10 Powerful Lessons I Have Learned in 2016...and How That Can Help You

lessons learned Dec 29, 2016


Every year there is something to learn. 2016, however was exceptional for me when it comes to a learning curve, which has changed and influenced my life more than the previous 10 years.

Hence I want to share it with you - I hope that serves you and gives you a shortcut to better results in 2017!

Disclaimer: This is definitely longer than my usual blog. And rather personal. Don't say I didn't warn you :-).

1.       What’s not in my calendar won’t happen (and even if it is I need the discipline to pull things through).

Oh, I got lots of things done without them being in my calendar. Don’t need to put everything in there. Well, I thought that too. And then these doors of my wardrobe never got assembled and attached (they are still in the hall, all packed up and under utilised). That great plan of adding x people to my network each month was also a wash out. Why? Because I did not block time in my calendar.

“I will do it when I have time”. This, more often than not, turns out to be never. As all those emergencies and distractions that start filling up the time are pretty dominating. If there is no calendar reminding me of this thing I have to do (and in many cases, want to do) I can’t actually progress in my life. Or with that project, which might not be urgent, but crucial for making sure my business continues to be sustainable.

I also have my (weekly) date night in my calendar, or the long weekend breaks with my lover and partner. Otherwise they might not happen. Despite our best intentions.

 Why that helps you: I am sure you are already great. But I am also sure that there is always something to improve, regardless of how great we are (or think we are). Try and plan (more of) those important things in your calendar. Time with your kids, the people who are important to you (besides the business contacts), free time, exercise…even meditation or whatever helps you progressing in your life and you might have procrastinated over.

 2.       The more I use my brain, the better it works.

I have learned a lot this year. After all, I wanted to start a new business in an area that was new to me: Online teaching – sharing knowledge in topics where I have significant expertise. So I had two choices: trying out things or learning from those who’ve done it already. I went for the second option. I invested time and energy to learn from the best on how the expert’s industry works. I’ve built a website, created a learning framework, I am well on the way putting my curriculum in place. I learned how to record and publish videos with a decent camera and built web based landing pages, funnels, whole online courses and FB ads (for those who don’t know me well: I am definitely not a “techie”, so all that stuff was not necessarily all fun and games).

Along the way I learned so much more about human behaviour and brain physiology and how to re-energize my body and mind almost effortlessly. Unexpected benefits worth their weight in gold.

And my brain is on fire! Quick, with a plethora of ideas on an almost daily basis, flexible and curious. The more I feed my brain, the more it wants to take on. I wish I had known before what level I can expect from my brain and myself…it is a great feeling to feel alert, present and fully awake.

Why this helps you: I bet you can learn anything you want to. It’s never too late. Just go ahead and do it. It has nothing to do with age if you really go for it. I have passed the 50 mark and find that my brain can work at least as quickly as my 20-year-old son’s brain (much to his annoyance).

 3.       I can’t control everything (hence I don’t need to worry so much)

It took me the better part of my adult life to finally arrive there, and to accept it. I guess we all know the obvious things that are out of our control: weather, politicians (as soon as they are elected) and world peace.

But what about those things in our own life? Spouse, lover, children, career? Well, there is a lot we can influence in these areas, but not control per se. Nobody can change anybody (without their consent). Children come on this planet with a certain character and will find their own path (with guidance), but won’t necessarily do what we as parents like. People are unpredictable – so you can’t control everything that happens in the work place.

Sounds scary? Yes and no. The world is full of uncertainties. Accepting this and seeing the potential in it is a great relief from thinking I had to control everything. This makes my life far more relaxed (most of the time).

Why this helps you: maybe you can let go of some things which take a lot of your energy and just accept how they are. Looking ahead and realizing that there is one thing we can control: our own path and our decisions (which might in turn indirectly influence a lot of people and their behaviour).

 4.       Too many opportunities can be more harmful than useful

When I started The Better Workplace this year I had tons of ideas. There is so much work to be done in this area and my thoughts were all over the place. Not only in terms of content but also in terms of format. Great. So what is the problem? The decision I needed to make was what to do first and what to focus on? As not everything can be materialized in that first instant. This is where number 1 on my list kicks in - planning the steps of how to get there in your calendar - after the decision though .

I felt completely overwhelmed with all the opportunities and I lost my focus. With the result that I started lots of things and did not finish many of them. Know the feeling? So I learned to pick out what I feel is best and most valuable for my students and got on with them. Not without doubting if it was the right decision. But time will tell. If I fail with one or another thing, that is just part of the process and my path.

Why this helps you: If you are still reading this I am pretty sure you are a person who loves learning, has plenty of ideas, and opportunities. Choose and focus and get things started, then you will see results. (PS: how to know which opportunity to choose is a completely different matter – watch this space, I will take this topic up soon).

5.       Don’t compare

Aspirations are great. Having role models too. Maybe you are as critical with yourself and have similarly high expectations towards yourself. There is nothing wrong with that per se, if, however this leads to only noticing that you’re not as good in the one or the other area, it is nothing but depressing and de-motivating. Let’s not forget that we’re living in a society where everybody compares himself/herself to another. My comment here is that there is no good reason I can see to do the same. Don’t give yourself an impediment where none is needed.

I found that it is much more helpful (and motivating) to compare myself with… me. Yes, that’s right – I compare my today’s self with the one a month ago. Or 3 months ago. Then I can see my improvements and progress. That is what really counts. Maybe I will be as good as my role model one day (if I really strive for that), but it won’t happen overnight either. My best self won’t be a copy of somebody else, it will be simply me.

Why that helps you: If you fell into this comparing trap in the past (and it made you feel bad), this way of thinking can give you the boost and the motivation you need to get to YOUR next level. Enjoy your fascinating growth.

6.       I can’t do it alone

Took me quite some time to realize that. Because I had to go through a lot of stuff on my own. So I thought this is just the way it is and almost felt proud of being able to fight through everything and master stuff on my own.

Contradicts the headline? Yes and no. Yes, as in I can do things on my own. But I can do them so much better while having people at my side cheering me on. Or functioning as my own sounding board. That is absolutely priceless to have somebody (or more than one) who asks (critical) questions about why and what I do and is honest enough to tell me when I’m screwing up or follow a wrong path. Asking for advice or help is not a sign of weakness, but rather strength and humbleness. As none of us knows everything this is, in a way, a great relief.

Why this helps you: If you can get yourself a sparring partner or even a mentor. Both can help big time to get where you want to go…and you can even be vulnerable and admit not knowing everything. Try it out, the results may surprise you.

7.       Habits change my life – or: Consistency is king

I bet you have heard that before. Or you’ve known that for ages, but the implementation is just not that easy. I am also sure that you have noticed that some habits are easier to establish than others. I certainly have.

When I started the year, I already had established one habit many years ago: My morning exercises to train my stomach muscles before I even get out of bed. I’ve been doing them for a long time, as I struggled with back aches. Strengthening the opposite muscles does have a very positive result (so I was told and it turns out it’s true). Takes a few minutes and produces in fact a nicely toned result as a side effect :-).

This year I added lemon water to my morning routines: Half a squeezed lemon in lukewarm water. Every morning. And now, being the 29th of December, I can boast with a good conscious that I did not have a single cold for a whole year (probably also helps that I take out the dog every day, regardless of the weather…but I have done that for the last 7 years, so I assign the benefit to the consumption of the lemon juice).

In the course of this year I started adding and establishing some more habits: Keeping a gratitude journal, (trying to) drinking a glass of water every hour (does not always work), planning and reviewing my work every week, a morning smoothie, daily meditation and some more (…I will let you know about how they work in future blogs). With the result that I am more alert, more productive, far more aware of my failures and areas of improvement…and feeling humble.

 The gratitude journal was probably one of the best moves, as it puts things into perspective. I wake up and think about what I am grateful for that day and remind myself of the great stuff that happened during the day. I always find something to put in it and doing it puts a smile on my face immediately.

Admittedly I still struggle from time to time. Habits are a bit like New Year’s resolutions: First the enthusiasm is great, but that tends to wear off after a while, normally because the gratification does not come immediately. But as I know and have experienced that only consistency over an extended period of time makes a real difference, I am pushing myself to stick to those habits (new and old) that serve me well. Ah – there’s the key word! As habits can also be harmful. So, yes, habits can change your life - for better or for worse.

Why this helps you: Well, maybe you already know which habits are not really useful in your life. Get rid of them and start with one that you know is aligned with your goals (e.g. living healthier or being fitter…I just heard that in a survey those goals are in the top 3 of New Year’s resolutions…no surprise there I guess). Make it achievable and put it into your calendar. Then just do it (yes, there is a bit more to it - I know, will write about that later) and you will kick ass next year. I promise.

8.       I can touch people’s life

Somebody, much more experienced and wiser than me, said once: “If you can touch a person’s life in this world and make it better you have already succeeded. As every single person counts”.

Not long after I started with my work for helping people to a better workplace through personal leadership (and realized step by step that this became a work which goes much deeper than I originally thought) the feedback started coming in. People were thanking me for doing what I do. Someone said it inspired her. These are the moments when I know WHY I am doing what I’m doing, and this is something you can’t put a price tag on.

Why this helps you: Whatever job you are doing, I am absolutely sure that you touch somebody’s life every day. More often than not you just won’t know as there might not be a direct feedback. Raising the awareness for the effect of our behaviour and the – (hopefully) positive – change we can trigger for someone will change your perspective in a powerful way.

9.       Investing in myself was one of the best decisions this year

I am a mum of two (almost) grown children. I basically raised them on my own with my income being the only financial resource available to me. No tear jerker here (I did fine, even with loads of struggles in between), but an explanation for what’s to come. For many years this basically meant that the needs and the education of my lovely kids came first. Resulting in me not really investing in my own growth and progress. I still absorbed all that free knowledge around (and there is plenty there – more so than ever!), but that was that. As I run my own business, the financial load for further education is obviously on myself.

While weening off my kids step by step, I decided this year to focus more on me and treated myself to a number of great online courses combined with live events, one of which took place in the Silicon Valley (with lots of hesitation…spending money on myself was not a natural one).

The results of this self-investment were amazing. I can’t remember having had such a steep and fulfilling learning curve. Ever. Not only in the subject matter I learned during those courses, but also in terms of confidence and possibilities. There is absolutely nothing that compares with learning from those who know their stuff and can teach you their condensed knowledge in a short time. It would have taken me ages to source all of what I have learned myself. Absolutely and totally worth every single dollar I spent.

Why this helps you: Learning expands life. Sounds a bit grand, but that’s how I view it. If you can learn from experts who went through experiences (and failures) for you, even better. You are worth spending time and money on YOUR own progress. Even if you have this bad conscious, as I still do when going there, start with a small investment. And enjoy the good feeling.

10.   You can freeze bananas

I had no clue. This epiphany guarantees me that I always have this banana for the smoothie available and they are not rotting in this forgotten corner in the kitchen (remember: bananas should not be kept with other fruit, as their pheromones make other fruit ripen (and rot) quicker).

Why that helps you: If you are a smoothie lover like me, start doing that. Peel them before though ;-)

Have a great 2017!

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