun graphics.
I read 57 books! Lots of psychology and personal development stuff. Reading was a true highlight of my year this year, for sure!
Where the Crawdads Sing
The 10X Rule
Darkness is Golden
The Changing Mind
ACT with Love
The Algebra of Happiness
Make Time for Creativity: Finding Space for Your Most Meaningful Work
It Didn’t Start With You
The Culture Code
The Wisdom of Psychopaths
The confidence gap
The No Asshole Rule
If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Happy?
Come as You Are
Rule Makers & Rule Breakers
The Quick Fix
The Midnight Library
Sometimes Therapy Is Awkward
The Mother Wound
The Untethered Soul
The Success Experiment
The Book You Wish Your Parents Read
Dare to Lead
How To Do The Work
The Practicing Mind
9 Nasty Words
The Happiness Trap
Four Thousand Weeks
Power of Now
Stumbling on Happiness
The Compound Effect
The Gift Of Therapy
In the year coming… I would like to continue committing to these healthy habits. I’d also like to add a daily writing habit into the mix, in an effort to move closer towards the completion of my phd. I definitely would like to fine-tune the habits surrounding my groceries & meal-prep, and strength & fitness training too.
Savings & Contributions
Super proud to have smashed my savings goal this year (even after some sneaky surprise expenses showing up), and learned more about crypto investments (thanks dad!) I made some donations to Effective Altruism too.
In the year coming… I would like to learn more about crypto and throw my hat in the ring with some investing (as scary as it feels!) I am still interested in setting aside some of my salary each month to donate to Effective Altruism charities, even though I didn’t quite get there this year.
What didn’t go so well for me this year?
While I have been proud of the work I’ve done on my phd so far – including sharing my survey, sourcing a sample of over 600 people, and delivering presentations, I feel like there is still a great deal more to be done. I’m looking forward to shifting my focus for 2022 to prioritise writing and submitting to journals.
In the year coming… I would like to immerse myself a little more in the academic space, commit to a daily writing habit (in order to keep my head in the research), and submit some writing for publication.
Art & Music
Last year, I did have visions to spend more time on art and music (specifically learning piano), however, neither of these really got much of a look in during 2021. Sometimes, life is about focusing on certain things to the exclusion of others, and so instead of mourning the time I didn’t commit to art & music, I’m instead going to be proud of the small creative challenges I’ve embarked upon (using the W1D1 app) and the digital art I’ve created for my Instagram Profile and merch. I also made it to Clay Sydney for a class!
In the year coming… I would like to continue to eke out time and space for creativity, wherever I can find it.
Diet & Fitness
This year was certainly an improvement in regards to my diet and exercise, but I hold myself to high standards on this front and feel like I could make my life easier by putting some strategies in place to make healthy eating & mindful movement a more structured and predictable part of my life. I have loved my weekly Rock’n’Pole classes, which have helped me feel more in my-body, and enjoyed the yoga practice I committed to through lockdown. I’ve also re-joined the gym!
In the year coming… I want to commit to 4 sessions of exercise per week, including a yoga class, and a HIIT class. I would also like to organise & meal prep, so that we’re eating healthier food more regularly and we’re modelling a healthy and balanced diet for Levon.
What did I learn this year?
Thinking you should “feel differently” creates friction with reality
This past year, I’ve really dedicated myself to a regular mindfulness practice and for the most part, I am living the benefits – less reactive, quicker to notice sensations in my body that I can meet with curiosity and compassion, able to choose my actions, reactions and behaviours with greater intention. However, one of the things that comes up time and time again for me, outside of practice, is the recurring thought that I should be feeling differently to however I am feeling in the moment. This has been most apparent in time spent with bub, where we might be playing or hanging out, and I recognise the oppressive feeling of boredom. I can then become quite hostile at the fact that I’m bored, and my mind runs with stories like “If you were a good mum, you wouldn’t be feeling bored, you’d be feeling present and connected and grateful”. A friend and I also spent a few nights in Byron Bay this year, and as we watched an incredible sunset go down over The Farm, we both discussed how we were assailed with thoughts like “I should be enjoying this more than I am. I should be happier right now, in this moment.” which resulted in added disappointment. What I’m slowly realising now, is that these thoughts, these cognitive critiques on feelings, are barriers to presence and connection. The more I think into them, the more I struggle against whatever simply is in the present moment. These thoughts attempt to resist reality, and instead of allowing me the freedom to be more connected or present, they drag me down deeper into a pit of uncomfortable and challenging emotions. I’m continuing to learn that you cannot think your way into feeling differently (no matter how much CBT you’re smashing out). Sometimes, acceptance is the best tool we’ve got.
Small committments are better than no committments.
Simply moving through this end-of-year reflection, I’m recognising how much small committments are worth. I used to be an all-or-nothing type – jumping in, with both feet to some new project or practice, only for it to fizzle out, be abandoned and then onto the next thing (or back to the old, unhelpful thing). This year has seen me dedicate myself to healthy practices, without a sense of military-style regimen. So I could miss a day or two, or a week or two, and simply start back up again. The old me would’ve thought “What’s the point?”, but the wiser me can recognise the fact that good things done sometimes is better than never at all.
Giving up on the person you think you are allows you to be whatever you want to be.
Thanks to Sam Harris’ Waking Up app, I’ve been thinking more about the nature of self. I’ve been asking questions such as, “Is my self some continuous enduring force, lurking in the one body, glimpsing through the same set of eyes? Living out the one, congruent life?” Sam’s meditations explore the idea of consciousness and he likes to challenge this idea of an enduring self, that sense of being an “I” inside your mind. This was all incredibly confusing and mind-bending to wrap my head around initially, but as I move through his meditations (and the other thought-provoking reflections in the app), I find that he makes a good point. Much of what we experience as “I” is not generated or “thought up” by us, but merely experienced by us. And with mindfulness practice, we can learn to experience our “I“-ness more mindfully, with less resistance and hostility, and less commitment to being trapped in a restrictive, immoveable self.
Get clear on what’s important.
Understanding your values can be clarifying and nourishing, but living into them can be really f*cking hard. One thing I’ve learned is that doing the things that keep you aligned with your values wont always be easy, and sometimes (lots of times, even) challenging feelings will arise. When we’re guided into doing Values work, I think many of us harbour this latent desire that once we’re living a values-driven life, that everything will feel good in pure alignment, and we’ll always be happy and fulfilled. Ain’t that a load of bs. Suffering is inescapable. But we do get to decide what is worth suffering for. And since getting clear on my values and what’s important to me, I’ve realised that I can look back across the year and feel pretty damn proud that the suffering I endured (in the form of sleepless nights consoling a screaming baby, exhausted hours spent hunched over exam notes, compassion-fatigue from client-facing work, disruptive fears I’m not smart or eloquent enough to run workshops or write articles, boredom at the thought of cooking another healthy meal, or doing another morning yoga class, or sitting through another meditation…) has all been worth it. Because I chose it, knowing it’s in the service of how/who I want to be.