Manage your mind, change your life.
What a year I’ve had.
I accomplished a lot in my life before 2018. I’m 45 years old. I earned a Ph.D. Received accolades on Wall Street. Been in the C-suite of public and private biotech companies. I’ve gotten married and had two amazing children.
But this year was special.
This year, I learned how to listen to my own voice. To make choices that felt right for me, and not focus so much on what looks good to other people.
I started writing my blog 8 months ago. I always loved writing, loved books, loved words. I had journals dating back to when I was in elementary school, full of the words from my head. But I held myself back from writing for other people until April 2018. I thought it was a silly thing for someone like me to do.
I thought being the operative words.
If I counted correctly, I have published 98 stories this year either on Medium or my blog. I gained 3K Medium followers, and been published in a variety of other places. I have a nice sized email list filled with lovely and engaged readers.
That’s all well and good. But the most important thing that I did this year was to find my own passion. Something that energizes and engages me. Something outside of work and family and all the little details that make up our lives.
Something that makes me want to keep going, to try again, to express, to connect.
And none of it would have been possible if I didn’t learn these five valuable lessons this year.
1. Perfect does not exist
One of the main reasons I didn’t start writing sooner is that I didn’t think my writing was good. I thought it needed to be perfect to start at all. That if it wasn’t perfect than it was shameful and people would judge me and my work.
Well, guess what, my writing isn’t perfect. It wasn’t when I started, and it’s not now. Nowhere close. But the only person judging me with a microscopic lens was me.
Perfect is an arbitrary construct that we all make up in our minds. It’s a negative voice in our heads. But if we can push it aside, accept that it is not real, then we can reach marvelous places. I have found more fulfillment in my imperfect writing than I ever thought I could. And, I have affected others in a positive way, too, which is beyond anything I could have hoped for.
2. There is no wagon to fall off or get back on
This is a perfect idea again. The idea that your journey needs to be a straight line. That you have to write every single day, or not at all.
That is not the case.
I have written at least one article every week since April. Except for a week or two when I didn’t, or couldn’t. And guess what? It was fine. I took a break and got back to it. I trusted myself enough to know that taking a break didn’t mean I would abandon the project altogether. And during the breaks, I recharged and craved writing again. I was reminded that I was on the right path. Breaks are an important part of life. Because life isn’t always about productivity.
Streaks serve their purpose for many reasons. But if you think life is all or nothing, you will eventually end up with nothing.
3. Less thinking, more trying and stumbling and trying again
I spend a lot of time in my own head. Thinking, anticipating, projecting, expecting.
In 2018, I tried something different. I threw a few things against the wall, and I saw what stuck.
I wrote about different topics, in different ways. Some articles resonated with people, others resulted in tumbleweeds. But I didn’t let the tumbleweeds keep me from writing the next article. I accepted that I could learn from the things that didn’t go as well. And that no one success or failure meant that I was a success or failure. All you can do is try, and learn.
4. We don’t have to take self-doubt so seriously
We all have self-doubt. We all tell ourselves that we can’t do things. We get that feeling of panic and anxiety at the idea of failure. It feels the same as being chased by a tiger. That self-doubt tells us we are going to fail, and it tells us failure is the same thing as death.
But this year I learned to take my self-doubt along for the ride. To accept and acknowledge that it’s there. It’s going to exist, and it’s going to have opinions. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the thing.
And self-doubt is wrong about failure, too. Failure doesn’t mean anything about our self-worth. See lesson #3.
5. Nobody gives a crap (in the best possible way)
When I first started writing, I was afraid to tell anyone in my life. I assumed people would think it was silly or ridiculous or dumb. Then slowly, I started mentioning it to people. A few at a time. And guess what? No one cared. I would either get a “that’s cool” or a “huh, really?” A few people read some of my work and gave me positive feedback. But most didn’t give a crap.
Everyone has their own lives, their own internal drama going on. We expect judgement way more than actually exists. Most people spend most of their time thinking about themselves.
And even if there are people who have negative thoughts about my work, it’s none of my business. I will never know what goes on in other people’s minds. And I can’t control their thoughts.
So in the midst of all my imperfections, failures, stumbles, time off the wagon, self-doubt, and fears about other people’s thoughts, this has been one of the best years of my life. Because I listened to my own heart and my own mind. Really listened. And accepted those thoughts. Allowed them. Followed them.
I can never go back.
I hope you can learn all these lessons and apply them to your life. And in 2019, have your most marvelous, energized, connected year yet.