Over a year ago I was forwarded an email by my boss that included a document of reflection questions on the year past and the year ahead. I was keen to complete them as, not only do I love to look back on these sorts of things, but I felt the need to do so; to prove to myself that I’m making progress and changing in a tangible and positive way. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned and truly appreciated the ability to control my outlook on life; learning that it’s not dictated by anyone else by myself and this is a power in itself that is a beautiful and inspiring entity.
In an effort to live a shareable, transparent life, I’m including my answers to these reflection questions below. Because I’m sharing publicly, I wanted to find out where these questions came from and I want to encourage everyone to check out Eileen Chadnick’s book, Ease, to which she refers in the questions below. This year I’ve learned that Eileen is a well-being coach who, according to her website, uses “emotional intelligence, positive psychology and neuroscience to help clients strengthen their personal awareness and build new skills to more powerfully navigate the complexities, opportunities and goals within their work and life.” Eileen is inspiring to me because she not only shares and encourages people to reflect but she provides template to do so. Starting is often the hardest part, but you can start right here and right now with the questions already drawn out for you.
THE YEAR PAST – 2014:
1) What went well? Identify the goals you accomplished or advanced towards; and anything else that went well and is worth acknowledging.
- In January I participated in Broken Pencil’s Indie Writer’s Deathmatch which resulted in my first short story publication and an emergence in myself to blog and write.
- Brian and I got almost naked on camera for a Kevin Drew music video.. The song is called “Good Sex” which went live on Valentine’s Day I think. It was… so… nerve wracking… but an amazing exercise in trust and adventure.
- On March 5th I went to my first Canadian Screen Awards with a friend who works at the OMDC.
- March 30th – Brian and I went to see MILEY! She played Jolene and it was mindblowing.
- In April I quit my amazing full time job to pursue writing in a writing room.
- In May I wrote, shot, and produced my first short film Side Streets and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing people I’d met the years prior.
- In May I won a contest that flew Brian and I to New York City to see Lily Allen. We got to stay at the Hilton in Manhattan for free and we even flew down!!!
- May-July Brian and I were a part of Autoshare’s #discoverON campaign where we road tripped around Ontario for free.
- In July I went to Margot’s cottage. I’d never been to a friend’s cottage before and it was a lot of fun. This solidified Margot’s friendship in my heart. To be included is the greatest gift.
- In August Brian and I put Disposable on display at the inaugural Open Streets TO.
- In September Brian and I made our first batch of soap and on December 10th we opened our store under the name Porch Light and sold over $100 in our first week at Arts Market. The following Saturday we won 6 months of office space at BrightLane in a pitching competition and have since applied for a small business loan at Futurpreneur. Before I left Toronto for the holidays I restocked our booth which was completely sold out of coffee and lavender soap! This is an incredible success!
- In October we filmed a short documentary about a Keg Toss!
- In October Brian and I went to Massachusetts – Salem and Boston more specifically. The ten hour road trip and touristy nature was the first “big” trip we’ve been on and it was really fun, relaxing, and inspiring. I wrote a short film based on my experience in Salem.
- In November I got word that I was accepted into the Independent Producers Program under the OSEB and have worked for the past 8 weeks launching my production company, A Space Films. It’s been a learning curve in the most incredible way! I will come out with a viable business plan and concrete steps towards my company’s growth.
- In December I had myself-portrait series Annex hung on an art gallery wall (Black Cat Gallery)
- On December 14th Brian and I went to Buffalo to see the Packers play (ahem, lose). Brian got me these tix for my 27th birthday. We tailgated and had so much fun!
- On December 20th I impulsively bought a ukulele.
- Today, on December 31, I bought my first cross fit classes to work out with Brian at his gym, Academy of Lions. If Brian were reading over my shoulder he’d say, “our gym now.”
2) In what ways did you grow and evolve in the ‘evolution of you’? How were you tested or challenged, and how did you grow as a result? What new skills, knowledge, ideas and have made you better or different from the beginning of the year?
- My relationship with myself and Brian has bloomed. I am giving myself the right to feel and set limits and be strong in a non-defensive and healthier way than I did before. I am facing my discrepancies with my family and our relationship and its effect on me. I’m attending 8-weeks of group therapy to help me on this journey.
Other thigs that have happened this year that taught me strength, proper recovery, love and positivity matter in the worst of times:
- My bike accident: on July 19th I flipped over my handlebars on my bike and knocked myself unconscious for 2 minutes. I was wearing a helmet but I hit my mouth and knocked out three teeth that took until November 7th to repair ($6000 and three root canals and three crowns later). I also fractured both my elbows and got a pretty bad concussion that I am still healing from as I write this on December 31st. As much as I struggle I have learned to laugh at it. You can read my blog about it here.
- My elementary school friend’s double mastectomy: one of my best and oldest friends got a double mastectomy this year. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother all passed away really young from breast cancer and, since she also had he gene, she acted on it early. She is one of the bravest and smarted people I know. She had her surgery the same week as my bike accident and we bonded over the affects of Percocet via texting. It was strange and simple and lovely all at once.
- Group therapy: I mentioned this above but this is a huge step for me. I’ve had four sessions out of 8 and I’ve cried at every one. I’m hoping, by the end, I won’t cry at all and that will signify betterment.
- Business, business, business: I’ve started two business that I love and am passionate about. I went into the last quarter of this year not really knowing how much I knew about business, telling everyone I knew nothing, and realizing I had acquired a great many skills I use daily to better and grow my businesses. It’s amazing and something I’m super proud of. Starting is the hardest part, and I did that, so onward and up I will go.
3) What were your favorite moments of the year past? Savouring positive experiences gives you the opportunity to replay the positive moments which is a proven strategy to boost your “positivity muscle” leading to more optimism, resilience and mojo – all essential ingredients to personal and professional wellbeing. Go ahead – indulge and enjoy them again.
- Canoeing with Brian on Lake Simcoe. We got in a massive fight in the middle of the lake and we couldn’t go anywhere because he refused to paddle and was sitting in he back. He laid down and stopped talking. I had an anxiety attack. Begged him to paddle. He did. We talked about it and he said something dismissive to me. We sat in silence the whole drive home but the sky and sun were beautiful in the 20’s even though it was September and the weather was changing. So were we. I love this memory for some strange reason.
- Seeing Miley. Like. Yeah. “Remember only God can judge ya, forget the haters cause somebody loves ya…” Seriously!
- My trip to Ottawa in May. It was such a good time to reconnect with friends and dance and buy matching figure skating costumes and wear sombreros and eat poutine. I truly adore them all. I even wrote a blog entry about it.
- All the blue jays games with Brian, especially the last one because of how excited Brian was to play the games and eat overpriced ice cream with me. It’s really fun to be with someone so uninhibited.
- My dad and Brian spending 15 minutes together and talking while I got one of my caps put on at the dentist. My dad remembered that Brian worked at CBC. That is a big deal.
- Moving in with Brian, waking up beside his naked bum, looking over at him from the other side of the futon, touching his face, smiling, listening to him say “What?” in the most curious of ways. Oh and Brian growing a beard this past month.
- Brielle jumping up and hugging me when I saw her at Christmas. It was really good to feel connected to her.
4) What do you need to clean-out or let go of right now from the year past to be ready to start fresh in the New Year? Consider both your physical space (your office, your home) as well as your emotional and mental mindsets.
- Setting limits with my family.
- Meditating, exercising, and doing more yoga. This is a must for my mental health.
- Making healthier choices. No more liquor. Practicing self-control. (ah!)
5) What and who are you most grateful for right now? Consider the people in your life; the circumstances; the gifts; make this a juicy list! Practising gratitude helps fast-track you towards greater happiness, health and well-being.
- Ten fold, Brian. He has taught me and continues to teach me about himself and his view of the world. We’re different enough to bring new perspectives to he table and passionate enough to share them even when the other disagrees. He’s taught me about tolerance and patience and love through being himself and me being me. He’s helped ,e become a better and strong person.
- I’m also grateful for my grandma and aunt who have both been there for me as I start my journey into therapy.
- My dad for helping me get new teeth. He paid for all my dentist appointment which ended up costing him about $6000. It’s brought new meaning to “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”
- I’m grateful for my cats and their loving nature.
- For people I work with and who like working with me.
- For Brian’s family for welcoming me into their homes and their lives.
- For friends like Fiona and Margot and Tasha and my cousin Amanda and Marika for doing things with me and keeping in touch when I suck at it.
- For everyone who ever reads a word of what I write. That is all I want in life; to share things with others and for them to share them with me.
6) If there was a theme for the past year for you, what would it be? i.e. “This was the year of ____.”
- Forward motion; of making waves in the mundane.
THE YEAR AHEAD – 2015:
7) What do you want for the year ahead? What goals are you embracing and willing to commit to? Are these goals actionable and part of a plan? Or just wishful thinking? Make them count; make them meaningful; and make them happen!
- I want to get my writing published professionally 3 more times.
- I want to produce one finished project with my film company, A Space Films.
- I want to get into a few stores with Porch Light and add two more products.
- I want to go to Europe.
8) In what areas do you need to get better organized to avoid the ‘mind full’ syndrome so you can bring your best self to your goals? Consider your daily tasks as well as longer term priorities? How will you make sure you get your vast amount of ‘to do’s out of your head but maintain a top-of-mind awareness of key priorities? How will you manage your crazy schedule? What boundaries and structures will you put in place to manage your time more effectively and meaningfully? Chapter 1 of Ease provides a ton of tips in these areas.
- Routine-making and time management. Focusing on the task at hand. Prioritizing to-do list items and sticking to this.
- Calendar calendar calendar. Sticking to the calendar. If I schedule yoga, I need to go to yoga.
9 ) How will you tame the multitasking beast and add more focus and flow to your days? Sure, life is busy and there’s a lot to juggle. But science tells us that our brains aren’t built for certain kinds of multitasking. In fact, we are depleting our energy and compromising our best ‘brain-ability’. Our brains need some time for focus and flow. Give it some and you will be rewarded with a greater sense of ease, energy and ‘brain-ability’ to tackle the loads more effectively.
- Weekly yoga, or even better, twice weekly.
- Baths and meditation in the bath (this really helped me last week). And epsom salts. They’re good for magnesium intake.
- Running? Knitting? Something new that gets me away from my computer.
10) What inner critics need to be acknowledged and then invited to take a back seat this year in order for you to tap into your more essential self that will empower you to flourish? We all have parts of ourselves that limit our greatness – if we allow them to. We can’t quiet our inner critics if we don’t notice them. What voices need to be noticed and quieted this year? What empowering voices from within yourself will you listen to more intently – e.g. your voice of trust? Wisdom? Experience? Courage? In Ease, I offer guidance on how to get to know your inner critics and how to park them in favour of other more empowering forces from within.
- Doubt can take a back seat. I know my role, my trajectory, and my capabilities.
- My trust issues can take a back seat. There’s a difference between not trusting someone based on past and unrelated experiences and understanding someone’s potential or trusting their potential within the realm of the project.
11) How will you boost your positivity ratio? Research in the science of positivity has proven that those who practice robust positivity habits enjoy greater success and tend to be more apt to stretch higher and reach more of their goals. They also experience greater well-being physically, mentally and emotionally. How much positivity makes the difference? The ideal ratio is a minimum of 3 positive thoughts to one negative thought. Scaling back negativity is one way to achieve that and ramping up authentic positive micro moments is another. Chapter 6 in Ease provides many tips to help you ramp up your positivity habit. What will you commit to practicing in the year ahead?
- Recognizing negative thoughts, addressing them, and figuring out why I feel or think them. Then, whether or not I can turn them into positives.
12) How will you ensure you get enough quality sleep this year? Lack of quality sleep has become a problem for too many people. Ample zzzs are imperative for our brains and bodies to operate most effectively. Lack of sleep combined with excessive stress, poor mood is a recipe for poor performance and ‘bye bye thinking capacity – hello brain freeze’. It’s time to wake up to the issue of not enough sleep! In Ease, I offer some tips to help you get a grip on sleeplessness. What will you commit to this year to get the sleep you need to flourish?
- Routine sleep – 8 hours minimum – and setting limits on when I work and when I stop working. Which is neverrrrrr. This plays on the “if you give up the 9-5 you have to be prepared to hustle 24-7.”
BONUS Q: If the year ahead is to have a personal theme for you, what would that be and what word or phrase best embodies this theme? i.e. “This will be the year of ____” This is one of my favorite questions. This year my theme continues to be “Ease”: To live and work with greater ease. I’ll still work hard and give it my all – and then some. But I will use the tools shared in my new book, Ease, to do so with much less frazzle and struggle. How about you? What’s your theme?
- This will be the year of connection and creation; bringing narratives from minds to life… and sharing them with the world.
Wishing everyone a bright, happy, and healthy 2015 in the ways only you could imagine! Feel free to leave your answers in the comments below and we can check back in 364 days to see what’s up!
With much love,