December 27, 2021

What I’ve learned this year – Winter 2021

As we approach the end of our second year of this pandemic — and the latest of several years of increasing challenges to civil discourse — the time has come for my semi-annual reflection on the lessons of my own life, what’s been on my mind and where my “growing edge” has been. (Find past lists from summer 2021, winter 2020, summer 2020, winter 2019, and summer 2019.)

I find this way of documenting my year grounding and clarifying. It’s not my intent to foist my lessons onto you, but perhaps this list will inspire you to reflect on your own experience this year. I’d love to hear from you if you do so and wish to share your list.

But first, my own. So here goes – the list of things I have learned each of the past six months.


  • I tried my hand at starting to write a book and realized that I must schedule time differently to do this kind of work. Two days in a hotel yielded seven chapters – a very productive use of time in a different way that I am used to.
  • Some opportunities that look amazing on the outside are not what they seem when you hold them close and examine them honestly.
  • It’s OK to say no to opportunities when you figure out that they are not right for you.


  • Taking the time to examine my own sense of risk and tolerance of risk is critical to rebuilding my social infrastructure as the pandemic rolls on.
  • It is the job of leaders to build systems that support their success in achieving goals for themselves and their organizations. This applies to one-person small businesses like mine, perhaps even more than large organizations.
  • It is hard to say no to a social event I have looked forward to a lot, but when it is outside my risk tolerance boundaries, declining is the right decision.


  • Work by Martin Seligman and others in positive psychology is foundational for the field of coaching, and I was introduced to it in a deep way this month. It is nice to have a sense of the conceptual underpinnings for my current work.
  • The pandemic led me to cancel an in-person work event this month, and that continues to be both hard and frustrating, even though it is the right decision for me. I have to evaluate my own emotional resilience about the prolonged sense of isolation.
  • Continuing to have dedicated writing time is a true joy. I enjoy the work and craft of writing and have committed to getting a book published in 2022. There, I’ve put it out in public as a goal – feel free as my community to hold me accountable.


  • I hit a wall of overcommitment this month. I finally had to practice deeply a technique I coach others about regularly – taking things off my calendar!
  • The world continues to show us ways that humans can be unkind to each other. The only behavior I can change is my own – how kind am I, both to myself and to others?
  • The Buddhist practice of Metta is the root of the name of my business. It requires that we begin with compassion for ourselves before we can offer compassion to any other. Good advice for addressing burnout!


  • I truly miss seeing my mom in person – I’m going to visit with her in December, and I am looking forward to it.
  • I am deeply grateful to my friends nearby and around the world who stay connected with me in so many ways.
  • Telling people to practice gratitude internally seems like good advice, but it adds so much stress for people who are struggling just to get by. Better to practice gratitude toward them and just let them bask in it without telling them to do it, too.


  • As I contemplate approaching what some have called the “third third of life,” (I’ll have a milestone birthday next year), I am thinking with my partner about the life we want to create at this time in our journey. I am the only one I can hold responsible for whether I create that kind of life or not.
  • If what I say that I want is TIME with those I love, then I have to manage my TIME to allow that to happen.
  • Staying home for part of this season of winter is important to me. I am nourished by nesting.
  • The stories we tell ourselves about our lives, our life history and what to expect in the future can be upended quickly in some very good ways. The challenge is in learning to tell a new story.

And there you have it, some of the most important things I’ve been learning lately. I hope my list inspires you to create one for yourself – and to share your “pearls” in the comments below, if you are willing. I wish for each of you a season of happiness, peace and contemplative growth.

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