Three things I learned in 2016

I could have written a post about how well I met (or didn’t, as the case may be) the goals I set in early January, but I doubt my yoga attendance record or attempts to address my tendency for lateness are of much interest to anyone but me. What I’m writing about, instead, is what I’ve learned this year. Because the truth is, the challenges are always more interesting than the wins (right? right?).
Here goes.

Lesson 1: There is no one thing that makes everything perfect
In theory, I already knew this. But I had to experience it again to really understand it. Allow me to explain.
For years I’ve been banging on about how finding a partner is not a magic formula for happiness and purpose, as it’s our sacred responsibility to create these for ourselves. Even though I believed this devoutly, there was still a part of me that believed love would somehow cause some deep transformation that would result in me becoming a better, more confident, altogether more complete person. So when I found myself in a relationship this year, for the first time in many years, guess what happened? Nothing.
I mean, lots of stuff *did* happen – don’t get me wrong, loving someone and being loved in return is wonderful and deeply satisfying, and I am very happy – but it turns out I am still the same person as I was before I met him. I’m still battling insecurities, afraid of my own inadequacy and struggling to find my way in the world. 
Without realising it, I had been looking for the one thing that would make everything perfect. That’s a pretty familiar MO for me, actually. Over the years such searches have included: cutting out gluten (it will make me feel so much better!), taking overseas trips (it will help me find myself!) and lastly, meeting someone who would sense in me something special, something that I wanted so badly to be there… and was terrified was not.
A relationship, it turns out, does not so much fill the gaps in yourself as much as expose new ones. This is as true about love as it is about losing weight and getting a new job. Changing yourself has little to do with changing your circumstances, and significantly more to do with changing your thoughts and beliefs. And gratitude, always gratitude. There is no one thing, and there is no perfect. The best work I’ve done in terms of my personal growth, this year and all years, had nothing to do with any other human. And that’s as it should be.
Lesson 2: It’s OK if people don’t share my opinions or beliefs
I don’t know when or how this happened, but sometime during the year I stopped giving a fuck about how people responded to what I do. I used to avoid discussing One Grounded Angel, fearing the disapproval of others. This did me an enormous disservice, and possibly also others who might have needed some of the messages I was passing on. I suspect this reticence to be seen diminished in direct proportion to my sureness about the value of the information I’m passing on.
Of course, the more ‘visible’ I became, the more I became exposed to criticism and negative opinions. My viewpoint on such matters has always been this: what other people believe in is none of my business. I won’t say it doesn’t upset me when people post messages telling me what I do is bullshit but I would like to think I’m better at not taking that personally. This is the mantra I intend to carry into 2017: I do not need the approval of people who do not approve of me (that’s a life lesson from George Michael, by the way).

Lesson 3: I have failed, but I am not a failure

I wrote about this at length in a June blog post (read it here) so I’ll keep this to a brief summary. I had to change tack halfway through the year, as my reiki practice rooms failed to attract enough clients to be profitable. This stung. I felt personally inadequate, as if this lack of success were an indictment on my own worthiness. It took a period of healing and gradual acceptance for me to realise that this was not the case. This failure does not make me a failure.
Everything has played out exactly as it was supposed to. I don’t know why just yet, and maybe I never will, but I do know that venture was not meant to be. And that must mean something better is coming.
2017, I’m ready.

Rising up when it all falls apart – the difference between failing and being a failure

This week I will hand back the keys to the practice where I’ve been offering reiki treatments. Long-time readers of my blog may remember that 12 months ago, I took a massive leap of faith and committed to a one-year lease on a room at a health and wellbeing practice here in Sydney. I planned to offer reiki treatments two days a week (read that blog post here), and hoped that I could grow a client base and eventually make this, combined with my angel card reading service, a career alternative. It was a big financial risk… and it has not, unfortunately, paid off. The very worst result that could have happened – the one I was most afraid of – has indeed happened. And I’m OK with that. Now.

For a long time I was not OK. In February it became apparent that my business was not working. That, on top of a (temporary but prolonged) drought in my primary source of income, plunged me into a state of despair... not to mention debt.
When I realised there was nothing I could do but watch money flow down the drain until my commercial lease ran out, the sense of disappointment was immense. I had lovingly stacked my hopes and dreams, along with significant sums of money, into this business, and it had not worked. I had wholeheartedly trusted that having faith was enough to make my dreams come true... and I was wrong. I couldn’t not see this failure as an indictment on my skills and my worth. The failure of my business felt like proof that I was a failure as a person. My inner bully’s cries of “I knew you’d fuck it up!” were deafening.
Business leaders around the world consistently describe the experience of losing everything as integral to shaping their success. JK Rowling famously had her Harry Potter manuscripts rejected 12 times. “I was the biggest failure I knew,” she said. When Bloomsbury Publishing took a punt and printed her first three books, it warned her not to quit her day job. As we all know, Joanne went on to achieve stratospheric levels of success. Yet on 12 previous occasions, she had failed. It was not her moment to shine… until it was. The Universe has a schedule all its own.
Failure is a blistering, heavy word. The most unhelpful thing anyone said to me when I was coming to realise things were not turning out as I’d hoped was: “Just think positive – it’ll all work out.” Please, never say this to someone going through a significant challenge. It implies theyre not trying hard enough, that a lack of faith is the cause of their struggle and that getting what they want is a mere case of wishing for it (a wildly inaccurate interpretation of the law of attraction). So, so unhelpful.
What *was* helpful for me as I licked my wounds was reframing the situation. There’s a difference between failing and being a failure. The former means I haven’t had success yet; the latter indicates I am flawed on a personal level. Once I understood the distinction between the two – and stopped beating myself up – I found my way to a space of acceptance. Instead of seeing myself as incompetent I was (eventually) able to depersonalise the experience, and recognise failure as a necessary step in my development. Brene Brown says: “Failure is an imperfect word because the minute you learn from it, it ceases to be a failure.” 
Although the Universe didn’t meet me halfway on this business plan, it did issue me with an invitation to grow. Learn from this, and you’ll become more resilient. Learn from this, and you’ll navigate future obstacles better. Learn from this, and new doors will open up to you, opportunities better than you could have scripted. The secret of life, as Paulo Coelho expressed so exquisitely in The Alchemist, is to fall down seven times and get up eight.

There are all sorts of reasons why my reiki practice likely didn’t fire. It could have been the wrong area. It could have been (and most likely was) simply the wrong timing. It was 100 per cent not lack of skills nor lack of effort on my part. I know that I could not have put anything more into that business. I have no regrets… now.
So when I take my certificates off the wall and push my business cards through the shredder, I will remember the difference between failing and being a failure. I will remind myself that I am not defined or diminished by this disappointment. And as I let go of my expectations I will hold space for shiny new opportunities. 
Your move, Universe.