Annual Review 2017

Well, it’s been a while! Actually it’s almost been a year and a half since I last published here. I’ve half written a few blog posts and had a number of ideas for challenges and posts waft through my brain but nothing has stuck, nothing has felt right. Part of me has been beating myself up for it, but if I am to give myself more compassion and understanding, then I would concede that the last year, at least, has been a big one. Looking after a baby, my son who was born three days before New Year last year, has been exhausting emotionally and physically. He is now one year old and just that very fact has lightened my burden hugely. OK, the fact I am getting (a little bit) more sleep also helps, but much of the weight that has lifted has been psychological rather than physiological.

So here I am. Why am I returning here you may be asking? What has brought me back to this space? At this point I am a little hazy around that, but there is something drawing me back. The need to be more intentional in my life, the need to get back to me, the need for a creative outlet or space to connect perhaps? I am not entirely sure, but I am learning to trust my intuition more these days and so, this is where it finds me.

I have decided to start with a bit of a reflection on last year and then to set my intentions for the coming year. An Annual Review is an idea that I read about from Chris Guillebeau. Each year he reflects on the previous 12 months to work out what went well for him that year and what didn’t go so well. Then he sets goals for the year ahead. I’ve done goal setting before, but I was drawn to the idea of a reflection on the year that has past. It’s a short and simple exercise, but my efficient, organised, OCD mind likes the idea of drawing a line under the previous year. Sort of like packaging it up, tying a neat little bow around it and then putting it on the shelf. It also kind of clears the decks for the year ahead.

Here are my reflections on the year that was 2017:

Positives of 2017 – Leon’s first year, watching him grow and change and my own personal growth as a result; Our family trip to Portugal, challenging at times but a magnificent adventure that I will remember for years to come; Being able to support a friend through a difficult time; Getting to know/understand my Mum better and feeling closer to her because of it; Seeing one of my best friends get married and have a baby; Communication with my husband has improved hugely this year and we are closer than ever because of it (I still kind of dig him, even after ten years together).

Negatives of 2017 – No progress on making a career change; Still struggling somewhat with my body image; Neglected doing things ‘just for fun’ such as photography, social outings, reading, creative writing; Haven’t saved as much money as I would have liked; I continue to have a lot of negative self talk.

One of the benefits of doing this reflection is that it allows me to be a little more objective about my year. There is no doubt that 2017 was a difficult one, lack of sleep affects my mental health hugely and that makes things tougher than they need to be, but it’s also helpful to be reminded that amidst the difficulty there have been lots of achievements, lots of moments of joy and SO many things to celebrate. It is also helpful for me to give compassion to myself around the detractors – no, I haven’t made any progress on my career change, but I recognise that this was a season for caring and connecting with my gorgeous little boy. And yes, I still struggle with body image sometimes, but I have made huge progress with intuitive eating, awareness of diet culture and catching judgements.

Now that I’ve put 2017 on the shelf, it’s time to get excited for 2018! And I AM excited. I turned 40 just a week ago and initially that blew me a little off keel. But now I am feeling pretty damn pumped about it – how could I not be, I’m not so keen about the alternative! Right now I am feeling exceptionally grateful for being alive, for all the privileges I have been bestowed and all my achievements big and small that have led me to today. How great is it to be alive!

The framework that I am using for my goals comes from a book I read last year called Designing Your Life. The authors use four categories to create a Dashboard of sorts to help you assess how well things are going in four broad areas of your life: Work, Play, Health, Love. Of course you can use any categories you like, or none at all, but I have used each of these categories to set my intentions for the year ahead as it resonated with me. This is what I came up with.

Work

  • Conduct at least 12 interviews with people to explore potential career change ideas;
  • To be earning at least $1,000 from a side hustle by the end of the year;
  • Write at least one blog post per month for Cold Showers Are Good For you and get back into doing comfort zone challenges;

Play

  • Sign up for a regular class for each term this year (i.e. dancing, pottery, etc);
  • Read 12 novels and 12 non-fiction books by the end of the year;
  • Spend one day a month taking photos, just for the fun of it;

Health

  • Meditate 365 days of this year;
  • Drink a green smoothie daily for 30 days;
  • Not to weigh myself at all this year (hopefully ever again);

Love

  • Have a date with my husband at least once a month;
  • To not check my phone (especially social media) when I am spending time with Sophie and Leon;
  • Plan or say yes to at least one social event with friends per month.

As Chris Guillebeau says in his article, you need to have an action plan as well as a vision. I am using a Passion Planner, for the third year in a row (admittedly last years use was pretty patchy), to help me turn these goals into reality. It helps me break it all down and create solid action steps to get from where I am now to achieving my goals. It helps to keep me accountable when I check in each week too, although now I also have YOU, dear reader, to keep me accountable when I check in this time next year.

What are your goals for 2018? Have you ever conducted an annual review? And will you join me in a year of comfort zone challenges to stretch and learn and grow into the person you know you can be?

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Have you met Angry Jane?

“Be prepared for rain” They said. “Take lots of bandaids for all the blisters” They warned. But no one ever warned me about the REAL challenge I would have to face when embarking upon the Overland Track… dealing with my overprotective father. I mean, I’m pretty sure I am a grown woman – 38 years of age would certainly qualify me for the status of Adult. But convincing my father of that and staying firm on my resolve to do the trek regardless of his opinion was actually the hardest part about doing this trek (yes, really!).

When I first booked the pass to hike the Overland Track in Tasmania it felt like it was going to be the hardest challenge I’d set myself to date. It was going to be more than 65km of walking and camping, alone, in the middle of the Tasmanian wilderness, miles from civilisation (even further depending on whether you consider Tasmania civilised. Just kidding Tassie, I love you!). After I made the very impulsive decision to book the trip, only about 12 hours after first discussing it with my husband, I actually thought “Shit, can I do this?” But as seems to be a recurring theme with my comfort zone challenges, the biggest challenge that I had to overcome and the lesson that I had to learn was not the one that I first anticipated.

Even before my Dad freaked me out. I did have some reservations about hiking all that way on my own. I worried whether my knees, my back and my morale would cope with walking an average of 15km per day, for 6 days, carrying 18kgs on my back. But I’d also done my research and over the years I’ve had plenty of experience hiking and camping, albeit with at least one other person. So, while I knew it would be challenging I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t spend the rest of my days living off berries and skinks in the Tasmanian wilderness. So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a text message/essay from my father telling me how irresponsible and dangerous it was to embark on such a venture, especially given that I had a husband, a young child and responsibilities at home (and those weren’t his exact words…)

Actually, surprise wasn’t how I felt at all. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I felt totally deflated about the whole trip, and I started to doubt myself and my ability to complete the challenge. “Is this too dangerous?” I thought. “Am I risking not seeing my daughter grow up?” “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.” After a little while though I got angry. Angry with myself for doubting my own abilities and also angry with my Dad. I wanted to call him back and shout at him. I wanted to tell him to Fuck off and tell him that I wasn’t a child anymore and he couldn’t tell me what to do.

Anger is my default defence mechanism you see. It tends to come up for me often when I feel most vulnerable: feeling hurt; rejected; or scared. So as you can imagine, comfort zone challenges seem to bring it out in me a fair bit (yup, I’m a total pleasure to be around). But as with all comfort zone challenges, it is in noticing your response to the challenge that you make the biggest breakthroughs. If any of you are familiar with Brene Brown’s work, in her book Rising Strong she introduces this concept as an SFD – Shitty First Draft.   She says that “….moving from our first responses to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours give birth to key learnings about who are we and how we engage with others” I would also argue that recognising other people’s knee jerk responses also helps to bring a deeper understanding to your relationship with them.

Thankfully while I was in the throws of my SFD I resisted the urge to call or text back to my dad and tell him how I really felt – I’m sure it would have been super classy and super eloquent. After I calmed down and reflected on my own angry response I could then reflect on my Dad’s motivations. I know from my own angry, fly-off-the-handle responses that there is usually something else lurking beneath anyone’s SFDs. And even before I called my husband to vent (AKA: bitch) about my Dad’s response I could recognise a genuine fear and concern for my safety. Certainly he didn’t manage his own emotions as well as he should, but we’re all human, right? Thankfully rather than call back immediately and abuse him I could actually approach his response with some level of compassion. So, instead of calling him a wanker (which I SO wanted to do at the time – sorry Dad), I texted back saying “I know you’re concerned Dad, but I have done my research and I will be fine” and then after giving him some time to calm down we had a very adult conversation (who knew!!) about how I didn’t make the decision lightly and without the appropriate research or preparation. I also managed to openly, honestly (and hopefully somewhat tactfully) tell him that I was disappointed in his response and how his assumptions had hurt me.

A few weeks later, after the hike, we met for lunch and amazingly Dad turned to me and said “Janey, I owe you an apology.” Just… wow. I can’t tell you how much this blew me away. The thing is, apologising is hard. It makes you vulnerable – it makes you uncomfortable. But the fact that he apologised showed to me that he’d heard me and taken on board what I said and more importantly that he was willing to be wrong – to be vulnerable – for the sake of our relationship. Heck, maybe it’s my Dad who should be getting credit for this comfort zone challenge. And I can honestly say that from that honest and vulnerable place, our relationship has grown.

One of the greatest gifts that I have received as a result of pushing myself through these comfort zone challenges is how much closer it brings me to other people. Getting to know myself, observing my reactions to things that happen and opening myself up to the idea of improving has meant that my relationships with others become so much more open and as a result, more honest.   For so long I operated from a place of anger, blame and fear of being hurt. I put up walls around my heart or lashed out for fear of being hurt first. Unfortunately I know that in the past I may have hurt people, and while it was unintentional, it’s hard knowing I can’t change that now. All I can do, and all anyone can do, is to continue to reflect and learn from our experiences and to continue growing.

 

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4 Steps to Overcome Resistance

I wonder, what is on your comfort zone challenge list (or bucket list, Life Goals, etc) that you keep putting off because it seems too hard, too scary, too big? A couple of months ago I did my first video (here, in case you missed it) and for a while my own internal resistance held me back. It just seemed too difficult and I just kept thinking and thinking about making a video. In my head I was making some awesome videos – if only you could have seen them, I rocked! But as always, thinking only gets you so far.

Now that I finally managed to shoot and share my first video, I have reflected on what got me from frozen with fear to successfully completing the challenge. I thought I would share these lessons with you in the hope that if you’re also struggling with a challenge and resistance is holding you back, you may just benefit from what I learned.

Fear has a job: to keep you small, stuck and the same. – Unknown

Start Small

Technically speaking the video I posted to YouTube wasn’t my first ever video, but it was the first time that I had publicly shared a video – and I was so nervous about it that I had to close my eyes as I pressed publish. My actual first video was done a few months ago: a 30 second masterpiece that explained how to use a sinus rinse. No, really. Glamorous huh?   Let’s hope that doesn’t resurface once I’ve made it to YouTube stardom (it’s imminent, surely).

Things only started happening when a friend posted a challenge to a Facebook group that I am part of, which was to do a 30 second video teaching everyone in the group something that you knew (I happened  to have a sinus infection at the time). Before shooting my ‘Sinus How To’ guide I had only got as far as turning my iphone camera to selfie mode, pressing the little red button and then…… nothing. For some reason I couldn’t actually get any words out. I felt like an idiot speaking at an inanimate object. It’s amazing how the fear of getting out of your comfort zone can stop you from doing what, from the outside, can seem like the simplest things. I mean I’m pretty sure any millennials reading this would be thinking “What’s the big deal old lady? Shoot the video!”.

But I figured that I could probably manage 30 seconds and once everyone started posting their own videos I felt really inspired. Just taking the tiny step of a 30 second video about a random topic actually got me started.

You don’t have to start big, but you do need to start. Trust that momentum will take care of the rest.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

When I was shooting my 30 second sinus video it definitely helped me knowing exactly who my audience was, for two reasons. Firstly it meant that I could speak as if I was speaking directly to them and not just into a little hole at the top of my iphone. Secondly, knowing the audience meant that I knew that if I fucked up they wouldn’t judge me. It felt safe to speak, which meant that I showed up 100% as myself, not trying to be different, not trying to be ‘a person who was good at video’. So I posted the first video that I ever shot, no retakes, no edits, nothing.

A funny thing happened next. The original challenge was “Over the next 7 days post a video…” however that got interpreted by most of us as “Post a video for the next 7 days…” and everyone just kept on posting. I got swept up in the excitement and also posted 6 more videos. Yes, you may remember me from such videos as “How to boil an egg in the kettle” and “Why you should avoid tea when you have a cold”. The feedback and support that everyone gave was so valuable.

It’s amazing what feeling part of something can help you achieve. Don’t underestimate the power of surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people.

Have a strategy

When the time came to shoot my first Cold Showers video I was feeling a lot more confident about speaking into the camera. Unfortunately it gave me a bit too much confidence to think that I could just hit record and start speaking, without having a plan of attack. I knew what I wanted to speak about, but having it in your head and saying it aloud in a clear and succinct message is another thing. I spent about an hour just to film what ended up being a 4 minute video!

I stopped and re-started about 8 times and at one point I found myself getting really angry and frustrated that I couldn’t do it. Finally I reminded myself that this is what being outside your comfort zone is about and that I just needed to figure it out. As soon as I changed my mindset I opened myself up to the possibility that maybe what I needed was a script (yep, slow learner here…). Even just writing it out made everything more concrete in my mind and eventually I shot the footage that became the final video.

Having a basic structure or strategy can help prepare you and give you confidence to take the next step.  And if you think it’s going to hinder your creativity, read this.

Let go of perfection

The first time I played back my video footage I was so disheartened. Apart from the fact that putting makeup on (a rare occurrence) didn’t turn me into a supermodel, I was also disappointed that I hadn’t said something quite the right way; that my lips moved strangely; that I’d tucked my hair behind my ear; the list goes on. So, I reshot the video… nope, still not Heidi Klum. Then a few more times. Until I realised that no matter how many times I reshot the footage I would never say everything as succinctly, intelligently, or perfectly as I wanted. And let’s be honest, I was never going to get great at video in just one afternoon. Getting to the top of my video ‘game’ was going to take practice.

I also realise that in trying to achieve perfection you lose a little bit of yourself in the process. So my lips are a bit wonky when I speak and I have ears that make me look like Kira from the Dark Crystal, but that is all just part of who I am and isn’t that the whole point of video – to show people who you really are?

Don’t let your desire for perfection make you lose your momentum. As Seth Godin says, Just Ship It.

Go forth and conquer

Another thing to remember is that having the feeling of resistance is not necessarily a bad thing.  And while I don’t much like the cliche of ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ it has a certain value in that you can’t expect the fear, anxiety or resistance to go away.  You just have to use it as an indicator that you’re moving in the right direction and that it means you’re growing. Steven Pressfield explores this idea really well in his book The War of Art, I definitely recommend it.

These are just a few things that I found helped me overcome my resistance to the video challenge. My challenge is not going to stop here however. To really get great at video I am going to try and do a two week challenge to post a video to the Cold Showers Facebook Page every day for 14 days – so ‘Like’ the page and stay tuned!  And if you’re game I would love it if you joined in.

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On Being a Quitter

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Image via Pinterest

When I wrote my comfort zone challenge list many months ago there were a few that I thought I would attempt straight away and then others that I thought “Yeah, I’ll probably do that in a few years time” (oh, hello my friend procrastination). One of those things was shaving my head (holy hell did I really commit to that!) and another one was quitting my job without having another one to go to.   Well I’m pleased to report that I haven’t shaved my head, but a few weeks ago I somehow mustered up the courage to quit my job.

Now, normally, when I sit down to reflect on a comfort zone challenge and write about my experience, the learning is fairly absolute, or at least it is in my mind. I complete a challenge and I have learned something as a result of it. However, as I am writing this I am still sitting very firmly in the discomfort of my challenge and every inch of me is resisting it. The days are a bit of a rollercoaster; going from extreme optimism and a sense of freedom to sometimes that feeling of being lost, not really knowing what I should do with myself.  However, I am trying to use these uncomfortable feelings as a reassurance that I am moving in the right direction.*

If you’ve completed my guide to setting meaningful comfort zone challenges (and if you haven’t – subscribe now and download it!) you will probably find that your comfort zone challenges relate to one or two base level fears and they tend to be recurring. For me one of these recurring fears is around uncertainty, or lack of control. So the idea of quitting my job without having another one to go to was terrifying. Kind of like jumping off a cliff without knowing where you’re going to land (or more specifically whether your parachute will open…).

I should probably first explain to you why quitting my job was on my list of comfort zone challenges in the first place. I didn’t just put it on there because I saw it as a way of feeling out of control, these things don’t really work that way. I’ve been working in the financial services industry for over 10 years and over the last few years I have started to feel unfulfilled. On the surface my most recent job was perfect – the loved the people I worked with, they were flexible with me working part time, it was close to home and there was day-care just around the corner for me to drop off my daughter before work. But there was something gnawing away at me.   I just kept thinking “What is wrong with me?”, “I should be grateful for this”.

And then something happened that opened my eyes and made me realise that maybe I shouldn’t keep ignoring these signals. An entrepreneur and blogger that I have been following for a couple of years, Scott Dinsmore, died at the age of 33 in a freak accident on Mt Kilimanjaro. To me, and a lot of other people around the world, he was hugely inspiring. He was living his dream life, running an amazingly successful business, connecting people around the world and inspiring them to do something that made a positive impact on the world. If you haven’t watched his TEDx talk, do yourself a favour and watch it here.

After Scott died I was in shock and despite not having even met him, I grieved for him. I have been involved with his community here in Sydney for a while now and so I felt I was a part of his impact, being involved in that community has well and truly changed my life. His dying firstly made me think about my own mortality. But what impacted me more was hearing from his community, family and even his wife, that he died doing something that he loved and making a positive impact in the world.  Naturally that got me thinking “If I died right now would anyone say that about me?”

Of course everyone’s definition of making a positive impact in the world is very different. I’m certainly not saying that by being a financial planner you can’t make a positive impact, or that you need to solve world hunger to make a difference. But for me it isn’t the impact that I want to make. At this stage I am not even sure what that impact is, which is causing me just as much discomfort as not knowing when I’m going to make my next dollar. But I’m committing to use the discomfort to take small consistent actions to try and find out.

For now, I’m trying to get a little bit more comfortable with not knowing. I’m trying to plan less (What, you thought the whole financial planning thing was a coincidence?), and start to listen to my heart and let my intuition guide me a little more (former Jane would be freaking out at the ‘woo woo’ of that sentence by the way…).  So I guess you’re going to have to wait to know my sure-to-be-hugely-profound insights once I’ve figured this bloody thing out. One thing that I do know is that control is a bit of an illusion anyway. Scott’s death reminds me of that too. Thankfully the one thing you do have control over are your own thoughts and actions, so that’s where I’m going to start.

Are you a control freak? Or a former control freak? I’d love to know your experiences and, ok yes some tips would be great too 😉

xx

 

*There is a great book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield that explores the concept of using resistance as your compass.

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