9 things I did to make 2017 my year
Despite being unemployed for half the year, moving out of Brooklyn and back to the suburbs, and depleting my emergency and nest egg funds to their last dollar this summer... 2017 was definitely my year. 2015 was the year I dealt with my depression and 2016 was the year I tried to recover my sense of self after losing so much of what I thought comprised my identity. So when the clock struck 12 on January 1, 2017, I was determined that another year of my 20s wouldn't go by without being one worth remembering. It wasn't easy and it took a lot of work and support. I've been reflecting on what made this year so transformative and I'd like to share with you so that you can make 2018 your year too. Some of the things below are behavior changes and some are actual people or services I recommend. TL;DR: I allowed myself to seek help from professionals and experts and I changed my habits to counteract my nature of perfectionism and tendency to overextend and overwhelm myself.
Therapy is for black girls, too.
I started therapy in 2016 and it honestly changed my life. I did group therapy, which surprisingly, was just the right setting for me. Sometimes, you need to hear what others are going through and bounce your experiences off of peers in addition to a licensed professional to get to the core of your problems. Therapy can be expensive, but most therapists offer a sliding scale if they don't take insurance, which made it very affordable. Take the time to find someone you're comfortable with and whose style fits your need. We all need a little bit of therapy and you'd be surprised by how many of us are operating at 200% over our capacity and not even aware.
Wrote my goals down & created a vision board
In December 2015, my friends came over to have a vision board party. I was unable to participate. I lacked vision for my future at the moment because I was struggling heavily with my present. I couldn't connect to the optimism and inspiration because I couldn't connect with anything. Do they make hindsight boards? Because that's what I needed. However, once I pulled through my mental state, I was excited to try vision boarding for 2017. I had somehow been subscribed to every magazine known to man (but why though?) so I had plenty of material to start with. I was proud of distilling my vision for myself into images and phrases. Careful what you put on your vision board because it just might manifest. It was scary the way things on my board were coming to fruition within weeks. Won't she do it! Around this same time, I also started writing down daily, monthly, annual goals for myself. Putting pen to paper made these goals reals and forced me to also come up with a plan. I've gone through three notebooks this year and looking forward to going through even more next year.
Found a life coach
Around May, I was tired of being funemployed. Yes, it was freeing, I had more time to work on my blog, and I knew I had needed the nearly year off from working to get myself back together, but I was ready to return and my bank account was ready too. I had redone my resume and focused on applying only to jobs I actually wanted rather than jobs I could merely tolerate, but I wasn't making it past the phone screens. I'm a great interviewer! What's going on? I decided that I needed extra help and sought out a career coach to help me.
My career coach, Nia Jackson of Beyond Encouragement, read me like a book in the best way possible. I had realized that, while I was very good at helping and mentoring others in their careers, no one had been mentoring me. Nia was able to help me figure out that although I was ready to start working again, there was still some self doubt about whether I was good enough. After identifying the things that were holding me back, she helped me process and work through them until I started feeling like the old me again. Within 3 months, I had 3 offers to choose from. Even after securing the job, I still talk to my coach every other week because I need someone who has been in my shoes before, can see straight through my defense and coping mechanisms, and help guide me through key decisions. A life coach isn't just a cheerleader your pay for. The right coach can be like a mentor, a big sister, a motivator, and a friend all in one.
Got my daily #ShineOn
I've spoken about this before because I'm a huge believer in the power of daily reflection. ShineText is a daily mindful moment in a text. Each day, has a theme - from being more productive, managing overwhelm, being kinder to yourself, and showing gratefulness - followed by one small action you can do that day to work towards self-improvement. I'm not sure how the people at Shine know my life, but it felt like every day the message was exactly what I needed and when I needed it. I enjoy Shine because I know firsthand that taking a moment to pause and set intentions for the day goes a long way, but with everything on my mind, I would forget or forgo if I didn't get that good morning text. They've grown a lot since I started using them and now, in addition to my daily text, I also get a daily motivational push towards my yearly intention goal (I chose improving my health), as well as interactive audio mindful moments. They also have a great referral program where you can get cool Shine swag for referring your friends so *cough* do me a favor and help me get some branded Shine leggings with this link ;)
One big thing method
The crippling feeling of having so much to do and it all being equally important and urgent does more harm than good. The One Big Thing method (which I learned about from my Shine Texts, btw!) involves picking one thing that must get done that day and only committing yourself to getting that one thing done. This has been helpful when I've found myself with a to do list that was so long, that I ended up doing nothing at all.
Imagine having an empty jar. Your one big thing is a giant rock that takes up most of the space of the jar. If you want, you can call the jar full with just the rock inside or you can add sand (smaller tasks) to the jar if you feel up to it. So, if you complete your one big thing. and still have energy to do more things, then you are more than welcome to. However, the success of your day is measured by the fact that you completed your one thing, rather than how many other things you completed. I found the best way to do this was to schedule my big things for the week. I would commit to cleaning my room on Monday, completing one specific blog task on Tuesday, researching jobs on Wednesday, meal prep on Thursday, gym on Friday. This also works with managing your tasks at work, as scary as it sounds, but it will help you learn how to prioritize and reduce feeling burnt out.
You can only do three things Well at a time
My mom sent me an article at the beginning of the year that said you can only give 100% of yourself to three categories of your life at a time. Anything more than 3 and you'll only succeed at one and fail at the others. I immediately spazzed out. THREE? Do you know how many things I have going on? I have my job, working out, cooking, blogging, studying, socializing, relationships, etc. But as I listed out the overarching categories that consumed my time, I realized that I truly wasn't giving any of them my 100% because I didn't have the capacity to.
So I scaled back. The first quarter of my year, I focused on job searching, blogging, and freelancing. I was surprised how much more fulfilled I was when I cut back and gave 100% of my focus to only three things. When I started working, I swapped freelancing for working out. The hardest part of this method is realistically distinguishing your categories. If you work 80 hours a week rather than 40, you have to come to terms with the fact that your job actually takes up two categories and you only have capacity for one more. If you want to be fit, you have to recognize that working out and home cooking are separate categories, not one. But scaling back my commitments to only three big goals at a time and recognizing that overwhelm came as soon as I tried to do any more than three did wonders for clearing my mental space. Right now, my three things are blogging, fitness, and work.
I Realized that "done" is better than "perfect"
Short story: I'm an undercover perfectionist. You wouldn't know because there are a lot of small details of my life that I don't sweat. However, my perfectionism comes out when I'm faced with a big task with multiple steps or in situations where I need total control. My special brand of perfectionism dictates "If I can't do it perfectly, I won't do it at all". Ok, girl. Sit there and pout then. This need to execute something perfectly and "measure twice, but cut once" delayed and procrastinated quite a few projects in the past. When I look back, I sometimes get upset with myself for not starting sooner. Nothing you do will be perfect and most people on the outside looking in can't tell the difference between the work you put out and the work you wish you put out. When it comes to finishing that cover letter (which should be typo free but it doesn't need to go viral), writing that blog post (excuse my typos please!), starting that business plan or beginning your new work out routine, it's better to have started and finished than to not start at all because you're waiting for all the stars to align.
Started making money moves
I've always been good with my money and a disciplined saver. It paid off when I had to live off my savings for a year but I didn't want to get caught in an income negative situation again. When I started working, I started to get smart with my money to make sure that I would always have something rolling in no matter what my employment status. The first thing I did was speak to a financial advisor (mine is Chadwick Roberson) but you can also look into platforms like LearnVest. My advisor helped me to lay the foundation of my investment journey and take full account of what my money was doing and how I can be using it smarter. I started budgeting more specifically than before and became more mindful of my monthly inflows vs outflows. This led me to cut expenses, transfer my credit cards to interest free accounts, brainstorm new income streams, and start planning how I want to contribute to my 401K, IRA, and investment portfolios. I'm in no way rich yet, but I can see how the fruits of my labors will eventually pay off. Everything I just mentioned is overwhelming you, right? Contact a financial advisor or planner to help you through is no matter what your current income is. They surprisingly aren't very expensive and most offer a free consultation.
Listen to those who've been there, done that
Remember how your parents used to be all "I'm trying to teach you so you don't have to make the same mistakes I did?" and you were an annoying pre-teen saying "I want to learn and figure it out for myself!". Yea... that was cute then but in my 20s, I'm trying to reduce my learning time and maximize the amount of time I spend doing things right the first time. I've dedicated a lot of time to learning to people who came before me by reading books by experts, taking courses to get my brand where it needs to be, attending seminars, and participating in workshops for goal setting. For my blog and social media, I solicited the help of people's who brands I admire and who had valuable lessons to teach me. I joined Black Bloggers United, I took every free Instagram e-course, and I hired a personal trainer because my time is too precious and scarce to dedicate too much of it to learning by trial and error. Freebies are a great start but once in a while, we might have to invest real dollars into learning from the experts cost money. Often times, these are things we could figure out on our own...eventually, but eventually might be too late. Evaluate where you need to be held accountable in order get our life together and don't waste time feeling your way through a dark tunnel.