3 tough lessons I hope to learn in 2018

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Last year, I tried something different than the traditional New Year’s resolutions (check it out here). It worked so well that I’m going to do it again this year.

It’s based on the philosophy that external changes happen more naturally when our internal world changes first. So instead of identifying a few external resolutions to commit to for the year (more like, for the first half of January), I identify 3 tough internal lessons that I hope to learn that year.

Unlike with external changes, mind-over matter doesn’t really work for internal changes. So instead of committing to conquering these 3 tough internal lessons, all I did was be more aware of them throughout the year. Honestly, I’m amazed at the results.

As you continue reading, I invite you to dig deeper than your external resolutions, and identify your own internal life lessons you hope to learn in 2018.

What did self-awareness teach me in 2017?

In case you’re still skeptical of the results more self-awareness can produce, here’s what it brought me in 2017. Last year, I committed to be more aware of the following three things:

  1. How to look people in the eye
  2. How to say “no”
  3. How to deal with anger

How much did becoming more self-aware in these areas change my life? See for yourself.

Looking people in the eye

I still struggle with looking people in the eye sometimes, but I’ve improved so much. Plus, I’ve given myself more grace about looking people in the eye after I learned that looking away while speaking is something many introverts need to do to process their thoughts. Even though I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered this, I am now so comfortable with it, that it is no longer a goal of mine in 2018.

How to say “no”

Being more aware of this tough lesson played a big part in my decision to downsize to a 32-hour workweek in my engineering job. Making this change required me to have some uncomfortable conversations with the leadership in my company in which I was essentially saying a big fat “no” to my current workload. On a deeper level, being aware of this lesson made me realize how much I limit my self-expression in more ways than just saying “no.” So much so, that this lesson has transformed into a much bigger lesson I hope to learn in 2018.

How to deal with anger

This is the lesson I’ve learned the most in 2017. I am astounded at how much emotional progress I’ve made in a single year! Anger is a natural emotion, so I still get angry, but I’ve developed more emotional tools to process through the anger and get to the bottom of what is really going on. These emotional tools led me to see that there is an emotion behind my anger: fear. Similar to the “looking people in the eye” lesson, this lesson has transformed into an even deeper lesson I hope to learn in 2018.

The three tough lessons I hope to learn in 2018

Can you relate to any of these?

Lesson 1) Speaking my truth even when I fear being judged

This lesson emerged from my 2017 lesson of “How to say ‘no’.” Last year, I took a major step in saying “no” to the most unfulfilling part of my life (my engineering career), which had amazing results but also illuminated how little I say what I truly think and how little I let myself feel what I truly feel (thank you, emotional incest).

This year, I’m committing to becoming more aware of how and when I don’t speak my truth and to learn how to better align my full self with the words I speak.

I think there’s a big difference between speaking our truth with constructive compassion and speaking our truth with blunt indifference. Have you been able to find the balance between the two? I’d love to hear how!

Lesson 2) How to deal with fear

This lesson emerged from the 2017 lesson of “How to deal with anger.” What I learned last year is that there is an emotion behind my anger, and that emotion is fear. Since this realization, I’ve paid more attention to how much fear runs my life. It affects everything from speaking my truth (see lesson number 1) to going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I’ve also realized that when I feel fear, I have two main responses: 1) to freeze and 2) to check-out from my life entirely. In 2018, I commit to becoming more aware of what triggers my fear as well as my response to it. I hope this awareness will teach me how to let go of the deep seated fear I hold and ultimately live a freer life.

I freeze up and check out when I’m afraid – what’s your natural reaction to fear?

Lesson 3) Learning how to be productive from a place of presence

Lately I’ve been in this weird stage of just floating through life and doing the bare minimum, which is really unlike me. I’m someone who goes after things with a fire and is super achievement oriented (see my post about being an enneagram 3).

It hasn’t been all bad, though. This period of floating through life has given me a chance to reflect on how I normally achieve goals, which involves putting my head down and bulldozing to the finish line. While that did get me to the finish line sometimes, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I burned out halfway through. And even when I did get to the finish line, I didn’t have a good time getting there. And I was never able to enjoy the finish line because once I got there, all I could think about was the next one.

This time of floating through life has allowed me to hit pause on the bulldozer, and question if there is a better way. This weird sluggish time has taught me how to be in the moment more and that being fully present in my life and relationships is what makes me feel the most alive.

That being said, I still love me some achievements. In 2018, I’m hoping to marry presence and productivity together so I can fulfill my natural desire to achieve my goals as well as enjoy the process along the way.

What’s your natural tendency? To bulldoze your way through, or slow down to enjoy the moment? Have any words of wisdom as I become more aware of balancing the two?

What are your three tough lessons?

The external changes you’re hoping to see will happen more naturally when your inside changes and heals. So what are your 3 tough internal changes you’re hoping to learn in 2018?

I’m not just asking this just to ask – I’m truly interested! Feel free to shoot me an email with the though lessons you hope to learn in 2018, or better yet, post it in the comments to help other people reflect on their own life!


Cover Photo by Robert Lukeman.

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  1. I like this twist on external goals.

    I just wrote about self awareness, too, in the sense of learning from your past successes and failures, before setting goals. This setting out to learn internal lessons is a new idea.

    How do I respond to fear? Depends how tired I am. And maybe on the present company.

    I recently heard that, instead of the old “fight or flight” response to danger, therapists now talk about “fix or freeze”. Most of our fears aren’t life threatening so we more often go into fix-it mode or we freeze. (I think checking out is an extension of freezing. A pause button of sorts.) If another fixer is present, I’ll let them go for it. When I know it’s up to me, I’ll take charge and try to fix things. If I’m particularly tired or overextended, yup, I’ll freeze up or check out, too.

    When I’ve bulldozed my way to accomplishments, I’ve missed a lot of what was going on in the lives of those around me. But when I slow down, I sometimes over correct and get stuck.

    I’m still learning to incorporate rest as a regular part of life instead of waiting for it to become and unavoidable consequence of pushing too hard.

    1. What a thoughtful response, Colleen! Thank you so much for your insight. The fix-it or freeze concept was super enlightening to me. I agree that checking out would be a form for freezing. Interesting…

      Also totally get what you mean by over adjusting on the pause button and getting stuck there. Cheers to learning the balance together!

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