I love planning. Dreaming, scheming, setting big goals for the next year.
But I’ve learned it’s also important to take a look back to see what worked, and what didn’t – and try to learn from it.
For the past few years, I’ve done a year-in-review session for myself, and then a big planning session. I start with big picture stuff, and then move into more detailed “make it happen” plans. But I usually keep all of this to myself, except for sharing with a few friends and mastermind buddies.
But 2017 was different. I made a plan – and then life happened.
Things went completely off track. I had a huge win and big life goal fulfilled by publishing my first book! And then I got really sick, and had to stop working – for months!
So inspired by several friends who shared their own annual review publicly this year – I’m going to do the same.
There was so much unexpected goodness and wisdom in 2017 … it just wasn’t at all what I had been planning…
The Theme of 2017
I always start by choosing a word as the theme of my upcoming year.
In 2017, my word was “luminous.”
My overall plan for the year was to focus not on creation, but on spreading my work, magnifying my voice, growing my audience. I wanted to do this both for my wellness marketing business, Wellpreneur, but also for my personal brand and interests in herbal medicine, ancestral wisdom, travel etc.
Being luminous felt really good. Rather than shouting my message, or shining brightly which to me implied a lot of effort, I was going to be naturally luminous. Effortlessly sharing what I was doing, and spreading my light and my message to other people. Being whole and expressing all of my interests, naturally and easily.
Did I accomplish that? Well, I started to by publishing and launching my book. And I did also launch a new personal brand website (this one!) But overall I feel like I was in hiding for most of 2017 … more on that in a minute.
My 2017 Goals
I knew something was weird when I was doing my 2017 planning. It was Jan 2, 2017, and I was sitting on the roof deck soaking in some winter sunshine here in Hong Kong. Most years, I have a crystal clear picture of what I want for the year, filled with lots of exciting goals. I remember feeling distinctly confused and unclear last year. Like I just couldn’t get visibility into how the year would unfold … well, turns out I was right!
Anyway, I did manage to write down several goals for myself – here’s how I did on them.
Goal: Publish a Book!
YES! Goal accomplished! Writing Wellpreneur was a massive undertaking, and I’m really proud of the result and just so happy to be able to call myself and author. The launch was successful with over 2,500 downloads during the first two days, and hitting #1 in several categories on Amazon! And it continues to sell well and bring me new subscribers and client inquiries.
I also learned that I love writing books, and this is just the first of many.
On the flipside, I set an unrealistic launch date, and pushed myself way too hard, and this lead directly to my complete burnout in March… more on that in a minute.
Goal: Make $10k USD in passive income every month (book + affiliate sales)
Didn’t achieve this. But still happy with the progress, considering how little I actually worked for most of 2017. In 2016 I was only earning around $500-$900 per month in passive income, and in 2017 I made at least $3k passive income every month, and more several months. This growth is amazing given that I hardly worked last year – and didn’t really try to promote my affiliate programs more. I attribute this to the momentum of the book and the podcast, as well as some content marketing I did in 2016 which finally paid off. Still, this means the vast majority of my revenue is active from coaching and live programs, so I still need to work on growing this passive income portion in 2018.
Goal: Focus on developing my photography skills, start a travel book that’s photo-centric
Didn’t do this at all. Got very sick. More on that in a minute.
Goal: Go to the beach more often + live in an amazing beach house in Hong Kong for the month of July
Sort of. Did go to the beach more often, weekly while I was sick and recovering which was helpful. But I was so exhausted I didn’t even look for a beach house for July, so that didn’t happen.
Goal: Learn Cantonese
My husband and I managed about 6 weeks of Cantonese lessons, and then it just started to feel too hard, so we stopped. We can do the basics like order two beers and count money in the market, but that’s about it! I speak French and English, and I know from learning French that there’s a big difference between being able to utter a few words while traveling, and actually having a conversation. I hit a point with Cantonese that I thought – am I really going to put in the effort to become conversational? And for me, it just wasn’t worth it. I knew I’d only use Cantonese in Hong Kong, and at the time we thought we would be moving away in September (that didn’t happen.) I do regret a bit that I didn’t learn Cantonese while living here … but realistically, it just didn’t feel like what I wanted to spend my time on!
Goal: Give a TED Talk
Nope, again, got really sick and stopped working!
Goal: Do lots of genealogy + ancestral research
YES! I did TONS of genealogy this year and I’m completely hooked. I’ve learned so many obscure skills doing this – reading old handwriting, learning to search church archives, translating old German and French. It’s a fascinating hobby. Both of my grandmothers and a great-aunt were avid genealogists, and it’s felt really nourishing for me to pick up and continue their work. It makes me feel very connected to my family – and besides it’s just so interesting what I’m learning. I also managed to solve a old family mystery about an adopted great-grandmother which felt great!
Goal: Work Less, Spend More Time Offline
YES, but because my body forced me to! I worked a LOT less than normal… because I was really sick and recovering!
Then there were some awesome things that I didn’t plan for in 2017:
- We visited 12 countries: US, UK, Hong Kong, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines, Laos, Malaysia.
- Celebrated the 10 year anniversary of meeting my husband – and had our pictures featured on the big screen at a huge tech conference!
- Produced an awesome audio documentary with my husband of our trip to Myanmar, called The Boat to Bagan!
- Took myself on a “Book Moon” to a luxury hotel on an island off Hong Kong to celebrate my upcoming book launch.
- Attended two fantastic business conferences – in the Philippines and Thailand.
- I reached 10,000 email subscribers! Then promptly started cleaning out my list 🙂
- The Wellpreneur Podcast now has over 35k downloads per month! In 2016, it was around 20k downloads per month. Very happy with that growth.
- Got upgraded to Business Class on multiple long-haul flights (soooo good!) and managed to maintain my British Airways Silver status for lounge access next year!
- Went to a Creativity Retreat with my mom
- Spent my first Thanksgiving in the US for years, and met my adorable new niece!
There was also sadness. In 2017, my herbal medicine teacher passed away, and I was not able to attend the funeral or help during his illness or passing. That hit me really hard. I think I’ll have another wave of dealing with his loss when I return back to the UK in 2018. Teacher isn’t really the right word for the impact he had on my life. Mentor? Guide? Wisdom keeper? It’s more than all of those. I’m still working out how to move forward with herbal medicine in England without him.
Listing out all the good things from the year, makes me appreciate that a lot DID happen, even though it didn’t go at all according to my plan. Because I set a bunch of goals…
…And Then I Got Sick
2017 reminded me that when we are off-track, our bodies will force us to stop.
In March 2016, I attended Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank, and declared publicly that I was going to publish a book within the year.
When October 2016 rolled around, I had an outline, but I’d “gotten bored” of the book, and hadn’t made any real progress on it since June. But then I realized I’d be going back to Tropical Think Tank in early March, and would have to face everyone and say I didn’t do it … SO, that really lit a fire under me.
I became 100% focused on writing, editing, designing, publishing and launching the book before March 2017.
Yeah, I guess you can imagine how that went.
But I did it. I published the book. And I WAS happy with the launch results.
But after the first two days of Tropical Think Tank where I proudly showed off my new book (I mean luminously shared my book), I absolutely crashed.
I got a horrible cold, and spent most of the time in my hotel room, sleeping. I missed out on most of the social events. My husband met me at the fabulous resort after the conference, and still, I spent most of the time sleeping and reading.
Then we got back to Hong Kong, and my whole body just wouldn’t function. My digestion was horrible. I was exhausted all the time. I constantly felt sick, and couldn’t eat.
I took the entire month of April off from work, and spent the first two weeks between the couch and the bed. All I could do was watch TV or sleep, I couldn’t even focus on reading! Fortunately that true exhaustion phase only lasted a couple of weeks, but then I started down a big digestive healing process with my naturopath, which turned into a 6 week Candida cleanse, and on and on …
Then, I got e.coli from something I ate.
So that took a couple more months to recover from.
I think you get the idea.
Knowing what I know now, a more appropriate word for 2017 would have been HEALING or PURIFYING or NOURISHING.
But I didn’t know that in January. Sometimes you just have to learn as you go along.
The Clarity of Illness
Looking back on the year, this forced rest and healing was a gift. Really.
It made me stop ALL of my commitments. I was able to take a really hard look at what I had been spending my time on, and what I truly wanted to be doing.
Most importantly, it made me realize that health is everything.
(I mean, I knew that already – but after any kind of bad illness it always gives you a new surge of appreciation of how very amazingly awesome being healthy is, right?!)
2017 was about huge, transformative absorption of stuff I knew already, but didn’t fully embody in my life and work.
I realized that the external stuff doesn’t matter. Who cares if I make a certain amount of money, or if my business looks a certain way, or if I do a TED talk? Do I like money? Do I want to have more of it? Yes, of course. But getting sick really triggered that “life is short, what am I doing with my time?” feeling. And that has a way of throwing everything into stark perspective.
What matters is that I am enjoying myself, being present for my life, and that I’m doing the work that I’m truly called to do. And that true, deep, realization (instead of just giving it lip service) was priceless, and well worth the pain.
You can see this realization in my new personal brand site (this one!) And that I’m being much more vocal about my other interests like herbalism, ancestral wisdom, genealogy etc. At the end of 2017, I even ran a beta of a new course – The Roots of You – which is going to play a much bigger role in my work in 2018.
You can see this in my new travel-adventure project with my husband – And Our Other Adventures, and the 10 week journey we’re taking in 2018.
I’ve become extremely less tolerant of doing anything that I don’t want to do. I’m saying NO a lot. I’m not rebooking people who are no-shows for interviews. I’ve turned down more clients than I accepted this year. I’m giving myself lots of time to work on what’s important to me.
2017 was truly a year of transformation and cleansing, to set the stage for something new in 2018.
And I am SO ready for 2018 and all of it’s mysteries and adventures! Happy New Year!
PS: If you’d like to do your own plan for 2018, I love the Unravel Your Year workbook for life goals, and my own Wellpreneur Workbook for marketing and business goals.