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23 Lessons I Learned in 2023

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

I wish I was that insightful. But I gotta give this attribution to my boy Robert Frost.

And boy was he right. Life goes on and time keeps passing until all of a sudden, it’s the end of yet another year!

If your feed is as full of “new year, new me” posts and 2024 prepping, goals, and planning (oh my!) as mine is, it can get a little noisy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good planning moment. I can’t wait to spend that week between Christmas and New Year’s organizing my folders, setting up my new calendars, and everything else to start 2024 on the right foot.

There’s one thing I have to do first, though, and I highly encourage you to do it as well — reflecting on the past year.

“The past is the past! Leave it behind!”

Okay, I hear you. But if you truly want to set meaningful intentions for the new year instead of just copying what every That Girl on TikTok is telling you to do, you have to look back at what’s worked and what hasn’t.

As I was writing out my hopes and intentions for 2024, I realized how many of them were inspired by things I’d already started doing or learned in 2023. And because I’m nothing if not an oversharer, I wanted to share the lessons I learned this year with you.

Whether you’re a recovering perfectionist, ADHD, online business owner like me or just a 20-something trying to figure out how to be the best version of yourself, I think this list is worth a read. After all, if I’m going to spend my money on weekly therapy visits, might as well share the love and benefits!!

23 Lessons From 2023

1. You will find the people that are meant to be in your life

As a freshly graduated 21-year-old who moved away from her college town, I truly didn’t believe I would find my “people.” 2022 already started to prove me wrong as my business network expanded and I built a community of support. But in 2023, I reached out in ways I never have before and have a wonderful group of local friends. Before this year, I had never met these people and we likely would have never connected organically. Now, I feel unspeakably lucky for their friendship.

If you’ve ever been in a lonely stage, know that it doesn’t last forever. You will find your people, and you will find people that you don’t have to work 24/7 to hold on to. I promise.

2. Just because your experience is different doesn’t mean it isn’t valid

I convinced myself for years that I didn’t have “real” anxiety because it didn’t manifest in the physical symptoms I observed from my close friends and other anecdotal experiences.

If you’ve ever met me or heard me verbalize an anxiety spiral in realtime, you’ll know just how wrong I was. I’m an anxious girlie through and through!

3. Use the tools available to you

I get by with a little help from my friends (Zoloft & Adderall). Speaking of anxiety, 2023 was also the year I first started taking anxiety medication, and I fully believe that I have Miss Sertraline to thank for a lot of the other lessons I was able to learn this year.

I’ve always been very transparent about the fact that I medicate my mental health diagnoses because that is still such a persistent stigma. My mental health “toolkit” has a lot of components, and medication is one of those tools. For me, ADHD and anxiety medication helps me to function better on a day-to-day basis, improves my relationships, and gives me back a little more control over my brain.

4. Stop trying to fight your brain

This is a lesson I hope to keep learning in 2024, as I know it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. Part of the beauty of being human is that we have this wrinkly little organ up in our skulls that dictates everything about our lives, and every single one is different.

When you try and force your brain to fit into what works best for someone else’s brain, it’s like trying to squeeze into those “standing only” jeans after Thanksgiving dinner.

(Just donate the jeans bb, you deserve to be cute AND comfortable.)

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to force different routines to work or straight up getting mad at my own self for not being as “productive” or “focused” or “creative” as I think I should be. Talk about unproductive behavior…

Find ways to work with your brain, even if that means changing things up every few weeks because what was working stopped working out of nowhere.

5. Sleep is way more important than you think

I used to be proud of how well I could function on so little sleep. My high school friends and I would compare “bedtimes” like a badge of pride — whoever stayed up latest was obviously the “best”.

It’s still true that I can survive on not that much sleep. And my target sleep duration is 7-8 hours, whereas my partner’s is 8-9. But most nights I haven’t even been getting 7 hours, and I know my body is suffering for it.

In planning out my ideal routine and goals for 2024, I realized none of it would be possible if I didn’t get a handle on my sleep schedule and sleep hygiene. So that’s where I’m starting.

 6. People loooove a hot take

Want a nearly guaranteed way to have a viral post on Instagram? Share a “hot take.” Particularly if it’s one that everyone actually agrees with. Sometimes, you just have to be the one to say something.

My most popular Instagram posts from 2023 are definitely the ones that were the “spiciest.” At the very least, they took a stance. Here are a few:

The key to a successful “hot take” is to make sure that it’s something you actually agree with. Don’t take a stance just to have one.

There are two things that tend to get in the way of sharing your opinion:

  1. You’re worried about upsetting people / turning away potential clients
  2. You think it’s already been said

As for the first one, if the hot take is something you genuinely believe, then you don’t want people in your audience or client roster who disagree with you, I promise. Think of this like a way of filtering out the wrong people.

And as for the second, sure. It’s 2023. There is hardly any combination of 26 letters that hasn’t been said before. But has your audience heard it before? Have they heard it from you? With your perspective? Doubt it…

7. You are the only thing you can control

You cannot control other people’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, so stop wasting your peace and energy trying. Even if you think if you do or say juuust the right things, you still cannot control how other people receive that.

8. You are responsible for your own emotions

Sticking with the therapy lessons — you have to take responsibility for your emotions. No one is “making” you feel a certain way. Taking responsibility for your emotions also means taking responsibility for how you express those emotions.

9. Somatic therapy and exercises are magic

When my favorite therapist went on permanent maternity leave in March, I was lucky enough to find an incredible replacement. As wonderful as she is, though, I realized how much I’ve missed the focus on somatic therapies. I tend to be a very “in my head” kinda person — everything happens in words and I often overthink my emotions instead of actually feeling them.

Intentionally continuing some of the practices and skills my previous therapist taught me has been a big help during this transitional period in my mental health care.

10. More doesn’t always mean better

I did a lot in 2023…

  • Launched my new website
  • Launched my first digital product
  • Released not one, but TWO new freebies
  • Changed my offers
  • Raised my prices
  • Hosted a paid masterclass
  • Contributed to several different courses/group programs
  • Tried to post more frequently on Instagram
  • Thought about hiring a team

And honestly? It was too much. I loved every second of it and don’t regret the choices I made, but it was a lot to juggle! One of my 2023 goals was to post 3 times a week on Instagram instead of my average of twice a week and that did not happen. Neither did hiring a team (although that has more to do with the state of the economy than anything else).

In 2024, I want to focus on honing my skills and processes to do a few things really really well an dedicate my time and attention there.

11. Follow the flow

I know I already told you not to fight your brain, and this is similar but different. As someone with ADHD, trying to force myself to do anything is painful and usually ineffective. But sometimes deadlines exist and shit has to get done.

But working outside of my flow is almost always less efficient than doing the tasks I actually want and am inspired to do. That’s why one of my 2024 goals is to create a routine that leaves enough flexibility for me to follow the flow and where it takes me!

12. Overcommunicating wins every time

You know what they say when you assume? You make an ass outta u and me. 😉

And it’s so true. That’s why I’ve made an effort to overcommunicate whenever possible. I’ll overcommunicate with clients so they know what’s going on during their project. I’ll overcommunicate with friends to make sure no sarcasm gets lost in interpretation via text. I even overcommunicate with my cats, who I know can’t understand English and yet I still tell them all the reasons they can’t climb the Christmas tree.

13. Independence is important

Okay I didn’t really learn this in 2023 as I’ve always been a pretty independent person. Or at least I thought I was. While there are a lot of things I’m comfortable doing alone, I didn’t realize how dependent I had become on not having to do those things alone. I’ve been with my fiancée for 6+ years now, and I’ve gotten very used to having her around all the time!

Making decisions based solely on myself or trying new things alone has been an interesting but important step in my self-growth journey!

14. Ask for help

While independence is important, so is letting yourself be vulnerable and depend on another person. I never wanted to ask for help, believing that I could do it myself or worrying that I would look “weak” if I did.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m sure there’s some really eloquent quote from a Fortune 500 CEO that could say this better, but the smartest people in the world know when to ask for help. No one knows everything, so why are you pretending you do? Getting help from those more qualified or even just hearing someone else’s perspective can be a game changer. This is especially true for anyone running a business on their own!

15. Lizards know what they’re doing

Or at least they do when it comes to laying on the ground and soaking up the sun. “Lizard time” is the perfect way to reset in the middle of the day.

16. Always write that thought down

You will not remember it. Or you might, but there’s no guarantee. That’s what your notes app is for; use it.

17. Love is expressed in different ways

As a words of affirmation girlie, I find it very hard to know that people love me without that outward, verbalized expression of it. Unfortunately, I’m marrying into a very-much-not-words-of-affirmation family. No judgment there, but a hard lesson to learn and understand! Instead, I look for other ways people express their love and show validation.

For my partner’s family, that meant being invited to spend a week at the beach with them. And when her little sister said I should come every year, my heart grew three sizes just like the Grinch’s.

If you also struggle with this, I will say that if you have a good enough relationship with the person, go ahead and ask for love to be expressed in the way you need to hear it! Not every relationship meets that qualification though, so that’s why sometimes you gotta look for it in other ways.

18. Celebrate your damn progress

I’m honestly still terrible at this. I know everyone says “celebrate every win” and all that, but it just… doesn’t sink in? Idk, I think it’s because my celebrations don’t fit the picture of what I think a celebration should be. I’m not going to go to a fancy dinner and pop a bottle of Dom. But my version of celebrating — movie night with PJs and take out — is just as valid, as long as the intention is there.

19. Surround yourself with people who will celebrate for and with you

In the moments when I do forget to celebrate myself, I’ve been lucky enough to have people in my life to remind me of it. External validation isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it is nice sometimes.

20. Not all growth is visible

It’s so ridiculously easy to get caught up in all the things you didn’t do this year. All the goals you didn’t achieve or the habits you didn’t keep up with. I know I’ve been feeling it a little more lately.

But as I’m sitting here writing this freaking list, I know that my internal growth has been off the dang charts. No one else really sees it, but it’s there. And it’s probably the most valuable growth of all.

21. Change has to come from inside

This goes for changes you want to make yourself and changes you wish other people would make. Remember how I said you can’t control other people? Yeah, that means you also can’t force them to change.

True behavioral change has to come from a desire to change in the first place, followed up with committed action to change.

If there’s something you want to change in your own life, remember that you can’t make someone else hold you accountable or force you to do things. The only habits I’ve kept up with haven’t been because I had a checklist or because I was shamed into it or because someone dragged me along for the ride — they stuck through sheer determination and force of will.

By god, I was going to be someone who flosses. And now I am.

22. Put every thing in your calendar or in your tasks

TBD on if I remember to keep applying this lesson in 2024, but I’m desperately trying to be a religious “put it in the cal” girlie because otherwise I will forget. True story: I went to a doctor’s appointment without a bra because I completely forgot about it until the literal appointment time. Luckily it was virtual, but that was not the way I wanted to wake up.

Also, it turns out that creating a reminder or task for something is a way more effective way of reminding yourself of tiny little tasks than just leaving the email “unread” until you get to it.

23. Just send the text

Stop overthinking things or waiting until you have more time or attention. That time’s never gonna come boo. If you’re agonizing over which emoji to send to make your new friend laugh the most, you’re thinking too hard. Send what you like and if it doesn’t hit, it’s their loss.

The more you avoid things, the harder they become. Don’t let a simple message be harder than it needs to be.

Whew! 23 lessons doesn’t seem like a lot when you write it in the title, but when you’re a long story long kinda girl, it’s a lot. If you read all of these, thank you! Hope you liked my rambly reflections and got some inspiration for your 2024 intentions and goals.

If you do, or if you have any lessons of your own you’d like to share, please do!! You can always reach out via email or on Instagram @thesarahburk!