As I reflect back on 2018, I realize that this past year has brought about many changes to my life. Growth happens to be the word that comes to mind most often during my reflections. This happened in many parts of my life and I couldn’t be more pleased. Growing responsibilities, family, and realizations of my priorities have completely changed the way I view my life. This is difficult, as well as fulfilling.
If this year has taught me anything, it is that patience is key. I feel like I live my life chasing the next goal. I can’t remember ever stopping and actually thinking about where I am. I wouldn’t say I was unappreciative, but rather unaware. I’ve burnt myself out in the past by chasing after things that simply take time. I don’t want to say they’re easy and I can definitely say I worked for them. However, I’ve achieved some goals and got to a place in my life where I am starting to get comfortable. I mean this in a positive sense. I still have drive and I still have goals. I’m just learning that things take time. This realization has brought me much more patience in regards to myself and others around me.
I’ve finally realized why I was told, “you’ll understand when you have a child.” I was selfish because it was something I could afford to be. Of course, I spent a lot of time focused on my happiness. I made lists and spent many hours thinking about the options that I had in regards to my home life and the freedom I had in regards to time and finances. This has drastically changed with the recent addition to our family. My wife and I recently welcomed a baby girl into this world and this has shaken all of our priorities up. This change has forced me to view everything differently. I haven’t figured out if it’s forced me to view anything more positively or negatively. I think I’ll just stick with differently. I feel that I’ve always understood the stressors that come along with being an individual that is unsure of what the future for them looks like. I’ve also understood many situations that include partners and transitions that occur to young adults. However, parenthood was never a topic that I acted like I understood. I feel like I’m slowly growing to understand it, but I also feel that it is something I will continue to learn throughout my life.
Listen, Relax, and Slow Down
These changes in my life, along with realizing that I needed to slow down and focus on relationships, have encouraged me to put more faith in the messages I receive from the loved ones around me. I am very self-critical, as are many people, due to making the same mistakes I’ve seen others make countless times. We are all chasing our own versions of perfection and I feel like this has caused disappointment for myself. There’re many things we can’t control and there is a reason we can’t control them. Many mistakes happen and choices are made for us. This can be frustrating. I want to take control of my life and when major changes occur, we can feel that our control is slipping. This is a perfectly natural occurrence. We are not immune to changes, but adaptable when these situations arise.
Things get in the way sometimes and we’re unable to focus on the specific goals that we have set for ourselves. This is okay.
I think this realization has allowed me to truly relax when I need a break. My work demands the best of me. My friends demand the best of me. My family demands the best of me. However, nobody will get the best of me if I am not willing to reflect upon the way I think and the way I act. I can take time to make sure that I am the best I can be. We all can. We can all take time to make sure that we are the healthiest and most effective versions of ourselves. This is what counseling is all about, right?
I am no longer racing towards goals. Racing only causes me to miss things along the way. A slower and more methodical approach allows me to view everything in its entirety. Life isn’t a race and they’re so many things that happened in 2018 that helped me to understand that. When making major purchases, you should take your time to ensure that your money will be well spent. When identifying problems within a relationship, you should take your time to evaluate your expectations. When committing to long-term changes, you should take your time identifying whether the changes actually need to happen. What I’m trying to say is that it is important to fully assess where you are at before you jump ship or change courses. I think this year has been important in that I have learned that taking time away from big decisions (when you have this opportunity) allows you to assess the decisions with clarity.
Finding What Works
Along with taking some personal time away, I feel that I should include that my time away was not in solitude. I was and still am surrounding myself with people that care about me. I am working on relationships that I have in order to get to a place where I feel safe to process through intimate details with the people I am closest to. While there may be some people who do their best work on their own, I am not that person. I need healthy relationships with reasonable and smart people. They don’t need to be geniuses. They just need to know how to communicate effectively. I was looking to people who would listen. I was strengthening those relationships in order to be able to process through my problems and my stressors effectively. This is made me appreciate my friends and family so much more.
Switching to my work life, I have encountered an abundance of change. Looking back on it, the only negative part I can pull from it was my feelings about initial changes and resistance to embracing them as positive changes. I think what I was resistant to was the changes that made me uncomfortable. I am a creature of habit and can struggle to make needed changes. I feel I try to convince myself that things are fine the way they are. I think the changes in my personal life have forced me to accept changes as they are a normal part of life. The changes in my work life have definitely been a benefit for me and have pushed me to become a better person. I think I have become a better clinician, however, the changes that I’ve made due to my work life have impacted me more personally than I had initially thought they would.
Through the work of being a part of a growing practice, I have learned that complacency is a quick way to find failure. This has encouraged me to view things differently in practice and has forced me to take a second look at the way I view things outside of therapy. I have learned that we are never finished working on ourselves. I feel like this is pretty broad, but there is constantly a need for us to change as a practice and as individuals. This is uncomfortable for me. As stated before, I am a creature of habit. The changes in our practice, while minor, are still new. Due to this fact, there is a sliver of stress that comes along with it. It is definitely humbling to encounter a change that must be made and still struggle the commitment to this change. I feel like this is starting to sound very abstract, but I feel like it is very true to my situation.
Another key to my work life has been the demands that it places on me. This isn’t going to be typical “stressed with work” portion of the blog. These demands have pushed me out of my comfort zone and force me to face things that I haven’t previously faced. This has resulted in a higher amount of learned techniques to accomplish goals. This helps me to measure my value in a productive manner by measuring successes, rather than focusing on my failures.
I am very thankful for the opportunity that I have. I work with other professionals that share the same passion I have for counseling. I know I stress relationships when speaking about my personal life, but they’re just as important in my professional life. We all make mistakes and it is very refreshing to have a kind group of people to call you out when you’re not being sincere. They’re able to identify when I am slipping up or when I am being lazy. This is important. This provides me a source of accountability. These are the types of people that you need around. We all need people who will call us on our mistakes and correct us when we are wrong. It’s so much easier when those people are also kind and supportive. The work that I’ve done with supportive people in my life has been much more meaningful to me then my other accomplishments. I can reflect with others on the times that we accomplished group goals. I know many people, including myself, place a lot of pride in their ability to complete goals without other people. However, accomplishments that are made with others seem to be so much easier to celebrate. This leads to a situation where someone is there to give you a congratulations and a high five. I’m not sure of everyone’s opinions of high fives, but I thoroughly enjoy them. It’s fun seeing the joy in somebody else and it is even more enjoyable when you realize that you have some ownership of the cause of their joy. Celebrating successes have been a large part of the past year and it’s really exciting to think about. I’m not celebrating major wins, but it nice to feel like you are moving in the right direction.
Baby 2018 + Puppy 2018 = Not Recommended
Switching to a less serious topic, having a baby and getting a puppy in the same year is not something I would recommend. I love them both, however, they are both very demanding. My patience with my child is far greater than my patience with my dog. He is frustrating and attention seeking, while also very sweet and loving. I keep reminding myself that he is doing what most of us do. We alert others when we are not feeling well or we are bored in order to get our needs met. Previously, I would get frustrated and regret the decision to bring a dog home. However, he is now behaving much better and proving to me that utilizing my personal time to form meaningful relationships has its benefits, even if the relationship is with a dog. It sounds silly, but the lessons I have learned in 2018 are astronomical.
Changes are difficult and bad habits are hard to break. However, we own the ability to dictate where we belong and how we will behave. This is important to remember and should be a reminder to everyone (me, included) that we should never make changes simply to satisfy others. Make changes that will help you personally. Allow yourself to be selfish in order to attain happiness. This will help you to be truer to yourself, resulting in better relationships and thankful friends and family that have desired to see the best you that was available.
The patience and understanding I learned have directly transferred into my work life, helping to increase my relationships across the board. I’m very thankful for 2018. I’m a happier person due to the additions we have had in our family. At the core, I think this all comes back to my relationships. As for those relationships, 2018 was a great reminder that I have some damn good ones.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim is a provisional counselor with The Counseling Hub, a counseling practice in Columbia, Mo that focuses on meaningful connection between self, partners, and others. Tim enjoys working with both adolescents and adults on issues regarding making major life changes or transitions, enhancing and building meaningful relationships, wanting to build confidence, wanting to grow self-esteem, anxiety, depression, experiencing an inability to enjoy life, and feeling as though they are being taken advantage of. Tim is an active member of the American Counseling Association, the national counseling association for the United States.
Tim earned his Master's of Science in Clinical Counseling from Central Methodist University. He is currently a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and has presented and written on topics including the influence of parental support on depressive symptoms, ethical practice, and the development of adults based on marital status.