As with most years, 2017 was filled with ups and downs, but one thing that truly sets this year apart from others is how much it taught me about life! I think a big reason for this was my turning twenty-two, as it brought with it the terrifying realisation that I am no longer even close to being a teenager. With this ghastly realisation came the motivation, and a sort of need, to seek ways to better myself and how I live life.
It was the first year in my twenty two years of life that I started to analyse my actions, habits and views on life, and actively search for improvement. More importantly, it pushed me to believe that improvements could be made to routines and views I had become so accustomed to.
Here are the 17 vital life lessons that 2017 taught me, to which I will cling onto in the new year.
1. You will fall, but getting back up is always possible, no matter how hard it seems.
I went into 2017 having hit rock bottom- and I’d hit it hard. Because of this, I spent the first few months of the year desperately trying to fight my way through a thick fog of confusion. Many breakdowns came and went, several self-help books were read and a constant stream of negative thoughts inhabited my brain. As this vicious cycle kept repeating itself, one day I decided I’d had enough and it was time to get my act together. It took a long time for that day to come, but the important thing is that it came.
Mindset is everything. This overly used statement is easy to shrug off when you feel like your whole world is collapsing. And in the midst of this collapse, where everything is crashing and burning in front of your own eyes, the hardest thing you can imagine doing is being positive. It’s easier to hide away in your room to cry and feel sorry for yourself than it is to push yourself to make a change. But 2017 taught me that no matter how utterly shit everything is, you can land on your feet again. The hardest step is telling yourself that you can do it, and actually believing it. That comes as a result of altering your mindset because mindset really is everything.
Just look at any successful person who has every achieved anything in life. Oprah did not become Oprah with a ‘I have nothing, so I will always have nothing’ mindset. I know it’s not easy. Just ask anybody that knows me and they will tell you I have always been guilty of consistently letting negative thoughts and beliefs take over my life. But the shit storm that 2017 brought with itself pushed me to listen to, and apply this overused statement to my life, and I can honestly say, it changed everything. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Thoughts really are things
Having spent most of my life believing that expecting the least from life would mean I would never be disappointed, it is no surprise that I was the most negative person I knew. Not only did it make me angry and pessimistic, but it definitely did not avoid disappointment.
I’ve banged on about it so many times on my blog, but the Law of Attraction has helped me with so so so much. It is the one and only thing that pushed me to change the way I had lived my life, by prioritising positive thoughts and making a conscious effort to not complain about frivolous things. As a result, I was able to control my anxiety, an issue that had caused many problems for me at university, and enabled me to actually allow myself enjoy life. Whether that meant being grateful for the simple things, such as a cup of coffee in the morning, or even enjoying certain blissful moments, no matter how short lived they are.
Thinking positively leads to gratitude. Gratitude leads to appreciating the little things. Appreciating the little things leads to happiness. Happiness comes in bursts, and we have to take it and treasure it at any given moment and time.
3. Having fun is underrated
I used to think that having fun meant un-productivity and any time that I found myself having fun, I would feel guilty us about the bullet points on my to do list that were not going to get ticked off as a result.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but as soon as I hit the age of twenty, I feel like life started to speed up like I had never experienced before. I could’ve sworn I was only sixteen yesterday, but I blinked and woke up at twenty-two, with a degree in my hand and being pushed into the deep end that is ‘real life’. So, life moves fast. Have as much fun as you can, enjoy the little things and allow yourself to be happy. I live by this motto now, because I do not want to wake up at 70 and wish I had experienced more than I actually did.
5. Goals need to be set regularly, not just on December 31st, just before the clock hits 12
Hitting rock bottom de-motivates you like nothing I have experienced before. It makes you shrug off your life goals and forget about them by fooling you to believe that you will never ever achieve any of them. That’s not true! As I said, you can always get back up.
What helped me the most was physically writing down my goals in a journal that I use on a consistent basis, and I don’t just mean big life goals. One of my closest friends and I have started our own tradition of writing monthly goals at the beginning of every month, and ticking them off as the days go by. Not only does this make you feel like you’re grabbing life by the collar, but it’s a daily reminder of your priorities and your vision of how you want your life to be.
Setting regular goals transformed my unhealthy habits and routines. I used to wake up and snooze my alarm ten times before realising I had ten minutes to throw on some clothes and rush to work. I used to count down the hours at work so that I could come home. When I did finally come, I would sit and binge watch shows that portrayed the life I wished I could have, but believe there was no way I could actually have. I used to eat like I had a death wish and the most exercise I ever did was running to catch my bus in the morning with a bagel in my mouth, and my coat hanging off one arm because, yep, I got up too late.
Setting regular goals pushes you to change even the tiniest of things you want to do differently. I now wake up a lot earlier than I need to, I practically live in the gym and I find cooking and eating healthy fun (weird, right?)! It all started with small, achievable goals. First I aimed to get up ten minutes than I needed to, then twenty, and before I knew it, it turned to an hour and a half earlier! So, the moral of the story is this: set smaller goals regularly that will help you achieve the larger goal you have in your mind.
6. Time is precious. Don’t waste it watching Netflix.
Whilst binge watching Netflix will always be one of my guilty pleasures, 2017 taught me that no matter how many episodes I watched, I was never going to forget my problems. Yes, I did temporarily, because let’s be honest, is it even possible to think about something else whilst watching shows as intense and epic as The OA?! But once the binge was over, that never ending cycle I told you about would repeat itself.
Spend your time wisely! Life does not wait for you to dilly dally around. Instead of watching Netflix, pick up that hobby you’ve always wanted to pursue, start that blog, or read that book that so many people have told you is amazing!
7. Journaling is life changing
Write down everything! A goal is only an idea when kept locked up in your mind. It only begins to feel real once it is written somewhere safe. Writing my goals is the only thing that pushed me to change my unhealthy habits and routines. So, order yourself a notebook and start to journal your thoughts, ideas, gratitude lists…whatever it may be that you need to write down to motivate you or make you feel better about a shitty situation.
8. Staying in your comfort zone is boring
Yes, it’s easy to stick to what you’re comfortable with. But that way, you will never experience or learn anything new. Explore your fears! Often, they turn into new passions!
9. Meditation does not make you a weirdo
If like me, you’ve experienced anxiety in the past or are an overly stressed person, I can not recommend meditation enough! Taking two minutes out of your day to gather your thoughts and calm your racing heart does not make you a weirdo!
10. Good friends are angels. Keep them close. Always.
The shit storm that was 2016 meant I had no energy to spend time with, or even talk to friends who I loved so much! But, 2017 was all about pushing myself to leave my comfort zone and achieve even the smallest of victories. As someone who has always been guilty of bailing on plans, I made a conscious effort to follow through this year, and it was the best thing I have done!
Good friends really are angels. You know, the ones who let you call them no matter what time of day, who let you cry your heart out at the stupidest of problems and who make you laugh so hard you begin to worry whether you’ll ever actually be able to stop laughing! Those friends can make you forget about your deepest darkest worries. So, I am going into 2018 vowing that I will not bail on plans, in fact, I will actively contribute to making them.
12. Change is only brought about through positivity and not through stress
This was the hardest thing for me to grasp. Having lived my whole life thinking I could only achieve things through stressing, fussing and self-discipline, it was hard for me to see how positivity could ever achieve any successful outcomes. The truth is, stress can be a motivator at times, but too often, it worries you so much that it fogs your mind and prevents you from being able to think of the most logical, effective and practical way of solving a problem.
The best way of thinking about it for me is by comparing it to running on the treadmill. Weird, I know, but hear me out. I despise running. Whenever I first step on the treadmill and press that ‘go’ button I catch myself huffing and puffing at what I’m about to do to myself. I try to talk myself out of running, but I could just go on the rowing machine, I could just walk on incline, I could just go on a long walk. But then I increase the speed and begin to do HIIT training. The first two minutes are spent battling these thoughts and telling them to shut up. Ten minutes in, the thought of completing a twenty minute session seems absolutely impossible. But you just keep going, and before you know it, you’ve completed the session, burnt over 200 calories and your endorphins are bouncing off making you feel absolutely invincible. So, just put your head down and do what needs to be done and before you know it, you have fixed the problem you spent so long obsessing over.
Don’t stress. Just do.
13. Exercise is a bitch, but it just feels so good
My love and hate relationship with exercise was truly tested in 2017. I hate exercise. It’s painful, it’s messy and it means you have to wash your hair way more often than my hairdresser recommends. BUT, exercise makes you feel like you’re capable of anything. Reaching the end of a circuit, your heart pounding in your chest and looking like you’ve just been dipped into a pool head first is gross, but you are doing something that is just for you.
Exercise allows you to gain clarity of mind. After all, you need to focus on counting your sets and reps, and making sure your timing is spot on. And do you know what, it feels damn good to care about and want to look after yourself.
14. Comparison is bad for the soul.
It’s easy to analyse your achievements by looking at others of a similar age or background to you. It’s even easier to beat yourself up because you believe that they are doing better than you. However, all this really does is de-motivate you, because it goes against the idea of being positive and believing you can achieve anything.
Everyone has a different path, different goals and different needs. Our timings are all different. Don’t look back to see how someone else is running their race, when your finish line is actually just a few steps in front of you. Focus on you!
15. Motivational speeches teach you so much
Ted talks, speeches and quotes. They will push you to set goals and seek to achieve things you never knew you wanted to in the first place. Wake up in the morning and aim to listen to or read something inspirational that will inspire you and make you believe you can do anything.
16. Don’t dwell on the small things
We are fortunate enough to live in a world where the tiniest of things annoy us. Stuck in a warm car in traffic, when it’s pouring outside…yes, you are running late, but at least you’re warm and dry. Your phone’s laggy, your boss threw a one liner at you, you made a spelling mistake at work…these things happen! Dwelling on them just prevent us from enjoying the good things that actually did happen that day.
Life is short! We don’t know how long we have and we need to make every single moment count. In 2017 I vowed to myself to just let the annoying little things that happen go, and it feels so good to give that attention to the happy things that happened that day, no matter how small.
17. You already are all that you want to be
It sounds cringe. Everyone has a picture in their mind of who they want to be! Too often I hear people wish and dream about who they wish they could be. It is good to envision your dream life as long as you change your habits to work towards making that vision come to life.
The fact that you are even wishing you could be a certain way means that person is already in you, you just need to make a conscious effort to allow that person to come out and basically just smash life.
Wishing you all an amazing 2018!