As I was reflecting over my year, as so many of us are doing right now, I wanted to look beyond the material achievements. In what ways have I grown as a person? What do I understand about myself and the world now that I didn’t 12 months ago? And lastly, what areas of my life do I know I still need to go back and fix?
Although there were many lessons learned this year, I have distilled the most important realizations into three main points. I hope they’re not only insightful, but actionable so you and I can make 2022 our best year yet.
1. Every Single Moment You’re Alive is a Gift. You Choose How to Experience It.
Oftentimes we’ll just let life happen to us. Everything seems to keep hitting us with more problems. We get caught up in all the quarrels and frustrations and forget that the fact we’re even alive and breathing is in itself a miracle.
Just a few days ago, I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. Laying on the ground in a city park far from home, I was barely able to open my eyes, let alone sit up or walk.
This morning, I woke up with hives engulfing my body from head to toe and a sore throat. It’s safe to say that this past week I’ve been in more physical discomfort than I ever have in my 15 years of living.
But here’s the thing: I don’t feel unhappier than I did before all this because I know how much worse it could be. What if I had the hives AND the sickness? What if instead of being able to take Benadryl and lay on the couch I had to go work out in the cold with no medication?
This is hard to do when you yourself are facing adversity and sometimes it’s okay to just sit there feeling bad for yourself. But it’s in those moments when you’re really struggling yet still have the power to reframe your circumstances that you grow and become more resilient. When you overcome hardships, it’s something you can refer back to when you are faced with new problems in the future. You can remind yourself about that time when you were in pain and be grateful that you’re no longer in that situation. At least I’m not xyz too like that one time…
And it doesn’t need to be a personal experience you’re comparing your life to; intentionally being around those who are worse off than you can be extremely impactful as well. Embrace the discomfort of it and go see for yourself how others live and what they face day to day.
Throughout the year I found myself in many situations like this where I was in complete control over how I experienced it. By reframing and thinking about all the things that weren’t going on, I was able to find good in every objectively negative situation.
I’ve come to realize that this mentality is present in all aspects of my life. This past season, my volleyball coach would encourage us to “focus on our controllables.” What could we do on our own to better the ball and help our teammates?
The idea of letting go of all the things you have no power over and just making the most of what you can do in the situation you’re in gives you the power to shape your own narrative.
I feel like this might be an abstract concept for some, so let me give an example:
School. It’s 7 hours a day plus homework that more often than not seems to be a waste of time. Alas, you legally need to attend making it an “uncontrollable.” What you can control in this situation is your attitude and what you choose to do during those 7+ hours.
Since you’re there anyways, why not soak up everything they’re teaching? Even if it’s something you’re not particularly interested in. In fact, that could even turn school into a superpower because you’re getting exposure to topics you otherwise wouldn’t be.
Actively participating, asking questions, and getting to know your teachers doesn’t require too much extra effort since you’re sitting there anyways and it makes a world of a difference when it comes to how you perceive school.
Now, instead of being stuck in a concrete jailhouse 5/7 days a week, you’re learning about topics for free in a room with your friends by a more experienced person whose sole job is to expand your knowledge. How about that for a shift?
2. Comparing Yourself to Others Is Pointless
The downside of surrounding yourself with high-performing, admirable people is that at some point you start placing everything you do side by side with what they do. It changes from “wow they’re so cool I want to become more like them” to “jee, everything they do is always so much better than what I do.”
If I’m being honest, this reflection was supposed to go out yesterday but I spent the day reading other people’s articles and sulking about not being as eloquent of a writer.
It’s funny, because I go to a length to create unconventional experiences for myself, yet then go on to compare what I’m doing to what others are. Wasn’t the whole point to be different?
2021 was a bit of a roller coaster when it came to comparison and ended on a bit of a low note. But, I’m beginning to internalize that there are so many things you can’t see about other people’s lives and you’ll never have as full an understanding of someone else’s life as you do your own.
When you compare yourself to someone else, you’re often putting your flaws next to their highlight reel. Life can take so many twists and turns and everyone is at a different part of their journey. Just like every snowflake is beautiful but different, successful people don’t all take the same path.
This reminded me of a great illustration by Tim Urban. There are so many different possible paths that all go to different places, but just because you start out in one direction, doesn’t mean things won’t ever switch directions.
And, do you really want every single thing someone else has?
It doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to others as you have your own personal journey to go on that is independent from the journeys of those around you.
3. Plans Will Always Be Rough Drafts
At the beginning of the year, I avoided making plans for myself, especially those on a longer time horizon, because every time I strayed from them I would get disappointed. I thought I was failing my past self by not following the path I had laid out.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that schedules and goals will change, and plans along with them. That is a good thing. Plans don’t mean eliminating all your other options and definitely shouldn’t make you anxious. They are just a snapshot of what your aspirations are at a certain point in time and if you find out later on that that’s no longer what you want, update them.
Not just that, you should be actively challenging the plans you’ve laid out for yourself and asking first of all whether that’s something you’re truly interested in and second of all whether you’re taking all of the necessary steps to get there.
When reflecting on the activities you partake in, are they an investment into your future? Do they bring you joy? If they fall into neither of those categories, perhaps you should reconsider them or outsource them to someone or something else.
It’s okay if something that was once a big part of your life no longer seems as fascinating. You don’t need to hold onto the labels that were once placed upon you (ie. the coder, the bookworm, the athlete.) This leads to stagnancy. Follow your curiosity. In order to grow, you first need to want to grow.
And Grow I Did 🌱
If you’re interested in seeing the content I created this year, check out this slideshow. Otherwise, thank you for reading and I wish you the best in 2022.
I’m Klara, a 15 year old super passionate about the future of food and sustainability. I would love to meet you! If you’d like, check out my personal website or LinkedIn and follow me here on Medium for new articles. Thank you for your support :)