3 Lessons learned from 2014

susannah bradley drawing

I’ve been thinking about what I learned in 2014. I felt like I had a pretty good year, but reviewing my goal list, I see I’ve hardly ticked off 15 of 52 goals I wrote for myself for 2014. Good lord, what happened?? I thought I had a successful year! Well, I may not have accomplished many things on the list, but I’ve definitely learned a few things…

1. You are key to your own happiness.

I was in a relationship that wasn’t working for a very long time. When I moved to London, I focused on making it work despite a long distance and a lot of silence. As the relationship became less and less of what I wanted out of a partnership, I became more unhappy and more focused on how to improve it. Despite my efforts, it didn’t get any better, which made me feel even worse. The worst bit was that I allowed its state to have total control over my outlook and feelings. If it was going badly, if I hadn’t heard from my boyfriend, if he hadn’t been supportive, I felt awful. If he called and was excited to talk to me and wanted to visit soon, I was elated. I had been relying on it to make me happy. Turns out relying on anything outside of yourself for your own happiness is a pretty bad strategy.

Once I realized I was doing this, I consciously stopped thinking about how to fix the relationship and instead directed that energy into doings things that I found fulfilling like being creative, writing, traveling, and being outside. I was instantly happier.

The mind is powerful. What you think about effects so much of your life. Fortunately, we all have control over our thoughts. If you find yourself obsessing or something and it’s not giving you anything good, let it go.

2. Allow yourself to change your mind

When I came out of university, I felt like the Art World was a pretentious, competitive, haughty world for people who wanted to get famous. It wasn’t any place I was interested in investing my time or creativity in. This year, I’ve met a lot of artists that aren’t any of those negative things, but who are making great work and are being taken seriously but the larger artistic community. It’s totally changed my mind about participating in the larger, “serious” art scene. My opinion was so deadset against the Art World in previous years, I don’t think I could have met these artists and been excited by them. What a shame for me that would have been!

Even if your belief is long-held and based on strong information, always allow yourself to reconsider it.

slbradley mandala

3. Working through fear pays off.

I was faced with a few scary situations in 2014, but every time I chose to be patient with myself and work through it, I was doubly rewarded: swimming in the sea can be really terrifying sometimes. The power of the ocean picking up your entire being and setting it down wherever it likes. One big wave toss, sputtering salt water, exploding for a breath, and your life continuing does not seem so inevitable. Even though swimming in the sea scares me, I braved it a couple of times this year and each time was so happy that I did. It’s scary, but it’s also exhilarating to work in harmony with its great force, catching waves. I’ll never forget catching my first real wave body surfing. There is something very humbling about giving up that control as well, to work with not against a force of nature.

Don’t let fear stop you from trying and experiencing. Most of the time it’s just a negative voice chattering on about “what if’s.”

What did you learn in 2014?