In 2019 I did… a lot less. 😂 That might sound weird, given the New Year and how much it can feel like we’re encouraged to do more, be better, improve, build. I knew something was not working with the way things were going for me a year ago. I was super anxious, depressed, and burnt out. It took me a while to recover (like a whole year and counting), and I now feel the healthiest I ever have (hopefully in an upward trend!). The past 12 months brought with it some of the most profound moments of healing, important relationship changes, and exciting work opportunities I have ever been presented.
I’ve consolidated my takeaways from 2019 into five main points that show where I am coming from this year.
1. GENTLE, GENTLE, GENTLE
Lately, I feel like the world is ending a couple of times a week. 🙃 Natural disasters, war, climate change, poverty, injustice… we are constantly bombarded with new crises, new information, and even new pressure about the ways we are supposed to exist in this world. A changing world requires us to be gentle with ourselves. It is not worth trying to carry what you cannot control.
I have so many goals, so many ideas, so much impact I’d like to make, so many people I’d like to talk to, so many things I’d like to learn. But I have had to practice going easy on myself, otherwise I know I’ll burn out, either from too much information, or putting too much pressure on myself to do it all. Being gentle doesn’t mean disengaging with the world. It means being aware of what you engage with, and how you do so. It means you need to do what you can with what you have, and to try your best.
2. GIVE PEOPLE A CHANCE, YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED
One lesson I learn over and over again is that everyone has something to teach you. Never assume you know someone’s story, or what they will mean to you.
I went on a date back in March with a guy I wasn’t sure about. We talked at a coffee shop for about an hour, mostly about our lives, our backgrounds, and what we are interested in. He worked in music. On the surface, we didn’t seem to have a lot in common. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be a love interest or not, but something about him was intriguing. I left for a job in New Zealand the next day, and was gone for three weeks. While I was gone, he stayed in touch, texting me every day. He asked me on a second date, then a third.
He respected my boundaries, heard my needs, reminded me to put things in perspective, and made me laugh. It’s been 9 months. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship this fulfilling.
Another big thing that happened this year is that I finally hired an assistant–– something I have wanted to do (and put off) for years. 😅 I’ve always heard other entrepreneurs say that hiring and delegating is the best thing you can do for your business… and I believed them, but something always held me back. I was so afraid to give up control. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of having to teach someone all the stuff I could just do myself. As I was considering this, my now-assistant slid into my DM’s and told me what she could do for me. I decided to hire her.
I am learning how to delegate effectively, communicate well, and be a good boss, because I know I will have to continue to build a team in order to fulfill my goals. And above all, I’m learning that it’s always worthwhile to ask for help when you need it, and to take help when it is offered to you.
3. TAKE WHAT WORKS, LEAVE THE REST
There are only so many life coaches, personal growth exerts, and holistic therapy accounts I can pay attention to before I start to feel overwhelmed. There are so many conflicting ideas and messages that might work for us. The key though? Figuring out what works for YOU individually, and leaving the rest. What works for your friends or favorite folks online might not suit your needs or situation, and that’s perfectly OK! And likewise–– they have no obligation to share something that applies to absolutely everyone. 😉
You might read this very blog post and find that none of it sits quite right with you, and that’s just fine. Looking back on my writing from years ago, it’s so interesting to me to see how firmly I believed in things and spoke to them. The longer I exist here on this little planet, and the more I experience, I see that I know less and less every day. Learning is life-long! It’s never gonna stop. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
And in case you’re wondering, why yes, I am in a 12-step program. 😂
4. BE UN-OFFENDABLE
In 2019, I saw a lot of fragility, both from myself and from others. I found that too often, my impulse was to be in a state of… well, feeling offended! 😬 I was offended by other people’s actions and opinions, offended by how people talked to me on the internet, and offended by the things I saw other people do and say. How dare they do/say that thing?!
Please bear with me on this one! I know that taking offense to something is a natural reaction to our core beliefs–– it makes sense. Of course, we should be offended by things that are not right, or that are contradictory to what we understand to be good in the world. But when we act from this state of being offended, I think we are the ones who lose. The things we are fighting for lose!
This state acts as a cloud in front of you, a fog that prevents you from really listening, thinking critically, or participating in a conversation.
Another way to frame this is to stop taking anything personally. Take your ego out of it. Get out of the way. When I notice that I feel offended by something or personally attacked by it, I take a pause and I step back. I try to say to myself, “hmm, that’s interesting!”–– meaning, it’s interesting that this triggered me in some way. Before I move forward engaging with whatever the thing is, I dig into this first. Often you have to put the things you care about (the bigger issues) above yourself, your ego, and your personal story.
5. PRACTICE BOUNDARIES OF STEEL
I commonly get DM’s from folks asking to pick my brain over coffee. Often, this is my response:
“I’d love to, but unfortunately, I can’t!”
“I can’t”, by itself, is a complete sentence! And I use it all the time, because it’s true. I can’t go to coffee and mentor everyone who needs some guidance, thought I might wish I could! It’s not realistic, and it wouldn’t set me up to do my best work in the world. I have clear boundaries for the things that do and don’t work for me–– clear YES things and clear NO things.
I have to tell you that a few years ago, I would have been completely uncomfortable with all of that. It was really tough for me to say no to people. I wanted them to like me! I didn’t want to offend anyone (see point 4)! Eventually I had to just worry about myself. I had to stop making up stories about what others think of me. Most things other people do and say have absolutely nothing to do with you anyway.
And, most of the time, people really respect those who are honest about making the best choices for themselves and their lives.
So that’s 2019 for me. As I was writing this, I found it really interesting that my main takeaways had nothing to do with my accomplishments like the mini-series I host for REI, or giving my first TED Talk, or photographing humpback whales underwater. For me, that’s what progress looks like.
Wishing you peace and joy in 2020!
If you are curious, here are my thoughts from the last few years: 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.
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I notice your Ted Talk this morning and it reminded me of my constant dispute with my x wife of “taking the shot” will not allow one to really enjoy the moment. When in fact with the proper mindset it does just the opposite. I can tell you 40 years later how I actually felt when I took The Shot of my prised images I have hanging in my “studio living room.”
I love your posts because you always have a way of putting honesty there and food for thoughts. It’s a great way to gain perspective on the way people choose to do things and how they do it. Keep up your great photography and showing us your thoughts and lessons on this blog!
Erin outdoors- photographer.You have a great eye for your craft and a deep passion for people and the many serene places and animals that inhabit our world. Almost all of your animal photos capture them knowingly staring at you-watching them be free. I also was reminded by the Hubble telescope in the stars you captured from a humbly lit domicile. I was impressed by your limitless imagination displayed on Sunday morning and wish you nothing but success in all your artistic and business endeavors. You may want to rethink that bra thing. HA!