When what you teach is really what you need to learn yourself

What do we teach by our actions, by what we write or what we say? Are we somehow teaching ourselves, as well as others?

In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes, “They say that people teach what they need to learn.”

This really struck me. If Rubin’s observation is true, then what I have been sharing and writing about may well have been what I needed to learn during 2016. In today’s blog post, I consider what lessons have I learned this year. More specifically, I think about what lessons I needed to learn.

This has been a year of change. For many, it has been a year of turmoil. I don’t just mean Brexit and Trump (Brexit +++!!) but developments in our own lives.

Love and loss 

In July, I turned to writing to self-soothe, to reflect and to articulate my thinking about the way forward in my own life. Being able to share my minimalism journey was a way to do this.

The previous month, my grandma had died at the age of 97. Although it was her time to go, I realise now (looking back) that I had been saddened greatly by her passing. In her life, she had been stoical, practical and outwardly unsentimental. However, she felt things deeply; in her later years, she opened up to my uncle to share her perspective on all sorts of things. In particular, she missed my grandpa terribly; he had died 6 years earlier at the age of 92 (just days before their 70th wedding anniversary). Their resilience, strong work ethic and non-materialist approach to life was a fine example of a life lived well. We can all learn from that. When my mum asked if I would like to speak at her funeral, I didn’t hesitate. When it came to it, however, I knew I couldn’t deliver the speech myself (my dad stepped in). If you’re curious about what I wrote, I have shared it on my personal blog.

From sadness to serendipity

I also made some personal changes in my life, as I wrote about here. Taking a step back and saying ‘no’ allowed me to say ‘yes’ to new and interesting things.

For example, back in April, I happened to see that Courtney Carver was bringing her Tiny Wardrobe Tour to London. Only an hour away on the train from Coventry, I was able to head down to Euston after work. I found the event a great inspiration, enjoyed hearing from like-minded women and – even better – made a local friend whom I now meet up with regularly.

I also re-kindled my love of yoga, as I wrote about here. To my dismay, I am a lot less flexible than I was when I last did yoga regularly on my 30’s. Life lesson? If you know it does you good, keep on doing it. I also took up tap-dancing after a break of 30 years. Happily, I can still do it and now find myself tapping every Wednesday evening.

Physician, heal thyself!

In 2016, I also embraced the opportunity to take part in Joshua Becker’s Uncluttered course. My zest for non-fiction grew, as I read not only Becker’s latest book, but also other work from the likes of Tammy Strobel, James Wallman, Francine Jay and Marie Kondo. Each had a different take on minimalism, which I was able to assimilate, share and model for others. As an accomplished declutterer, my blog allowed me to share my knowledge. It also allowed me to break up with ‘stuff’ once and for all, as I neared the completion of a 2 year decluttering programme, culminating in the letting go of personal mementos that I’d hauled around for over 2 decades.

Financial independence

This year, I also needed to get my finances in shape. This is a work in progress, but I have now stopped using a credit card completely and am managing to save a little every month. This is in spite of rising living costs and a static income. If you’re interested in finding out how I did this, let me know and I’d be happy to write about it. My Life Energy Experiment in November allowed me to take a long, hard look about what I was buying and helped me evaluate if what I bought was really worth the ‘life energy’ expended to enable the purchase.

Even though 2016 has had its ups and downs, we have to see beyond the temporary hitches and glitches and remember that we’re in this for the long haul. The season of Advent reminds us that what goes around comes around. After darkness, there will always be light. If we can learn that together, then we’re doing OK.

What lesson did 2016 teach you? What did you need to learn?


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