10 Things I Learned In 2017

Without even meaning to, I’ve started a little tradition where I write a post about the things I’ve learned in the past year (read what I learned in 2015 and what I learned in 2016). I think it’s because the end of the year is a natural time of self-reflection combined with that rare period of time off (as a self-employed freelancer, it’s the only time in the year when everyone I work for is out of the office, so the only time that I can truly switch off from emails and deadlines).

So what did I learn in 2017?

  1. Focus on your own path – it’s so easy to be distracted by the shiny exciting things that other people are doing. Whether they’re moving home, starting a new job, booking a holiday or writing a book, that’s GREAT. Be happy for them without allowing it to make you feel bad about YOUR achievements and life choices. Don’t allow it to sway you from your path – stay focused on your goals, which might be (and probably are) totally different to the next person’s.
  2. Sometimes, conversations with friends will bring you the best life advice. Self help books and Pinterest quotes are all well and good, but sometimes, the best advice comes from those conversations over coffee and cake. Podcasts kind of fall into this category too because they can often feel like you’re listening to a friend. Even if you’re not.
  3. Just because you have a strong opinion on a lot of things, it doesn’t mean you should always share it. This has been a pretty big learning for me, in 2017. As someone who HAS A LOT OF OPINIONS, it took me until age 37 to work out that sometimes, those opinions should stay in your head. If it’s going to offend someone, or upset someone, or it’s just the wrong time or place to share, or if you know it won’t go down well and you’re not feeling strong enough to deal with the backlash… it’s OK to not share your feelings. OR better still, find that person you know will agree with you / not be upset / disagree and be up for a genuine debate about it, and share your opinion with them. As an off-shoot from this, I learned that friendships are usually more important than convincing someone that they should re-think their views on something.
  4. It’s OK to be a size 16 and I don’t have to be on a never-ending quest to be slimmer. Can someone go back to 2002 and tell my 23-year-old-self this please? Then I wouldn’t have to endure years of bloody Weight Watchers classes, going to bed feeling hungry and a job-lot of self-hate when I stepped on the scales. But in 2017, thanks to conversations I had with other women on social media, I actually started to reshape the way I think about my body – rather than trying to reshape my body. And I posted photos of me wearing swimwear on the internet!
  5. Building genuine connections with people is the secret to social media. I’ve had so many people ask me how to build a following on social media, whether it’s for their personal account or a small business, and one thing I’ve learned in 2017 is that you can have the fanciest strategies in the land, and the swankiest product or service ever, but the key to building an engaged following on social media is creating genuine connections. Chat to people, get to know them – none of this ‘like for like’ business and don’t even TALK to me about using bots to boost your following, or following 4000 accounts in one day, only to unfollow them the next – I’m talking good old-fashioned getting to know people. My lovely friend Vickie is a brilliant example of this. She started 2017 with a handful of Instagram followers and ended it with nearly 14,000. Not a bot in sight. Which leads me onto…
  6. I’d rather choose friends based on how nice a person they are, rather than how many social media followers or likes they have. This might seem obvious to you, but does someone having 50,000 or 350,000 or 2.5m followers on a social platform make them a) a nicer person b) worth being friends with? We live in a strange world where lots of people think the answer to both question is yes. And it’s nothing new – I was reminded of this while watching The Crown on Netflix. You know the episode where Jackie O visits Buckingham Palace and HRH The Queen finds herself trying to impress her? We probably all wanted to be friends with the popular girl at school, at some point. And sometimes, of course, those people are worth knowing. Popularity doesn’t automatically strip you of being a nice person or a good friend. But we should want to be friends with them for the right reasons.
  7. I much prefer being a guest at a party than being the host. Does that make me sound really bad? Some people have a real knack for being a host, and they really seem to enjoy doing it! They greet you with warmth, they top up everyone’s glass promptly, they have homemade snacks to munch on, their home is tidy and clean… In stark contrast, I end up running around in a frazzled state, snapping at people who get in my way, feeling anxious about the number of people in my home, fretting about things being broken or something being spilled on my rug. Clearly, I need to chill the feck out, but maybe I just need to stop inviting people over and focus on being the perfect party guest?
  8. Sometimes it’s good to focus on work that makes you happy rather than the work that will make you the most money. I say this as someone who has not had an easy year financially. Being freelance and relying on invoices being paid on time in order to pay the mortgage has been stressful at times, and has resulted in my bank card being declined in the supermarket on more than one occasion. But even still, I’ve learned that focusing on work that brings in money rather than work that makes you happy isn’t always the most productive way of working. By that I mean – in 2017, I started a podcast which takes up roughly one day of my working week, every week. And before it launched, I spent weeks teaching myself how to set up a podcast. I poured hours and hours into a project that didn’t bring in any money until just recently but starting the podcast was one of the best decisions I made all year. Partly because I LOVE making the podcast – I mean, I get to meet up with and chat to some amazing and interesting people – but also because it’s had a knock-on effect and while I can’t be sure, I think it’s opened the door to new opportunities.
  9. Even strong relationships need an MOT from time to time. Mr P and I are pretty solid, after 17 years together but we recently went to a couples retreat which taught us that taking some time, on a regular basis to discuss goals, values and desires will only make you stronger. I wrote about it for Red magazine, and you can read it in the February issue which hits news stands this week!
  10. Life doesn’t always work out the way you planned, but make the most of what you got. I kept seeing a quote pop up on Instagram over Christmas – it was “Remember when you really wanted what you currently have?” And while it might make you gag slightly (if cheesy quotes aren’t your thing) the sentiment made me think. We’re often so busy striving for the next thing, we forget to appreciate what we have. In 2017, we went through a round of IVF after years of other fertility treatment, and it didn’t work. It’s still something I’m processing and dealing with, if I’m honest, but I’m trying to count my blessings (“hashtag-blessed” and all that) rather than focus on the unfairness. Because, as we know, life isn’t fair.

So, tell me. What did YOU learn in 2017?

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19 Comments

  1. January 2, 2018 / 8:43 pm

    Really love this post Alison. I think my 2017 lessons were similar to yours – especially where body acceptance and focusing on your own path come in. Looking forward to working on this more in 2018. Happy new year lovely friend! xxx

  2. January 2, 2018 / 10:16 pm

    This was so lovely to read, Alison. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you lots more this past year (and I hope there’s more to come in 2018 :).

    I think the absolute biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to influence how others react to you, so it’s important to just do your best.

    Happy new year! xx

  3. Carolina
    January 2, 2018 / 10:51 pm

    I realy apreciate this post. Was adorable and so sincere. Sorry my spell Im from Uruguay and the spell corrector make me crazy !!! Keep changing every thing i wrote to spanish!!! Xoxo happy new year!!

  4. January 2, 2018 / 11:04 pm

    Uncanny Alison. I made exactly the same point as your first one today on Instagram! It is SO easy to get dragged down into a self-esteem problem just by the way we view other people’s achievements. And so important just to appreciate what others are doing and be inspired by it instead. And to appreciate what you are doing well, and what you already have achieved. We can be so damn hard on ourselves sometimes! And yes to being a guest rather than a host!!!

  5. Jenny
    January 3, 2018 / 12:23 am

    Loved reading this, lots of good advice in those lessons. Wish I’d found you sooner, off to find your podcast now. Happy 2018. x

  6. January 3, 2018 / 7:41 am

    Alison. How fabulous to sit back and reflect on the year! i much prefer this positive approach to a year rather than piling on the pressure and expectations of resolutions. Dreaming of the next year is all well and good but if we don’t learn then we will never achieve. For me I suppose I am proving Mrs Davies wrong when she wrote in my report that I would “never get anywhere in life as a class clown.” Well actually Mrs D – funny doesn’t mean stupid. Only this year have I embraced myself fully and still a long way to go but I am ok with that. In fact. I am more than ok.
    Looking forward to clowning around with you soon!
    Vickie x

  7. January 3, 2018 / 8:04 am

    Love this Alison. I learnt a hell of a lot this year – the main thing being just be me. If people don’t like me it’s not that big of a deal. I think it was Dita von Tesse who said ‘you can be the biggest, juiciest most delicious peach. Some people just don’t like peaches’ I’m gonna be a peach.

    Last year I dropped a toxic ‘friend’ and that has had a massive impact on my year. I only surround myself with people who i feel uplifted and happy when I leave their company. It’s made my year full of happiness and a lot less stress (read:bitchiness!) thanks for being an uplifter. X

  8. January 3, 2018 / 8:08 am

    A great read Alison, I love the idea of taking time to reflect on this. The one about not always sharing your opinion is a great one, I used to go out of my way to share eversoclever thoughts….now I’d rather just be nice. This year I learnt that that at 41, there’s still gas in the tank for a new project. Love your work xx

  9. January 3, 2018 / 10:05 am

    I really loved reading this and could relate to so much. I learnt that people claim to be your friend but the proof is how interested they are in you and your life, and with some people I have seen that to be zero when I stopped carrying the relationship. I’ve learnt that happiness can be found in the simple and however much people make fun, don’t let it sway you from what’s right for your life because often it’s the best thing. I also learnt I need sunshine to make me happy and it’s okay to have rest days hahahaha x

  10. January 3, 2018 / 1:08 pm

    I think point three really resonated with me in this. Last year my thoughts of so many people changed because they were all so outspoken on their opinions – and inspired their friends to publicly share those opinions, regardless of who got hurt in the process. Sometimes opinions do need to be kept to ourselves or to the confines of a private conversation.

    It sounds like you had another lovely year, full of learns and growth – I hope 2018 brings you fun, success and happy times x

  11. Jenny
    January 3, 2018 / 1:51 pm

    Such a fab blog post. Thanks so much for posting this, it’s was just what I needed to read right now and has made me feel really positive. Sometimes I wish that like minded people were easier to find, that’s one of the great things about social media, you can connect with people who have a similar outlook to you. I just wish you all lived in my street and could meet up for coffee!

  12. January 3, 2018 / 3:47 pm

    Totally agree with all these, though I do wish someone had told me about point 9 15years ago… and thank you for allowing me to let me tell myself it’s ok to be the guest. I’d like to do more of that! Hoping this year is extra kind to you xx
    Steph Curtis recently posted…New Year’s Day. Living Arrows 1 {2018}. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  13. January 3, 2018 / 5:32 pm

    I agree with so many of these! Especially the body positivity and the speaking your opinions. There are a few bloggers lately whose sole purpose is to be controversial just to get a rise, no matter who they hurt but I think it’s quite immature. Loved your podcasts too!

  14. January 3, 2018 / 8:50 pm

    This is a brilliant post! Your bit on opinions is very true, and as my old dad would have said ‘don’t enter a p•••ing content with a skunk’!

    Im also going to concentrate on being the perfect party guest, I can’t bear hosting!

  15. January 3, 2018 / 10:24 pm

    A very grounding read for the new year. There are so many things I want to achieve this year but you have reminded me to stay focused and to nurture relationships x

  16. January 6, 2018 / 3:58 am

    It is not the care plans that need reviewing but the care providers. The care plans need to take into account action time during each visit. Ie prepare medication. Bathe/shower/shave and clear up. Dress patient. Give food/drink and write report. This cannot be done in 30 minutes and the carer must NOT have to shave travel time off each visit between customers. There is no accounting for travel time so a carer arrives delayed and hassled and always trying to catch time up as the next customer is waiting, probably a few miles away. Care providers do not train staff either leaving customers open to poor care and in some cases abuse. Care providers need the shake up. Not the poor patient who will be feeling under more stress and upset and constantly being reviewed. Such people need dignity and respect not to be made to feel as if they are a nuisance to society by needing support and constantly hassled by social workers checking up on them. Remember-the days of having a named social worker are gone. What one reviewer thinks could be totally different to what another writes up and leads to more appeals and reviews which cost MORE money.

  17. January 10, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    I love this post too. I have to say, I think your podcast is some of the best, most inspiring work you’ve ever done – you’re really shaping the conversation for mums. Thank you and best wishes for 2018.

  18. January 11, 2018 / 6:41 pm

    Love this post! And I’m all about the cheesy quotes haha.
    One thing I have learned in 2017 is that it’s okay to say no to something- often I will try to do 10 things at once and I have decided to take a step back from everything and prioritise what suits my family and I (as hard as that is at times- I actually couldn’t say no to DODGEBALL the other night- I know dodgeball of all things…and anyone who knows me, knows I am NOT a sporty person…however I LOVED it!!). Anyways so the bottom line is to say No to more things I do just for the sake of pleasing other people.
    And the second thing is to take chances- live in the moment and don’t be afraid of change.
    Happy New Year x

  19. January 21, 2018 / 3:55 am

    Hi Alsion. Really love this post. I’ve migrated overbto your page after seeing your brilliant Friends run video with Vickie. What you’ve said totally rings true and is helping to reaffirm that I will make the right decision this year. On mat leave i’m realising i need to change my job as unfortunately it brings me less happiness than anxiety. For my daughter, mine and husbands sake i know i might have to take a financial hit for the time being to produce happiness and better results for the family in the future.
    I am so sorry to hear about your IVF journey. Its such a tough thing to go through (i know as my daighter is an IVF warrier) and can’t imagine how you must feel. If for any reason you want to / able to try again I found accupuncture combined with mindfulness with a fertility counsellor my save in grace both physically and mentally. It helped me remove as much stress as possible from my head. I hope this comes across in the right way and tone.

    Reading this you’ve inspired me to go for it with my blog, something i have set up following all the connections like you talked about that I have made on Instagram.
    Wishing you an awesome 2018.
    P.s. the colours on your feed are happy medicine xx

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