15 Lessons I Learnt This Year – But Wish I’d Known Years Ago

Real Women Real Adventures

Dec 21
Lessons from 2016 #SpartaChicks

It’s been an interesting year for me - and maybe for you too.

They have been “failures”, tears, fears, massive self-doubt and self-sabotaging behaviour (which I’ve found in packets of Tim Tams, rolling over and going back to sleep in the morning instead of training and coming up with excuses as to why I can’t launch a podcast).

Having said that, there have been many special moments too: an Amazon best-selling book, an incredible and growing Sparta Chicks family, mulled wine, holidaying with friends, getting back on my bike, climbing upside down in trees, visiting black sand beaches, swimming with manta rays (for the second time) and drawing strength from nature’s beauty and power.

It’s been a year of tremendous growth - personally and professionally - but I can still see ways in which I’m holding back. The ways I’m letting fear creep in and fortify the “walls” of my comfort zone. Some of those walls have been bulldozed and are almost unrecognisable now. Others, not so much.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions but I am a big fan of New Year reflections. So here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt this year ~

1. You’ll never feel ready. You’ll always feel there is more you could, should, want or need to do. Case in point: I can’t tell you how many freaking times I reviewed and proof-read my book. I almost asked my husband to send it to my designer because I couldn’t let it go in case it wasn’t quite “ready”. So don’t wait to feel ready; just go and do it. You must surprise yourself! (I did!)

2. There will always be a part of you that worries about what other people think; it’s human nature. Women have been conditioned for thousands of years to fit in and to be accepted. The challenge we all face is recognise when it truly matters and not to let it hold you back when it doesn’t.

3. Perfectionism is no longer a character trait I’m proud of (I really wish I’d learnt this years ago). It’s just a way I (and probably you) protect myself from (a fear of) judgement and criticism. Don’t wait until it’s perfect - that day will never come. And guess what, you’ll still doubt yourself anyway so you may as well do it anyway. And on a related note…

4. Life isn’t a pass/fail exam. And your success doesn’t depend on perfection (unless you’re a heart surgeon). Just because the outcome isn’t what you wanted, doesn’t mean it’s automatically a “failure”. Case in point, the time I had a fun, failing

5. Overthinking is overrated. You’ll never overthink yourself into action; you’ll only delay. So assess the risks and benefits, make a decision and take a step forward (and then do it again).

6. The only reason the (long-awaited and much-talked-about by me) podcast didn’t launch this year is because I let my fears get in the way (see, it happens to all of us!). Ugh, that’s bloody hard to admit. But it’s true.

You know when you feel like a fraud, an imposter, a phoney, that you don’t belong or that any moment someone is going to find out you have no freaking idea what you’re talking about? That feeling and fear has a name; it’s called the Imposter Complex and mine has been screaming at me loudly this year - at least so far as the podcast is concerned.

I kept telling myself that with everything else going on (the book and Sparta Chicks clothing etc), I couldn’t afford to launch the podcast this year.

But if I’m completely honest, that’s BS. I could have found the money if I really wanted to. What stopped me was fear.

But having admitted that painful lesson, I’ve already taken steps to manage it and move forward next year, including signing up to work with an incredible coach and committing to a launch date which will be announced on my friend's podcast. So this is one very real occasion where I’m going to move towards my goal, despite still feeling afraid.

[Postscript from February 2017 - I've finally done it. The podcast is now live]​

Lessons from 2016 #SpartaChicks Jen Brown

7. You can never own too many books 🙂

8. It’s ok to walk uphills. (Ok, I’ve known this for years but I’m reminded of it every time I’m out on the trails!)

9. Just say yes to experiences and opportunities that excite you and light you up - even if you have NFI how you’ll achieve it at the time.

10. Focus on the process and the outcome will take care of itself. This has been something I’ve really only taken on board in the last few months.

I spent so much time this year focusing on the outcome I wanted (the race result, the book sales, the client numbers and income), I forgot to focus on the process (the training sessions, the emails sent, the number of words written daily). I’ve seen this in a number of clients this year too; strong women who over-think and over-analyse every possible scenario that might (but probably won’t) happen on race day, then get so stressed their day-to-day training suffers. Don’t worry about the race or the outcome; just focus on the process and what you need to do today.

11. You’ll always be scared - and often scared shitless. I certainly was back in August ahead of the book launch. I was full of self-doubts (“what if it’s shit and no-one likes it!") but thankfully it didn’t stop me. Don’t let fear stop you either.

12. The most popular posts I’ve written this year are the most personal ones. They are also the hardest to write (like this one). And on that point….

13. So many women have privately and quietly whispered their doubts and fears to me this year, as though it’s a guilty secret they’re too embarrassed, ashamed or scared to expose.

But every time it happens, I’m reminded not only of the bravery and strength it requires to bare your soul, but also how much we all have in common. We all have the same fears and doubts but we, as a culture, don’t share them - we hid them from all but our closest friends and family members - so we feel vulnerable, isolated and alone. This is why it’s so important to share your stories - whether about your achievements, your fuck-ups or your fears - because it gives other women permission to do the same.

14. Mulled wine cures all 🙂 Oh, and that I refuse to let my fear of failing or being disappointed stop me from having a fun, adventure-filled and wondrous (as in “I wonder if I can”) life.

15. Sparta Chicks are The. Best. (Ok, I knew that one already too!).

So what did you learn this year? Leave a comment below - I’d love to know!