Life Audits (Ain't I Fancy?)
Here we are in February. Twenty… nineteen. 2019. A mere eleven months from 2020.
Sorry, another: wow.
What a time. And what a time it’s been. What a year it’s been.
As I sit down to write this post I find myself utterly and completely at a loss for words. Some years, some phases of life, are just those years aren’t they? The years, the times, the seasons where everything seems to happen, where every thing changes, where when you look back you’re like: what, are you kidding me, did all that happen in the last 12 months? The last 14 months?The last 365 days? The last 100 days?
There have been some massive obvious changes this year (and I don’t mean strict calendar year here, I just mean the last 12 or 18 months in general). Like… I got married, I moved countries, I left home for the first time. I’ve been to parts of the world I didn’t ever expect to go to, had life changing experiences I never expected to have, and in many ways, become someone quite different from who I was when I started out.
But there have also been a hundred little tiny changes, some of which, as I sit here with my little cup of coffee in my Wifey mug, in my first little home, in a place I never thought I would experience or visit, and certainly never ever though I would live in, I may not even be totally cognizant of all of the myriad and subtle differences. I may not have fully vocalized or thought out, or realized them.
It’s all been very exciting.
And you know what, for all that change and big milestones are really, really exciting- they can also be really overwhelming, confusing, and leave you a little drained after the fact!
Sometimes I do feel a touch drained. It’s nothing major, I’m not running a company or filming a movie, or changing the world, one reusable coffee cup at a time. I’m just a regular girl living a normal life, with a few little quirky bits here and there, but I love to pack my days in with as much as I can, and sometimes that can be to my determinant. Sometimes all the enthusiasm can leave me really in need of a few extra hours of sleep, but I love me an early wake up call and that just isn’t going to happen.
Enter what I like to call the Life Audit. I do this to make it feel all fancy and official, let’s be honest. You can call it whatever you like- it’s simply the things I do to get a grip on my runaway mind, refocus in on the whirlwind of my little home and life, and really give myself the space to appreciate and enjoy every day.
Life Audits can be done anytime, anywhere, for any reason.
I’ve already written about having a reset day, and reset days are awesome, we all love sharing our reset day routines, but that’s not really what a life audit is. It’s kind of bigger than that, at least for me.
Zooming Out: You, Your Home, Your Relationships, Your Work, Your World
You know that feeling when you’re going along with your life as always, waking up at much the same time, doing all the little routines you’ve got accustomed to in your day to day (meal plan the same meals but always wish they were that touch healthier, plod your way through the same books you’ve been meaning to get to all year, complete the same work you know needs to be done, whether in your career or at home, almost on auto pilot but resting easier because at least it’s done), making it to bed a little tired each night and distantly thinking to yourself as you nod off to sleep: one day I really need to buckle down and rethink my diet/work goals/relationships/dreams… just my entire life! Yeah, you know the feeling. Perhaps I’m dramatizing here- there are many things I’m totally happy with the as they are- my relationships for one, thankfully, much of my chores around the home, our personal accounts, very, very thankfully. But somewhere, in every aspect of my life, there are niggles. There are items that have been there at the bottom of my life goals list, waiting for me to get around to them, in every single aspect of my life. Just waiting for me, getting forgotten, getting brushed aside for more important things. Things that need to be done in the here and now. And then- it’s bedtime again.
But not addressing all those hopes and dreams you have for your life is super exhausting. The pressure and regret sits there at the back of your mind, holding you back and zapping you of joy. That’s just not on! So.
The first crucial step in a life audit is to finally take a deep breath, STOP, and zoom out again. To quit literally everything you’re doing, erase all your preconceived notions (easy right?!) and zoom out on your own life, your own story, your own day.
I find that what really helps me is taking some time to myself, entirely myself, (you’d be shocked at home much difference an hour or two can make), digging out all those lists I’ve stored away on my Notes app with my goals for the year, my resolutions to be a better wife/friend/kind stranger, and read over all of them as though I’ve never seen them before.
And then I assess.
These things I wanted, this person I wanted to be- is that still the person I want to see myself become, still the life I wish I was leading?
Is ingoring all the things I secretly want to do, change, and bring into my life, overwhelming me and leaving me a little less… me?
More often than not, the answer is yes, but with every thing your day to day life demands of you, you’ve forgotten your best intentions to commit to these changes. You’ve fogotten the dreams you hold for your life, the bigger picture, because figuring out the minutae of getting from today to tomorrow has just been too time consuming.
When you zoom out you allow yourself to remember fully why you want to make those changes and remember just how important those things are. Yes getting by on a diet of beans on toast hasn’t been the worst, but it’s definitely not how I want to nourish myself and my husband, no matter how intimated I am by the kitchen!
And yes- I do want to be a better wife/daughter/friend and I can’t become one by coasting along and forgetting to assess myself every once in awhile.
Zooming out is where all good life audits begin.
I like to zoom out, really look at the various aspects of my life- this usually goes something like: my self, my health, my relationships and home life, my hobbies, my interests, my work, what I do and what I listen to and what I buy and what I don’t buy- and see where I’ve got changes to make and room to grow to get back to where I hoped I would one day be.
I don’t bother myself with lists or action steps or reminders at this point. This is purely mental. It’s purely a no stress way to allow myself to hope for more. It’s motivating, it’s encouraging and more than anything it’s a chance to focus on what’s truly important again.
Giving Yourself a Break: Be Compassionate For Where You Are Today
I don’t know about you but seeing ALL my hopes and dreams laid out in front of me is both super invigorating and super exhausting at the same time.
Like yes I want to be this person a year from now but can I just go and sleep for a week first?
And then can I have a pure YouTube and Netflix binge week after?
Sounds like a plan.
But that kind of equal parts excitement and terror can really cause you to beat yourself up for not being exactly where you want to be already, right here, right now?
You know like EVERY ONE else is right?
Whilst I know being kind to yourself doesn’t take you very far on the surface, if you really do want to look at the big picture of your life and make serious structural changes (again, ain’t I fancy?), then you really do need to be a little kind and compassionate for where you are not first. Because this is the reality: this is how far away you are from where you want to be, and the longer you live in denial about it or beat yourself up about it- the harder it’s going to be to get to where you actually want to be.
We’ve all been there.
So give yourself a break, a proper hearty pat on the back, and realize that just because your house is a mess, and your head is all over the place, and your thoughts are all out of order, and you’re absolutely petrified of opening your to do list because just no, you don’t need the trauma (and you’re eating beans on toast)- it’s alright actually. Like really really alright.
And it’ll get a whole lot better.
Think avocado and sauerkraut on toast better.
Getting Your Energy Back: When Did You Last Feel Seriously Excited?
Getting your energy and your drive back can look totally different for everyone. A day vegging on the couch? Sure! A day getting pulled and prodded at the spa? Sure! A day at the water park? Why not? Sorry, it’s February, I need to reel it in.
Energy is really, really finite, especially if you’ve been feeling discourage and eating the contents of the button drawer of your pantry- and it is so easily affected by literally every thing in our lives.
I’m definitely in the camp that feels that it’s discipline and dedication that results in change and growth and not motivation or excitement (love them but they don’t tend to stick around do they?), but there is something to be said for recreating those feelings of initial excitement again. Even if they disappear again next week.
Elusive little things. Motivation, excitement, bobby pins, and socks.
So do yourself a favor and try and remember a time when you felt genuinely really, really excited for something new, or something you were psyching yourself up to pursue. How long ago did you feel seriously excited, like seriously floating on air without your morning Starbucks excited?
If it was a long time ago that’s totally fine. If you can’t come up with a single memory, also totally fine. And maybe you need to up your caffeine intake.
For me getting my energy back involves a lot of prep, and a little healthy does of downtime. It also involves a lot of gluten free carbs, but that’s another story for another day. I get seriously, seriously energized by lapping up as much inspiration as I can.
Whilst I know ‘inspiring’ ourselves and ‘learning’ are absolutely tools of procrastination (100 per cent), they don’t always have to be when done in moderation. So I’m not going to spend two weeks reading blogs about blogging just to bet my blogging spirit back, or order 10 cookbooks on meal planning and freezer food (guilty as charged) just to get my meal prep routine back on track- but I will let myself take a day, preferably on the weekend, to just refill my tank with all the things I love: YouTube videos by amazing women I admire, books that teach me things, podcasts about the industry, and all the while I make sure I’m eating enough and getting at least a couple of walks in during the day (I love walks and nothing leaves me with more of an exercise high than a good long one hour walk in the cold air).
Getting your energy back is a careful balance of resting, recharging in a smart and effective way, and refueling your inspiration tank with all the good stuff that reminds you of how good it can feel to truly have something to look forward to and work towards.
Figure out what gets you up and running, actually get up and run if that strikes your fancy, and make sure you’re having a healthy dose of biscuits whilst you’re at it.
Doing the Five Year Plan Again: Where Do You Want to Be In Every Way?
Gosh I feel super cringe writing about five year plans- I’m definitely not a five year plan kind of person. I have always hated the question, never had the answer.
But the truth is thinking about your life, thinking about what you want, beyond this month and even this year, can be kind of helpful.
If a little ridiculous to answer when put on the spot.
And also cringe, did I mention cringe?
That said, not all dreams can be achieved in a year. Not all change can be neatly fit into the space of 12 months. If you want to make serious strides at work, a year can be a laughably short amount of time, if you want to make lasting changes to your health, a year can feel impossible and be absolutely deflating.
Heck if you want to kick your ASOS habit three years isn’t nearly enough! Trust me, I’ve tried. Still trying. Still happily failing.
A five year plan is more fun than a concrete one year check it off the list and push yourself to the max plan, because it naturally by virtue of the fact that we’re human and we can’t actually control everything, allows us space to change, wonder, and be pleasantly surprised.
A five year plan is the big, big picture but it’s also super important so that’s you don’t end up looking back and thinking, what did I do with this time? Why did I X or more importantly, what didn’t I do Y?
Or you know any random letters because what are X and Y just BTW?
If your five year plan includes babies, maybe your five year plan also has to include trying to make the shift to working from home. And that can mean a LOT for your one year plan, and also seriously shift what you focus on in the next three months.
If babies bring you out in a rash and your five year plan looks more like gaining the financial freedom to take some time off and travel, then maybe your one month (and three and six and nine and basically like all your time) needs to be more invested in your work and building up actual sustainable financial resources, so you can finally do the guilt free.
Thinking ahead may sound stressful but it can actually go so far to take the pressure of NOW because you know you’re taking the right steps towards a future free of regret.
And seven identical black skater skirts from ASOS, all of which aren’t, you know, just right.
Brb I need to try the one with box pleats. Add to basket, place order, check. I’ve still got two years to kick this. I can totally do it.
Identifying Your Roadblocks and Taking Out the Trash
Here’s something we forget sometimes (we meaning myself): when you don’t know exactly what you want you can easily fail to notice what’s stopping you from getting there.
When I don’t know who I want to be, I don’t notice all the myriad ways that I sabotage myself every day. I’m not talking about anything major or life changing, just the little niggles I brush under the rug, not giving them the attention I should be- not calling them out for being self defeating habits that kind of suck, little allowances that hold me back from being happier, more at peace, more fulfilled.
I hate the constant pressure to tweak every little bit of our day to within an inch of itself to achieve some kind of millennial perfection, as much as the next person, but the truth is… getting from here to there (whenever there is) is hard work and takes a whole lot of tweaking. And re tweaking. And going back and re tweaking until you literally never want to hear the word tweak again.
But when you have a clear vision of what you want from your life, when you’ve really zoomed out and inspected where you are versus where you want to be- suddenly you can see the roadblocks that are preventing you from getting there.
I know for myself a lot of the roadblocks in my path come from our living situation- for work reasons, we’re currently posted in Northern Iraq. This is not a place where I can build my life or my work, and so it’s a clear and major roadblock to what I want long term. We’ve managed to carve out a little life for ourselves over here but at the end of the day, the place we live is a roadblock. A major one. It’s one I can’t really do anything about right now, but it’s important to be aware of it so I can try as much as possible to work around it.
Roadblocks can also be little things you can easily chuck out. The best kind.
For me a road block to my health goals is not having a car here, not being able to get around and go to the gym (you don’t want to be running outside in the Iraqi summer heat for example). Having that minor roadblock means my health goals take a serious hit. But knowing that, identifying it, means I know I need to look for other solutions. I can’t rely on getting a car- I need to throw out all the issues that the car brings with it, and find another solution instead. Downloading and signing up for a Tone It Up or Sweat account for example, and just making do with what I can do right here, right now.
Toss those road blocks out of the way, and whilst you’re at it, any niggling excuses too.
Mix It Up and Try Something New
Honestly, it doesn’t matter how much you love the things you do day after day, the same genre you read night after night, or the same person’s photos you like on Instagram round the clock to stalker like levels… your love for these things, your enthusiasm, is going to take a hit.
It’s important to expose yourself to new things, things that make you feel a little lost and uncomfortable, or stretch you just that little bit more than you wan to be stretched- in order to wake you up, shake you up a bit, and really allow you to come back to what you love with more energy.
Too much consistency and routine can zap you and the best way to counter that is to try some thing really new to you.
It doesn’t have to be anything major. Here are some signs you can do right now that will make that tiny bit of needed difference: google a new coffee shop near you and pop down and order a drink you would never normally order, pop on Amazon and buy yourself a book on the best seller list you would never normally read, or get on your phone and message a friend to catch up, a friend you haven’t spoken to in more than six months.
There, feeling better already.
And Now Take It One Day At A Time
Life audits always come back to the same thing- the doing.
Drafting a plan, breaking the tasks down, cleaning out the storage baskets under your bed. There’s no way around it. And there really is a lot of dust under that bed.
But if there’s anything to be learnt from the overwhelm that often creeps up on us, forcing us to drop every thing, zoom out and really do that deep thinking, it’s that it needs to be addressed and handled well ahead of time. You can’t drive yourself over the edge and get left there hanging, wondering how you got there and where you can possibly go next.
You need to take this day by day. You have the vision, but getting there will always take time. So take the time.
And there you have it, the simple steps I take to have my very own life audit. A life audit can feel like a luxury and in terms of time and energy it certainly can be. But it can also be so vital. How do you get where you want to go when you don’t know where that is?
Good luck with your own life audits- as for me, it’s time to press Publish and go and find that perfect little black skirt.