17 Takeaways from 2017 - How to Let Reflection be Your Greatest Teacher

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New beginnings are exciting and scary all at the same time. Hope is re-birthed inside of us as we anticipate new opportunities. At the same time, we may battle fear and doubt about the unknown territory. “Can I really achieve all of my goals? What will I do different in this new year?” Often times, we find ourselves planning and strategizing for the year ahead before we have taken time to really absorb everything we experienced prior to the transition. 


Reflection has the ability to be our greatest teacher and friend. 

In the act of planning for the future, let’s not neglect the past. Every step we take and every breath we breathe contributes to who we are as a whole. Every experience has molded us into the person we are in this very moment - the person who has experienced failure, success, sadness and joy and overcame them all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with planning and strategizing for the new year - actually that is so smart, so useful and so powerful! But before we write off the previous year as a past experience - a distant memory - let’s look back. Look closely. 

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Let’s take a good, long look at the beauty, complexity, risk, failure, triumph and overcoming moments. Every single one has paved the way for you to be sitting here in this moment - as you inhale and exhale - carrying experiences and memories that contribute to the beauty of who you are. As you remember, reminisce, and ponder, intentionally observe the lessons each moment taught you. Sift through the pain and the joy - because both are so valuable. 


Every experience is worth recognition - They all teach us something different. 

So, in honor of new beginnings, fresh starts and countless possibilities, I’m sharing some lessons that I learned this year - 17 to be exact. I’m acknowledging the small lessons and the profound realizations because every single one deserves its moment… The moment when we appreciate its effort in teaching us something absolutely and utterly beautiful. 


17 Takeaways from 2017


1| Being bravely vulnerable is immensely rewarding.

When we gain the courage to show our most authentic, honest and real form in our relationships, we create the capacity for deep, rewarding and fruitful connections. Like anything else in life, you get out of relationships exactly what you put into them. 


2| In order to give one area of your life your best effort, you have to compromise in another. 

To be honest, this has been the theme of my entire year! We have to come to the realization that we can’t do it all. We can’t be the best mom, entrepreneur, photographer, writer, fitness enthusiast, chef and friend all at the same time. Sometimes we have to pick and choose what is most important to us in the current season of life - for the sake of our sanity!


3| It’s easy to show people the beauty of your life but way more rewarding to share the complex and messy parts. 

Social media is a giant bundle of beauty. It gives us the opportunity to share the wonderful parts of our life with ease, but it also has the potential to give us a false expectation for the entirety of our lives. I’ve found it so refreshing to see people sharing the complex parts of their lives online. It gives others permission to experience similar feelings without feeling like they are alone. Because the truth is that no one is alone! Life isn’t perfect for anyone no matter how flawless it may appear on the screen. 


4| The people you care about still have to learn their own lessons. Some things have to be taught by experience. 

Your friends will make decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with, and that is totally okay. It isn’t your responsibility to dictate someone else’s life as if it were your own. Sometimes experience is the best teacher, and you have to give people that opportunity. 


5| Your mom is your biggest cheerleader, and sometimes she needs you to be hers too. 

It is so easy to take things for granted in life - especially your family. But even more specifically, your mom. Think about the fact that your mom carried you in her womb. She gave up her life and perhaps some of her ambitions just for you. She embodies the beauty of selflessness and the kindness of a servant heart. Appreciate her. Spend time with her. Tell her you love her. 


6| Love isn’t a fickle emotion, butterflies and laughter. Love is a choice.

Man, does Hollywood have it all wrong. Love is constantly portrayed as a passionate moment, a fickle emotion, and lust. But true love isn’t any of these things. True love looks like sitting with someone, seeing all of their crap, going through it with them and at the end of the day still loving them. Yes, love can be passionate. It can be beautiful. But don’t ever confine it to these things. It’s so much greater than that - so much more complex. 


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7| Dreams are only exciting thoughts. In order to make them reality, you have to take action. 

Don’t get me wrong here. Dream big! Think vast. See the world as a child does - with bright hope and endless possibility. But don’t leave your dream in the cobwebs of your mind only to be confined to thoughts such as “What if?” Dream big and take huge action! Because when you take action, that is the moment your dream starts becoming reality. 


8| You don’t know what you are capable of until you try. 

Some things in life require experience. School, reading and free webinars can’t teach you what you are deeply capable of. Yes, they can provide practical tools and strategies for you to implement, but you won’t truly know what you are capable of until you dig your hands in the dirt, get messy, fail, get up, try again and succeed. 


9| You always have time to make a phone call - no matter how busy your life is. 

There will always be things on your to-do list. There will always be things to improve in your business, buy for your house, fix in your relationships and so on. But you know what? Life is limited by one factor - time. And the people in your life may not be there forever. Take time to prioritize your family and your friendships. They are always just a phone call away. 


10| In order to develop deep friendships, you have to be willing to put in the effort. 

Relationship is a two-way street. It would be easy to wait around for friendship to just magically happen, but life is busy, and the only way to form a deep connection is with intentionality and constant cultivating. You have to put in the effort you would expect in return. 


11| Health is all about balance. You can have the darn donut and still be healthy. 

Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to eat veggies and chicken three times a day and go to the gym for an hour seven days a week. If that is your jam, go for it! But if you’re struggling to make that a part of your every day life, try making smaller, more manageable goals that serve you in this season of life. Make healthy choices when you can and try to be active often - whether that’s a walk around the neighborhood or a trip to the gym. 


12| Some things can’t be explained or taught in a “10 part series.” Sometimes you’ve got to take action and make mistakes in order to figure it out. 

We are all searching for the answer to life. We want the easy 10 step process, but life does not work like that! No matter how long we search for the easy way, the step by step guide or the coach that will fix it all, some things can’t be achieved this way. Some things are better taught by experience - AKA the hard way. 


13| In the act of trying to please everyone else, you will lose yourself. You can’t make everyone happy. 

If I’m being really honest here, this is one I struggle with a lot. But it is entirely impossible to please everyone in your life and by trying to do this, you actually deny yourself what you need. While you’re so busy trying to figure out how to make everyone happy, you will forget what actually makes you happy. Don’t neglect your needs in the pursuit of fulfilling everyone else’s. 


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14| Reflection is the most comforting friend and the greatest teacher. Never deny yourself the appreciation and celebration you deserve. 

It is so easy to just go through the motions of life, from one goal to the next, from one item on our to do list to the next… But intentional reflection is so important. It is imperative that we think on our life, our experiences, the lessons - all of it. It is even more imperative that we acknowledge how much we’ve achieved. Because it is so easy to deny the beauty in the pursuit of success. Don’t be quick to overlook everything you have accomplished in this life - all of it is so valuable! 


15| As you grow in age, life changes, people leave, and your body fluctuates. Find beauty in every single part of it. 

Oh, change… How I wish that I could embrace you with ease. Don't we all?! It’s so much easier said than done, but accepting change and finding beauty in it is one of the keys to happiness. Why? Because change is inevitable and constant. It’s important that we find beauty in the transition, in the shifting seasons and new territories. When we embrace it, we invite peace and joy into our life. 


16| Your body is not a product on the shelf up for debate, improvement or suggestion. It is a living, breathing, beautiful work of art. Appreciate it. Love it. 

Our bodies are so much more than we have diminished them down to. They aren’t something to mindlessly judge and pick at. They enable us to live this life and to experience the beauty of this world. They carry us in strength and beauty, and there is so much to appreciate about them. 


17| Sharing your authentic expression with the world is not only beautiful but powerful. 

You are the only you that has ever walked this planet. There hasn’t been, isn’t and never will be anyone like you. How crazy is that?! You carry beauty, capabilities and thoughts that no one else ever will. Share your heart with the world. Express your ideas. Embrace your authentic identity. In doing this, you will contribute something of extreme value to the world.


Let’s give this year the recognition it deserves. Whether this was your hardest year yet or the most beautiful, reflect, appreciate, and wonder at it all. Life beckons our intentionality just as nature beckons our admiration. Who you are in the present is largely attributed to the moments and experiences you’ve encountered thus far. They all provide a valuable lesson for us - whether it be beautiful, complex or messy. They all count. 


What is something you learned this year? Share in the comment section below!


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