13 Lessons I Learned in 2013
By Danielle L. Vermeer
December 30, 2013
Danielle L. Vermeer is creative strategist and strategic creative. A social impact consultant by day and storyteller and social entrepreneur by night, she uses power of stories combined with data to explain complex issues in compelling yet easy-to-understand ways. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and dog. Connect with her at daniellelvermeer.com or on Twitter at @DLVermeer.
Earlier this year, as part of the One Word movement, I chose one word to represent my goals, aspirations, and hopes for this year.
The One Word movement aims to reduce the stress and inevitable guilt we feel in creating and then quickly forgetting our New Year's resolutions. Forget the long list of aspirational and often unrealistic goals and simply choose one word. For 2013, I felt called to choose a somewhat peculiar word: thrive.
My perspective on my one word was about flourishing, growing and developing vigorously. I didn't want to just survive, scraping by in the day-to-day; I wanted to really thrive.
For most of 2013, my one word felt like a sick joke of sorts, a taunt of what I had hoped the year would be like as we faced challenges and setbacks. But deep beneath the surface, the plates were shifting ever so slightly to erupt uproariously at the end of the year.
Here are 13 mini lessons I learned in 2013, all of which prepared me to thrive, although it certainly didn't feel that way most of the time.
1. BE THANKFUL
Counting my blessings regularly is important to feeling like I'm thriving rather than just surviving.
I am convinced that a key to shifting my experiences of both challenges and celebrations this year was a grateful attitude. While I still struggle daily with thankfulness, I'm more aware of how counting my blessings regularly is important to feeling like I'm thriving rather than just surviving.
2. STOP ASKING FOR PERMISSION
I once shared with a mentor how I was interested in becoming an expert on a certain issue, but that I wasn't sure if I was ready to pursue a graduate program focusing on it. She simply asked me why I needed to wait to be in a formal program to start learning on my own. In that moment, I vowed to stop asking for permission for things that didn't require others' approval.
3. GIVE MORE THAN YOU GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is a minefield of self promotion, quality updates and unnecessary drama. As I navigated my own social media presence, I sought to emulate those who give more than they take by sharing others' content, encouraging those with smaller platforms and generally being hospitable in the virtual realm.
4. EXTEND GRACE TO OTHERS AND YOURSELF
I'm the type of perfectionist who scoffs at those who proudly call themselves "recovering perfectionists." I strive to continually improve my skills and experiences. It's not that nothing is ever good enough, but rather that I know that it can always be even better. Yet this year taught me the hard way that sometimes, you just need to give one another (and yourself) some slack.
5. BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR GOALSA few months ago I stopped blogging at the personal blog I'd invested in for about two years. In that time, I spent countless hours and expended way too much mental energy strategizing about how to build my readership, gain access to new writing groups and opportunities and deal with the latest uproar in the blogosphere. But as I took steps back throughout the year to honestly evaluate these goals, it became increasingly apparent how the path that I was on was not only unsustainable (since most bloggers don't really make money off of blogging), but also wasn't really a true goal of mine. Being honest about these goals made it easier to accept that and move on.
6. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
This holiday shopping season, nothing tested me more than wanting to buy the cheapest, most easily accessible items for family and friends. Yet as I dug deeper into the stories behind what we buy, I became more resolved to put my money where my mouth is. Yet I also applied lesson #4 in many of these instances, knowing that I won't always be able to find an ethically-made alternative, or that I may need to pass on buying the alternative because it's way more expensive than the mainstream option.
7. STOP LETTING FEAR MAKE DECISIONS FOR YOU
Overcoming fear is the first step toward truly flourishing and thriving.
Fear is the noxious gas to many of our dreams and goals, and over the last year, I often learned the hard way that overcoming fear is the first step toward truly flourishing and thriving. When I stopped letting fear dictate my decisions, I was able to see more clearly and make better, more confident decisions.
8. TAKE TIME TO SMELL THE ROSES – SOMETIMES LITERALLY
Most of the time when walking my dog or to work, I'm "busy" scrolling through emails or social media on my phone. I stopped checking my phone on these walks and really took those few minutes to be mindful of and thankful for my surroundings.
9. NEVER STOP LEARNING
A couple of years ago, I resolved that I would teach myself how to sew, even though I didn't even know how to sew a button and couldn't sew a hem for my life. But with much practice and many mistakes later, I'm pleased that I've learned a new skill, especially one that is increasingly a lost art and in stark contrast to the computer screen-heavy hobbies of my generation.
10. INVEST IN CREATIVE PURSUITS
My main creative pursuit over the last few years has been writing and storytelling. But as I transitioned away from that creative endeavor, I realized that I needed to invest my creative energy in other areas. Over the last year, I've spent time painting, decorating and most recently, reupholstering.
11. TAKE SMALL STEPS TOWARD SUCCESS AND LET GO OF UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Rather than trying to bite off more than I could chew, I learned to take small steps toward success in a few key areas of my life this year and release unrealistic expectations for myself. I still have a long way to go in many of them, but making decisions one at a time has added up over time.
12. HOLD ONTO HOPE.
Advent is a time of waiting in the darkness, of preparing quietly and prayerfully in the tension of what is hoped for and what may be. Oftentimes, we don't even know what we are really hoping and waiting for, and even if we do, we are unsure as to whether it will come to be. For most of 2013, we lived in a consistent season of Advent, all of which was preparing for an even brighter celebration at the very end of the year.
13. TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH.
Last but not least, one of the most exciting updates and lessons from 2013 was to take a leap of faith toward some new beginnings, including a new job and other exciting opportunities.
While there were some rough patches of 2013, I'm thankful for the lessons I've learned and am eager to start afresh in 2014.
An earlier version of this post appeared at daniellelvermeer.com