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  • Vanessa Vella

My Birthday Blog Post (Or "What I Learned In The Past 12 Months")

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

I know not everyone loves their birthday, but this is my take: each birthday is a celebration of how I’m still alive, I’m growing and getting at life, and that people love and appreciate me. Sign me up! Birthdays are awesome

That being said, it’s a great time to review the past year of my life, and what I learned throughout. This past year was a big year for me - full of adventures, leaps (big and small) and much (possibly too much?) excitement. I quit my job of 10 years to focus solely on my coaching business. I moved to a new city, downsizing into a studio apartment from a house. I started swimming again and I joined an axe throwing league.


I have a pretty average relationship with change, which is to say I have a love-hate relationship to change. I love knowing that my life is moving forward, and I welcome the changes that make that happen. But there is a threshold of how much change I can tolerate at once without feeling majorly unsettled and generally grumpy. I’d like to think that for the past 12 months I walked right on that line, falling off several times, but always getting right back up.


I’m sharing what I learned with you here, in the hopes that it will provide some valuable nuggets to help you on your journey, wherever you are now on your way to where you’re headed. Maybe this idea will spread, and you’ll send me a list of your learning one day soon :)



MAY 2016


Moving is no fun at all, and the most helpful thing to do is embrace this fact of life. My move had a big lead up, with months of sorting, purging, donating and selling things. I was also able to move some of my things here and there, decreasing the overall load for the final move. Having so long to get ready caused me to feel hopeful and positive about how little work was left with the actual move (not to mention the unpacking, organizing and cleaning up).


I fell into the trap of planning fallacy, which is an overly optimistic way of thinking about how much time it will take to complete a task, and results in underestimating the time needed and then being hella annoyed (I added the part about being annoyed, but I’m certain that is a part of it). You can see this play out over and over again from construction projects to people just trying to get to work on time. I’m sure planning fallacy will get me again in the future, but I’m going to be on the lookout for it this time.



JUNE 2016


I always knew I thrived on routine, but having no routine at all really drove this point home. Initially, I was excited about being able to be flexible and just 'do stuff'. What a cool opportunity! I was going to be that person who could go with the flow.


But it didn’t feel flowy and cool. Instead, I felt unsettled, even though I didn’t want to feel that way. I wanted to embrace this clean slate, and it’s related freedom. But, I’m me and I need structure. Routine helps me feel grounded.


The next time I find myself with a blank slate, schedule-wise, I’ll be sketching in some daily routines (with pencil, so they can be changed later). The bigger take home here is: know thyself, and act accordingly.



JULY 2016


It was so very hot this past summer that I actually do not remember much about this month. I was incredibly sweaty for about 5 months, and July was the critical mass of heat and humidity. It was extreme, and worrisome. Climate change is real, people. Just ask all the coolest science guy.


After living in different cities for eight months, it was great to spend more time with my partner. Even so, socializing requires effort. We had to be proactive to book off time together, make all the snacks (gotta have snacks!) and pry ourselves away from home and work to make this a priority. As a grown up, having fun is something that needs to be (ironically) worked for, or it too easily falls by the wayside.



AUGUST 2016


In August I learned that settling into a new place takes much longer than I hoped it would (oh no, more planning fallacy!?). Some things just require the passage of time and that’s that. Sometimes the best way to adjust to a big change is to wake up every day, live ya life and let things shift and settle on their own.


That sounds pretty wise, doesn’t it? Well, my friend, that’s hindsight. I resisted and struggled and tried to mentally head butt my way through this process. I stressed myself out very unnecessarily. The only side benefit of that is that I tired myself out and eventually accepted that I was still adjusting, and just let it happen.


SEPTEMBER 2016


The beginning of Fall is a time of year I really enjoy. I get all swept up in Back-to-School fever. I enjoy buying fun, cool stationary items that I don’t really need.


It’s best for me to go into this time of year with a clear intention and sound strategy, because the fall flies by and I like to feel like I finished off the last quarter of the year with lots of productivity. I didn’t do that this September, which is how I know it’s best for me to have a plan going into fall. I’ve booked a half day retreat with myself to do some serious planning next August :)



OCTOBER 2016


It’s too easy for me to slide down the slippery slope of not making time for self care, by thinking “I’m good” or “I don’t have time for that” or “Oh look, an email!”. And it always bites me in the butt! Always. Self care needs to happen daily.


Since I’m prone to get right out of bed and start working, then ‘run out of time’ for myself later in the day, the lesson I learned (again) this month is to make time for self care in the morning. It’s more likely to get done at that time and it makes the whole day better.



NOVEMBER 2016


Sometimes (like this month for example) I get deep down into a Big Funk and feel like everything is the worst - and that’s okay. It’s so important to remember that this is natural, because when I forget that, the Funk can turn into a full blown self esteem attack. Feeling the lowest I can feel is the most counterproductive, and seems to strip away all the possibility of moving forward. However, I did manage to get myself out of the Funk; first by taking action and then by dealing with my thoughts and feelings.


Getting myself to take positive action when I feel low seems more digestible than dealing with “all this”. Sometimes finally cleaning the bathroom is the catalyst to bigger and better things. I’ll Funk again one day, and I’ll get through that one too - by starting with some small, tangible actions and building on that tiny momentum :)



DECEMBER 2016


I’m very grateful for the choice I’ve made to change the way I relate to the ‘Holiday Season’. I’m usually pretty chill, I don’t stress about shopping, and making everything perfect.


Sometimes it’s good to lower expectations, and this has helped me enjoy this time of year again. It’s no big deal if I don’t get everything done, if I give or receive a gift that isn’t reciprocated (gasp!) or if / when I eat all the things and feel gross for a few days. It all works out in the end! Most importantly, I feel like I’m being myself and living authentically, instead of feeling saddled with a bunch of obligations I’d rather not be doing.


The ‘Holiday Season’ provides an excellent opportunity to practice non-attachment, embrace imperfection, live your values, and just sit back and observe - if you take the invitation.


JANUARY 2017


I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions per se, but a brand new year has such good energy for self reflection and planning (both of which I quite enjoy!). This year I set New Year’s Resolutions, which I gave the non-sparkly title of “Goals” (because they are just goals that are set in early January).


And guess what? I’m actually doing them. And how did I manage that? It’s because I did the goal setting properly- which is to say, I was honest with myself, I set realistic parameters, I created ways of keeping myself on track and allowed myself to be flexible with my expectations. Instead of throwing a hundred new goals into my life, I chose to expand things I was already doing, and set goals using my own strengths and values so it would be easy to stay motivated.


And Yes, I’m bragging, because I’ve put a lot of work into building my self awareness and discovering what works for me, and for the most part, I’ve figured it out. I think that is pretty awesome :)



FEBRUARY 2017


When the Big picture perspective becomes overwhelming, the best thing for me to do is focus on doing the important work every day, and knowing the rest will fall into place. It’s one of those things that’s easy to say, but harder to do.


I’m not the best at ‘keeping the faith’ but I am good with consistency, persistence and getting (SH)IT done. So those are elements that I leverge to get myself back down to earth when I feel like too much of a floating head.


One thing I discovered that helps me with this is tracking different activities that need to be done consistently, but can get tedious, like catching up on emails or posting on social media. I love checking things off, earning points that have no meaning, and creating a ‘habit chain’. Narrowing my focus to one day at a time can help keep me moving forward when I start to lose interest (“This is boring”), or self doubt creeps in (“I don’t think this is working”).


MARCH 2017


Being able to see my strengths and what I have to offer can come from feeling really proud of myself and doing good things, and it can also come from seeing a contrast between myself and someone else. I was really irritated and frustrated with someone else’s lack of integrity and professionalism this month, and that was disappointing, but ultimately had a positive effect.


That frustration helped me see all the value I offer - my professionalism, integrity, and caring. Things that I have often taken for granted as ‘the way it should be’ - but, apparently not everyone agrees! Standing out doesn’t need to mean reinventing the wheel - doing a consistently awesome job is more than enough to set me apart from those who are only using half their ass.


APRIL 2017


I’m getting better with accepting when things ‘just don’t work out’ and seeing how that creates space for new and better things to move into my life. Things are always happening ‘behind the scenes’ that aren’t observable until later on.


I used to worry so much about what would happen next, and if there would be ‘enough’ opportunities for me. Now I only worry about that sometimes (vs. always), and most importantly, when I do worry about it I’m aware that what I’m doing is a little bit crazy and a whole lot unhelpful. What helped me with this shift was learning that when opportunities don’t work out, it can be a blessing, and there is always something new around the corner.



THE LESSON OF THE WHOLE DAMN YEAR



Fear of failure is something I have struggled with during this past year (okay for many years, but especially over these past 12 months). Somehow my brain has convinced me that ‘failing’ in my business means that I have failed as a person (as if that’s even possible!). It’s a mean trick to pull, and quite unfair, considering how much I like and care for my brain.


Instead, I’ve done something much better - I’ve accepted that failure is a normal part of life, and so is the fear that accompanies it, as well as the icky feels that come when it’s happening. (Shout out to Mandy Wintink for helping me with this big-time!)


Fear of failure is like an unwanted houseguest - resisting what is already happening doesn’t help, so the best way is to accept the situation at hand and just get through it. So now I tolerate fear but I try not to let it weigh in on important decisions. Fear of failure is a normal thing, it will always be around, and instead of wasting my energy resisting it, I'm just going to embrace it as a frenemy (possibly upgrading it to ‘friend’ status in the future).


I know it is all the rage these days to focus on what is learned in the process of ‘failing’, and that’s because it’s a super idea, and totally true. It has been really hard for me to put into action though, lemme tell ya! I’ve decided to be smart and use my strengths to help reframe how I feel about my fear of failure. My top strength on the VIA survey is Love of Learning, and if I really like learning as much as I can, then I need to embrace all experiences. Using my strength to reframe my worries into useful thoughts like, “If I let my fear prevent me from taking risks (small or big) that could result in me (emotionally) falling on my face, then I’m denying myself the opportunity to learn.” I’m getting there ever so slowly... but I’m getting there. So that’s good!


I can’t wait to see what adventures I have and lessons I learn in the next twelve months. And I’d love to hear from you: what you’ve learned / are learning as you go from one birthday to the next :)


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