What I Learned From A Year of Reflection and Exploration
Just over a week ago, I celebrated my twin sister’s wedding on our shared birthday – a scheduling choice that initially prompted disappointment, but ultimately flooded me with gratitude for the most unforgettable celebration I’ve experienced to date.
The gathering of loved ones from all over the country, the sense of immense purpose I felt fulfilling my role as maid of honor, and the surprise birthday serenade from the entire throng of guests – complete with cupcakes, candles, and a birthday wish – all contributed to a collection of memories that will live with me long after the sparklers faded.
As I reflected on my birthday weekend and my surpassed expectations, I took a step back and surveyed the past year as a whole – recognizing that the reality, too, exceeded my wildest expectations.
I’ll be sharing in-depth reflections and musings over the coming weeks, but today I’m highlighting a few of my biggest takeaways from a year of taking chances and stepping boldly into my purpose.
1. Intuitive practice supersedes a rigid routine.
This mindset shift has completely altered the way I approach each day and the method by which I cultivate daily habits. While I previously believed a regular routine required strict discipline and a prescriptive approach, this past year has completely shattered that perspective.
I’ve learned – the hard way, I might add – that choosing nurturing practices that meet your mind, body, and spirit where they are in the moment leads to true empowerment and greater mental, physical, and spiritual health. The liberation that ensues from truly looking within, checking in with ourselves regularly, and connecting with our intuition enables us to thrive in ways a restrictive routine simply never could.
2. Growth happens in the middle of discomfort.
The ebbs and flows of this past year have helped me realize how deeply periods of discomfort refine us and enable us to experience transformative growth. When we are pushed beyond our comfort zone, we are forced to adapt and change the way we approach our circumstances, essentially laying the foundation for new patterns of living and operating in the world.
The result? We become stronger, more resilient, and more capable of processing and managing change.
3. Intentional breath can be transformative.
Perhaps the most powerful practice I’ve developed over the past year is a regular breathwork practice. I’ve previously highlighted how breathwork strengthens the mind-body connection for stress relief and reduced anxiety, but it’s worth mentioning again given how potent just one breathwork session can be in the midst of a particularly stressful situation – even if you simply pause and take a few deep breaths.
Rather than falling prey to the downward spiral that typically ensues, I’ve been able to use the breath to recenter within the present moment and regain my sense of balance, allowing me to show up as the most empowered version of myself when I needed to the most.
4. Mental time travel gets you nowhere.
As someone who has dealt with anxiety, learning to intentionally focus on the present moment without judgment – the true definition of mindfulness – has been pivotal in my journey over the past year.
Anytime I notice myself start to worry about a potential future event - or fixate on a past experience - I recognize that I’m engaging in mental time travel that paralyzes me from taking action and pulls me away from the present moment.
My response? Allowing myself to pause and check in with myself, asking introspective questions such as “what am I feeling?” and “why am I feeling this way?” coupled with intentional breathwork – which always brings me back to experiencing all the present moment has to offer.
5. Every moment contains a lesson or an opportunity.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve developed a regular practice of reflecting on each day, recognizing the learning that lies within each moment — especially within the “mistakes.”
Identifying a lesson learned – especially in a seemingly negative situation – always rekindles my sense of purpose and fulfillment, allowing me to practice gratitude regardless of my circumstances.
As I’ve become more practiced in grounding myself in the present moment, I’ve also learned to appreciate my own power of choice. I’ve developed my ability to perceive the opportunities that previously appeared hidden – simply by getting clear on the life I want to lead, training my attention to hone in on what aligns with my vision and mission, and taking thoughtful action.
6. Choosing to respond rather than react changes everything.
This insight has also transformed the way I show up in the world. Instead of viewing each circumstance as something that’s happening to me, I’ve begun to intentionally notice the power of choice that lies within every experience.
Shifting my behavior from emotionally-triggered reactions to objective-driven responses has helped me further integrate mindfulness into workplace interactions, as well as relationships with friends and loved ones. As a result, I find myself refraining from jumping to conclusions, experiencing more fulfillment and less regret, and moving through the world in a much more thoughtful manner.
7. Slowing down enables a deeper human experience.
Yet another pivotal lesson I’ve learned this year is the importance of slowing down and celebrating small victories throughout my journey.
As a goal-driven individual, positively acknowledging every seemingly small step along the way has profoundly impacted my sense of purpose and helped me realize how far I’ve come within such a short period of time.
More importantly, choosing to slow down and savor every experience and interaction has filled me with greater joy, compassion, and empathy for the people around me. Pausing to appreciate the gift that is life has inspired me to continuously strive to approach each day with an open mind and a grateful heart, attentive to whatever arises.
I can say with full confidence that these insights have profoundly changed my perspective about myself and my relationship to the world around me. I’m thankful for every step along the way that has led me to where I am – even the perceived missteps that I lamented in the moment, but retrospectively appreciated as detours that led me exactly where I needed to be.
Above all else, I’ve learned this: letting go of our fear of failure and rewiring our patterns of seeking external validation allows us to tap into our inner strength, connect with our intuition, and pursue what ignites us for a more vibrant life.
And that is truly empowering.
For an immersive experience focused on mindful movement and centering within the present moment, sign up for my upcoming workshop Slow Down + Breathe at NoDa Yoga in Charlotte.
Looking for more like this? Download my Daily Journal Prompts: Intro Guide to Reflection + Introspection and subscribe to my weekly notes.