As each year comes to a close, I take out time to reflect on the different lessons life has taught me. In doing so, I find a word that serves as my theme for the year ahead. For 2018, my word is manifestation. It seems almost on a universal level that people are coming into themselves. We are looking back on the past, learning from our experiences, and cultivating lives of purpose. We are manifesting. These seven lessons reflect what last year has taught me and serve to shape a lifestyle I believe we all desire.
Lesson 1: Be defined by who you are, not what you do or don’t do.
Have you ever noticed how the first thing we ask after meeting someone is, “So, what do you do?”. When we ourselves are asked this question, we have scripted responses ready to go. But, when someone asks, “So, what do you like to do for fun?” or “Tell me about yourself,” we trip and stumble over our words.
Why is this? Why do we place more value in what we do than in who we are?
Getting clear on who you are despite any other roles or responsibilities is what I believe to be the first step in living authentically. Doing so impacts your well-being and has a positive effect on your other relationships. It can even drive your career decisions, which is exactly what happened to me.
Lesson 2: Choose fulfillment over validation.
The hardest decision I ever made was leaving a budding career in media in trade for working from home as a writer and website designer. The bottom line: I wanted – I needed – to do something real, something that actually made a difference in the lives of others. Now, making a difference is exactly what I do on a daily basis within my own company.
I don’t just write. I empower people to become their best selves.
I don’t just design websites. I help entrepreneurs take a necessary step in walking in their purpose.
But, building a business is no easy feat. From the outside looking in, I was crazy. I had to decide to either live for the validation of others and do what “looked good” or live for my own fulfillment and do what felt good. I chose the latter. As a result, I was unexpectedly both fulfilled and validated. The thing about validation is that validation apart from fulfillment is a show and – frankly – I was tired of performing.
Lesson 3: Don’t sacrifice your authenticity for the approval, acceptance, or agreement of others.
Once the decision was made and I was – as we say – doing me, I had to choose to walk confidently in my authenticity. Regardless if people liked my decision or not, I had to become resilient enough to fully be myself. This is easy when you’re home alone or in the middle of a project. Try getting challenged by your six-year-old son who doesn’t seem to like or understand why mommy doesn’t go to work anymore.
“You need to get a job and make some money like daddy,” he said one night.
Yes, chile. These words flowed almost too easily out the mouth of my little boy.
You know what I did? I pulled up my bank statements and showed him that I do make money and every time a client’s payment came through, I made sure he saw it. I didn’t care if he was tucked in the bed and half a snore from dreamland, if anybody was going to know that mama brought home some bacon, it was going to be my son.
Eventually, he grew tired of this game and got the point.
I wouldn’t dare do this with anyone else, of course, but it can be tempting during those early days of business to post a Facebook status about how much money you made or overly exaggerate at parties.
I had to learn that refusing to sacrifice my authenticity meant being confident, but it also meant just keeping it real and being honest. Yes, it’s hard. No, I don’t regret quitting my day job. I can do this. And my capability in doing this doesn’t depend on your support.
Lesson 4: Learn to let go with grace.
People. Ideas. Circumstances. They all change. Sometimes, the one who is changing is us. When change takes place, we have to analyze if this person, idea, or circumstance still serves a purpose in our lives. It can be someone who is full of negativity and sucks the life force right out of you, a product or service that just isn’t working like you thought it would, or putting in your two weeks notice.
Whatever you’re letting go of, learn to let go with grace. Just because you’ve transformed doesn’t mean that you’re better than that frenemy, that plan, or that job. Pay attention to the lesson you learned, the big takeaway, and move on with your dignity intact.
Lesson 5: Stop pursuing more and start embracing the now.
We live in such a “right now” society that it’s easy to become caught up in the busyness of life. I think that being busy is another thing we use to make ourselves look good or to seek validation from others. Moving from one project or event to the next all the time without a second to catch our breath isn’t healthy.
And why do we do it? To portray an image that our lives are so full? Full and fulfilled aren’t the same thing and neither are busy and productive.
Savor the moment. Press pause. Know when to stop the work and get in some self-care or quality time with friends and family.
Embrace where you are and who you are today.
Lesson 6: Sometimes, it’s not the goal itself that you’re after, but how you believe achieving the goal will make you feel. Align with those core desires.
Danielle Laporte is one of my favorite spiritual writers. Her book White Hot Truth quite literally changed my life. (I definitely recommend listening to it on Audible!) When I heard about her planner The Desire Map, I knew I had to check it out. This was the first time I heard about this whole core desires thing and it definitely resonated with what was going on my life.
I needed to feel authentic, fulfilled, and free. Diving into my business and everything that process entailed involved those core desires. The most beautiful thing was realizing that experiencing those core desires aren’t some reward received once the goal is achieved. Experiencing those core desires shape what goals I set and become part of the journey.
I am living my best life right now.
Lesson 7: Your truth and the truth work together, not in opposition of each other.
As a Christian, I was taught that there is only “the truth” and that “your truth” is a rebellious concept. I have learned that there are a lot of things in the westernized institution of Christianity that completely go against the true heart and practice of Christianity and this is one of them.
I believe that the truth is what is absolute and unwavering, like the sun. The universe revolves around the sun, not the other way around. Your truth is planet earth. The seasons and the time of day all depend upon its relationship to the sun. The truth may be steadfast, but as flawed ever evolving human beings, we are not. We will have seasons where we’re hot on fire and everything’s great. We will have seasons where we’re cold, apathetic, and ready to give up. Not every day is full of sunshine; there’s going to be some tough nights.
Our job is to keep going. Keep growing. Learn the lessons life is trying to teach us and become better people because of them.