I usually like to spend the first half of January reflecting on the year that has just passed: looking at what I’ve learnt; what I could have done better, whether I honoured my intention for the year and what mistakes I made, as well as what the highlights were; what I achieved; and what I did well. As a family we enjoy looking back at all the new experiences we’ve had and what our favourite memories have been. The photos sprinkled through this post are some of our favourite moments from 2021.
Once I’m done looking back and feel like I’ve mostly closed the door on the year, I turn my attention to both the here-&-now and the future. Where am I with everything right now? What do I want the next twelve months to look/feel like? To help me with this, I choose an intention. It’s not a resolution to give something up, or a set of targets or measurable goals to work towards achieving. An intention is much, much deeper than that. It’s more a way of being. A choice for how I want to deliberately and purposefully live my life over the coming twelve months. A guide for who I want to be rather than what I want to do.
Setting a new intention does require some degree of reflection on last year’s intention, or the last two years in this case, seeing as I didn’t write a post last year. 2020 was my year of connection & growth and 2021 was my year of confidence. So what did they actually look like in real terms? Did I manage to align myself to those intentions in the way that I wanted to?
There is no denying the fact that both 2020 and 2021 were extraordinary years in so many different ways. I don’t think anyone has emerged from the pandemic unchanged in some fundamental way. We’ve all had to re-evaluate so much about our lives, we’ve lost people we love, we’ve become different versions of ourselves and all of that takes a lot of adjusting to. I firmly believe that our intentions have a way of shaping us more than we know and so looking back at my intentions from the pandemic years seems like an important part of the process.
2020: Connection & Growth
2020 was my year of connection and growth. Reading back through the post I wrote at the start of the year, before anyone had ever even heard of the words coronavirus, Covid-19, lateral flow tests or self-isolation, was quite eye-opening.
The ‘Connection’ element of this dual-part intention had three distinct sections to it. I wanted to reconnect with myself, strengthen the connections I already have and create new connections.
The ‘Growth’ element focused on quite a few areas: my blog, therapy, photography, money and motherhood.
Looking back now, 2020 seems like a whole lifetime ago. PE with Joe, home-schooling, only one walk permitted per day, social distancing, no hugs allowed, empty supermarket shelves, pubs and restaurants and theatres closed, and so much time spent at home. It doesn’t seem real. And yet somehow, despite all of that, the connection and the growth still happened. Perhaps not quite in the ways I thought I’d wanted or how I’d imagined, but it happened.
When it came to choosing my intention for 2021, I considered lots of options. ‘Home’ and ‘Trust’ were the two main contenders initially. In the end, after much deliberation, I settled on ‘Confidence’.
My confidence took quite a few knocks back in 2020, despite the connection and growth that I was able to create:
- I had my application to become a ClickPro – a highly sought-after accolade within the photography community – declined. I’d been expecting that outcome, though I hadn’t anticipated quite how much I would let it impact on my belief in myself and my abilities as a photographer.
- The parent of a therapy client was unhappy with the work I’d done with her daughter (the first time that’s happened in fourteen years of practice), which led me to question every aspect of the sessions we’d had together to make sure that I hadn’t done anything wrong.
- It felt like I was in an exceptionally hard season of motherhood as the girls struggled with the pandemic, school and teenagerhood.
- I didn’t do many of the things I’d wanted to do (such as set up my photography website and create a therapy training course).
- I didn’t share very much personal and honest writing here on my blog.
It would be easy to blame it all on the pandemic but deep down I know it wasn’t really that. It was thinking that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say that people will want to read compared to all the other incredibly insightful and useful pieces of writing out there on the internet. It was feeling that my photography work never quite measured up to the standards I wanted it to be. It was seeing other families happy and together and then comparing that to my own disconnected, struggling family. It was staying quiet instead of speaking up. It was choosing to continue doing work that I love but know in my heart isn’t what I want to be doing any more because I didn’t have the confidence that I could create an income any other way.
It was a lot for both my head and my heart to cope with.
As a consequence I decided that 2021 was going to be my year of confidence. I didn’t write a post about it – I couldn’t find the words somehow. Ironic, I know. But I set my intention and I did my best to live my life in alignment with it. I pushed my own boundaries and challenged myself to do things even though I didn’t feel confident about it, acting ‘as if’. It’s quite a powerful tool, acting ‘as if’: as if I’ve already got a successful photography business; as if I’ve already done lots of writing work; as if I’m confident in who I am. It really does work.
As a result, in 2021 I wrote the content for my website and made big decisions on the design – it’s almost ready to launch. I did multiple photoshoots to build up my portfolio and created images that I’m proud of. I did some travel writing following a stay in Scotland that the brand who hosted us were pleased with. I had hard conversations with my family. I had one of my busiest years ever with therapy clients, all of whom were happy with the work we did together. I stepped in front of the camera and took some self portraits (and, more to the point, I actually like them).
2020 and 2021 were hard years collectively for everyone I think and I know for sure that I’ve realised a lot about myself. I’ve also learned an immense amount about my values (what’s important to me) and how I want to live my life going forwards. Which brings me to my intention for this year…
2022: My Year Of…
I actually chose my 2022 intention several months ago, back in the second half of last year and well before this new year started. That surprised me as I usually spend a while going back and forth between different options before finally settling on one. I guess after eighteen months of pandemic living it felt the logical choice. More than that, it felt instinctively like the right choice. And once it was in there, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s based on a theme that consistently showed up throughout 2021 in multiple ways – something was definitely telling me to pay attention.
2022 is my year of no regrets.
I have a few regrets. Some are big, some are small. Some are earth-shattering and some are relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. I’m not going to list them because I already know what they are and they won’t mean anything to you if you’re reading this.
It’s important to understand that I absolutely wouldn’t change the way my life has turned out: having my girls; my marriage; the connections I have with the rest of my family; friendships; my travels. They’ve all shaped me into who I am today and have been the stepping stones that have led me down this path to where I am now. I’m content with every choice I’ve made, every tentative tiptoe into the unknown and every single leap of faith I’ve taken on this journey.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t have done some things differently – if I could go back in time there are things I would change. I’d have loved to have stuck at some things that I gave up on too soon. I’d have taken a different approach in my early parenting days and asked for more help. I’d have been better at staying in touch with friends who are incredibly important to me. I’d have fixed my relationship with my Dad. And so much more.
Over the last two years especially (although I think it’s been going on longer than that), I’ve become almost obsessed with not wasting time, of squeezing the most out of every single moment because you never know if it’s going to be your last, or someone you love’s last. I think it was born from having lost so many people before their time, before they’d done all they wanted to do.
It even came up in my therapy work with clients a lot too – people not wanting to have any regrets and to be able to let go of the things that they’ve been letting hold them back from living the life they really want to live as the most authentic and true versions of themselves that they can be.
After I’d already chosen my intention, I read the book ‘The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying’ by Bronnie Ware. It had a big impact – I don’t want to have any of the regrets that the people she talks about in the book have, like wishing they’d had more courage to follow their dreams and wishing that they’d let themselves be happier.
Another book that has had a significant effect on me is Brene Brown’s ‘Atlas Of The Heart’, which is pretty much a detailed directory of every single human emotion you can think of. It’s fascinating. The section on ‘Regret’ describes the difference between short term regret and long term regret. According to research, short term regrets tend to be about bad outcomes where we took action. Long term regrets are more around actions we didn’t take and things we didn’t do, missed opportunities as such. That makes sense to me.
2022 brings my 39th trip around the sun and I want the final year of my thirties to be a special one. No regrets. Every decision or choice I’m faced with will be based on the questions “Will I regret it if I do it?” and “Will I regret it if I don’t do it?”. It’s going to be interesting seeing where it takes me. I think it’s going to mean me saying a wholehearted “yes!” to more things and I think that’s going to need me to call on the confidence I created thanks to last year’s intention. I’m determined to do things that I’ve always wanted to do, because why not?
It’s not just about new or big things though. It’s little things too, that are just as important and meaningful. I know I will never, ever regret any memories I make with my husband and our daughters; I’ll never regret time spent with family; I’ll never regret getting up early or staying up late to watch the sunrise or sunset; I’ll never regret a conversation (in person or online) with a friend; and I’ll never regret going on an adventure or travelling somewhere new.
So here is to a year of no regrets. I’ll report back with how it goes. Have you set an intention or chosen a word for the year? If so I’d love to know what it is. Feel free to leave it in the comments. And if you haven’t chosen one and think you might like to, all you need to do is close your eyes and listen to that little voice deep inside. It knows.