What lessons did you learn in 2015?

Ok, so it’s that time of year when everyone is making all sorts of goals and promises for 2016. People see the New Year as a fresh new start. A blank slate.

And I’m all for new beginnings. Any time you can give yourself a mental restart means you’re one step closer to moving on from the weight of the past that can hold you back.

I think a good place to start when setting new goals for the upcoming year is to recap the past year and figure out the lessons you’ve learned along the way. I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now reviewing my 2015.  I’m sharing the major lessons I’ve learned or revisited in 2015. I invite you think back on your year and do the same.

January

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The year started off really nicely. I spent most of January in New York City with my extended family. We’re planning a family reunion and when your family is as large as mine, it takes several people and several planning meetings to make it happen. It was a great way to hang out with everyone and I’m looking forward to the family reunion in July 2016. Did I mention its gonna be in the Caribbean?? Can’t wait. I have so many beautiful pictures and memories from January and I will create so many more during the upcoming family reunion.

January’s Lesson: Doing activities with loved ones is affirming and strengthens my relationships.

February

februarysnowI ‘ve always wanted to try stained glass making, so this winter while the weather looked like this,  I found a class led by the awesome Fred and decided to give it a try. You can read more about this here. I ended up making something really beautiful. I talk and think for a living, so I don’t get much experience taking separate objects and “making” something new with them with my own hands. It was more difficult than I thought it would be and the finished product was far from perfect, but it’s beautiful to me and I hang it proudly in my home office.

Various stages of the glass cutting process and tools

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February’s Lesson: Trying new experiences is a great way to think new thoughts and bring new energy into your life.

March

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Completing my dissertation has definitely been a journey and unfortunately my motivation to do so sometimes ebbs much more than it flows. In an effort to get the ball moving I went on a writing retreat with 5 other participants led by the brilliant and very helpful writing coach Michelle Boyd of Inkwell Retreats.  The retreat was held at the beautiful Goldberry Woods, a bed and breakfast and micro-farm in northwest Michigan. It was a wonderful experience.  The scenery was gorgeous and provided a nice backdrop to the intense writing. I got more work done on my dissertation in that one week during the retreat than I had in the previous 3 months all together.

March’s Lesson: Working toward a huge goal does not have to only be grueling. There can be pleasurable and peaceful moments along the way.

April

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I spent spring break in the Dominican Republic. And it was a blast! It was the perfect mix of relaxation and fun.  I spent my days sitting in the sun on the beach, drinking frozen drinks, and swimming. During that beach time I did a great deal of thinking and soul searching. I finally got the chance to listen to all the little voices inside me that I had to silence during every day life because I was too busy getting things done.  One of those decisions I came to was to bring a small group of ladies back to this destination so that they too could get away and have the opportunity and space to think new thoughts and do some introspection.  I decided I wanted to lead destination retreats. And in fact, I led my first one a few months later in that very same place.

April’s Lesson: Sometimes its good to take a break. Moments of inspiration can come when my mind is not singularly focused on a problem.

May

My beautiful little niece walking around my mom's garden.

This was my first mother’s day after my mom passed. You can read more about that here. I had to take a break from social media and all the constant reminders that other people were spending the day with their mothers or at least got to talk to them. But my brother sent me a pic of my niece in my mom’s blooming spring garden. It is a nice reminder that life goes on. This pic connects my mom’s life to present and the future. Both my niece and those beautiful flowers growing on their own were evidence that my mom cared for and nurtured things while she was here.

May’s Lesson: Life goes on. And even though people are no longer with us, the things they nurtured still continue to flourish.

June

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Some time in 2014, a client told me about the old toboggan stairs at Swallow Cliff in Palos Hills, IL and what a great workout climbing the stairs is. Ever since then I had been meaning to tackle them. I finally did in June of this year.  I didn’t take any pics. I was too busy remembering to breathe! The above pic is a pic I stole from google, just so that you get a general idea of what they look like.  I climbed up and down them 3 times. If I wasn’t so dogged tired I would have done the “Rocky” dance at the top of the stairs. It was not pretty and my legs and backside hurt for days. But I felt really good for finally crossing it off my “to-do” list.

June’s Lesson: Crossing things off my mental “to-do” list makes me feel triumphant.

July

July was the first anniversary of my mom’s passing. So my siblings and I decided to spend that week together. We had barbecues, went swimming and supported each other. It was nice. I won’t lie and say there weren’t some really really low moments. For instance, my 12 year old nephew found me on the side of the house sobbing once, but it was nice to go through that with people who understood exactly what I was going through. We also took the opportunity to plant a flower bush on the actual date of her passing. She would be tickled pink by that. You can read more about my grief process here.

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July’s Lesson: I don’t have to be deal with my grief alone when there are people around me ready to be supportive. I just have to ask for help.

August

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August was all about the outdoors. Summer in Chicago is a beautiful thing. And I forget how glorious summer can feel during Chicago January and February. So every day I wasn’t in the office in August, I was spending long days at Lake Michigan. I also got a chance to visit the fruit orchards at Pick Farms. You can read more about this trip in a previous blog post.

August Lesson: Stop and enjoy the moment.

September

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I spent more time traveling and spending time with family this year than I had in the previous 6 years combined. It was  a commitment I made to myself following my mom’s passing. Because of this, I realized that in some important ways having a physical office no longer suited me. So when it was time to renew the lease, I decided that it was simply not worth it to be bound to a physical office for another year.  I decided not to renew. But as much as I knew this was the right decision, I still struggled with it. Thank goodness for Synoria, who arranged the movers and organized the packing because I was a mess. Be on the lookout for a whole separate post on this topic.

September’s Lesson: Sometimes life forces you to make tough decisions. Staying committed to your values helps make those tough decisions easier.

October

October, which is my absolute favorite month, was all about  business growth and development. It was definitely a highlight of the year. I led Abundant Life Practice’s very first retreat. I took 3 beautiful ladies with me back to the Dominican Republic and it was really amazing. (Be on the lookout for a separate blog post about the retreat really soon.) In the mean time, this is the villa where the retreat was held.

I left the Abundant Life Practice retreat and headed straight to The Happy Black Woman Blogging School Live 3-day event in Washington D.C.  I connected with so many entrepreneurial minded and inspiring ladies, including Ms. Rosetta herself. I also got to visit Washington D.C. for the very first time and it was a blast!

October’s Lesson: Sometimes you have to put yourself “out there” and connect with people in order to see yourself grow and reach goals.

November

November was more family time. My brother bought us tickets to see Stevie Wonder down where he lives.  I am a die-hard Stevie fan and so is my brother. This is the fourth time I’ve seen Stevie live in concert and hopefully it won’t be the last. And each time I am amazed that people of all ages fill huge sports arenas (I’ve seen him in both the United Center and Madison Square Garden) to hear songs written before I was even born. It is pure inspiration watching someone live in their purpose. That’s what watching Stevie is like. Here’s a clip from the concert:

stevie wonder nov. 2015 from jennifer hall on Vimeo.

November’s Lesson: When you create something and share it with the world, you have no idea of the impact it will have and how greatly it can affect people’s lives for the better or for how long.

December

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This month has been very low key. After the heavy traveling and being away from home for the past 2 months straight, I decided to spend this month resting and planning. Aside from enjoying the holidays and seeing clients online, I’ve been doing a great deal of writing and planning out the schedule for 2016.

December’s Lesson: It’s ok to rest after a long period of busy-ness.

Whew! So that was my 2015 in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to putting all this wisdom into practice in the upcoming year.

Now I’d like to hear from you. What was one major lesson you learned over the course of the past year?

And as always, if you liked this post, please join our mailing list.

What do the Lonely Do at Christmas?: 5 ways to keep your spirits up during the holiday season

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Am I the only one who loves that Emotions song, “What do the Lonely do at Christmas?”

I was listening to it earlier today and it got me to thinking, what exactly do the lonely do?

The Christmas season can pose special problems for people who spend it alone. If you are single or don’t have many friends or family, Christmas is just one of those holidays that can make you feel especially lonely and like you’re missing out. If this holiday season finds you alone and/or feeling lonely, here are 5 tips to help you get through the season:

1. Get into it!

Christmas only comes around once a year. In a few weeks, this Christmas season will be over and done with.  So enjoy it while it’s here upon us.  Just because you don’t have anyone to spend it with, doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the season.

Here are some ideas to get in on the Christmas spirit:

  • Send Christmas cards to everybody in your address book.
  • Go see The Nutcracker live.
  • Watch your favorite Christmas movie (Mine is Trading Places except for Dan Akroyd’s 5 minutes in blackface. Ugh!)
  • Relive your days as a child and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or that cute but kind of weird clay Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
  • Make a Christmas song playlist and play on repeat.
  • Make a Christmas movie playlist and play on repeat.
  • Decorate your house and buy a tree.
  • Make hot chocolate and sugar cookies.
  • Go to your local Christmas festivities.
  • Cook a holiday dinner and bring leftovers to work to share with co-workers.

The holiday spirit and a festive mood are not solely reserved for people with significant others and children. This is your Christmas season too. Your life does not begin after there are others around you. It’s happening now, so live it. Get in on the fun.

2. Do something for others

Each of us has so many gifts.  And since Christmas is the season for giving, use the season as an opportunity to spread your gifts. Spending some time thinking about how you can connect to others by sharing your gifts might also help you feel less lonely. If you’re stuck on how you can do this, you can start by donating your time to a charitable organization that might need extra hands during the Christmas season.

If you are a member of a church, you can find ways to get more involved with different service groups or ministries. You could go to a homeless shelter and ask how you can help.  You can also help out closer to home by asking an elderly neighbor if there is anyway you might be of service. Doing things for other people just feels good, and who knows you might have some fun and get the chance to meet new people.

3.  Go on an Adventure

If you can and are up for it, go on an adventure this season. Who says you have to be at home on Christmas? Since you are alone, you get to define what this season means for you. Maybe it means it’s the season for your next adventure. And it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just try to do something you’ve never done before.

Adventures remind you that there are always new experiences and new opportunities to be had. So harness the power of the unknown and go on an adventure in order to invite new energy into your life.  Take a drive or hop on a bus and explore a nearby city. Perhaps you can take advantage of the day off from work and spend the night in a hotel in your city’s downtown. Ooohh or even a spa trip! Sounds like fun to me.

4. Do something really nice for yourself (I mean REALLY nice)

Sorry, I just couldn't resist...
Sorry, I just couldn’t resist…

Take this opportunity to give yourself a gift. The point here is to treat yourself. It can be a material item like that pair of shoes (or car) you’ve been wanting to buy. Maybe get a mani/pedi. Or you can finally forgive yourself for something that happened in the past. Whatever it is, be sure to treat yourself nicely during this season. Take care of your lovely self.

5. Do not isolate yourself

Now is not the time to isolate yourself. Make sure you attend that office holiday party or that dinner party that your neighbor invited you to. Be sure to send well wishes to the people who are actually in your life even if they aren’t loved ones. Send out all those “Merry Christmas” text messages  and respond to those that send them to you.  Place those Happy Holidays phone calls (Do people even make phone calls anymore?)

I know that even if you do all these things and more, sometimes feeling lonely can be too much. If the feelings of loneliness seem unbearable or too much for you to deal with, please make sure to contact a counselor or therapist to speak with who can help you manage these feelings. Remember that you do not have to soldier on alone, there are people who can help you. So be sure to reach out to them.

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