Hello beautiful souls and happy New Year!
2019 is here and I can already feel its good energy! After being home for the winter break, I am back on campus ready to be as productive as possible this winter term. I did a lot of soul work the last couple of weeks, and I realized that my mantra for 2019 is to just follow my heart. Here’s a quote I found that fits perfectly with this mantra:
“Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it” – Hardy D. Jackson
The reason I chose this mantra is because, even though 2018 started with many successes, passion projects, and productive days, it ended on the opposite end, making me feel as if I deviated from my journey. When, in reality, I was just putting energy in the wrong places, following what my mind was telling me was right, instead of following my heart, emotions and feelings. I realized I was no more in a state of flow, and things began to feel forced. That’s when I pressed the STOP button, and thankfully I had the chance to go back home in Romania for the winter break, where I recharged my batteries and reflected on the year.
I’ve recently read James Clear’s Annual Review, and I decided to use his format to reflect on my 2018, because I found it really efficient. In his review, he is asking himself the following three questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What did I learn?
Asking myself this helped me a lot in understanding what lessons I was taught this year. I came to the conclusion that life is made of experiences that teach you different lessons, and when you see it like that nothing is seen as a “bad thing” anymore, instead you grow day by day through observing what you are going through. And trust me, every little happening is coming into your life to teach you something. Even if sometimes we ask ourselves “Why me?”, changing the perspective to “What is this experience teaching me?” is my new no. 1 tool in my personal development journey.
This being said, let’s begin the 2018 review!
What went well this year?
These things for sure excite me, and I don’t want to give in any way the impression that I am bragging about my accomplishments. Instead, I would like to show you that anything you set your mind to is possible, and hopefully inspire you to stay motivated and determined in following your aspirations.
USGA Freshman Class. As President of the Freshman Class within the Undergraduate Student Government Association in my school (Drexel University), I am proud to say that we’ve been kicking @ss until the end of the freshman year! Improving the dining options on campus, focusing on sustainability, and hosting Freshman Farewell, a huge event marking the end of the year, we made a positive change on campus that many students appreciated. On top of that, the experience shaped me a lot as a leader and improved my teamwork skills. I will always remember how emotional our last meeting was, when we gave meaningful gifts to each other and hugged in a big circle.
Startup Island trip to Costa Rica. Definitely the most life-changing experience I’ve had so far, about which I wrote here. The first thing that went well was obtaining funding for the trip. In order to do that, I created a GoFundMe page, which was shared all over the internet by my friends and family. To my surprise (and shock!), besides everyone who helped me with little donations, a random person who wanted to invest in young females in business saw my story and agreed to help me with the rest of the sum. Not only was it the best birthday gift I could receive, but it also gave me the best Spring Break ever.
Marketing EDGE Summit and Career Forum. As an aspiring marketer, I’ve looked for opportunities to expand my knowledge and network in the marketing field since freshman year. I found Marketing EDGE and it turned out to be such a beneficial professional experience, where I learned how leading agencies and brands are utilizing data and innovative digital marketing techniques to create targeted, multi-channel campaigns to reach and engage their customers. The main topic was the convergence of marketing and technology, and, after realizing the important role data plays in the marketing field, I decided to add a second major in Business Analytics. Smart move I would say, because I already fell in love with the intro class. If you’re interested in finding more about Marketing EDGE, I totally recommend you apply to their programs! They are also going to open a career portal soon to help students get employed (wink wink!)
How to College. All good stories start at a wine night on a rooftop in Bucharest. Or at least that’s how How to College started, the most passionate project I have ever worked on. Being back home for the whole summer, I couldn’t resist but think about the way I can give back to the community there. This is how my friends and I decided to create a project dedicated to high schoolers, through which we can share our experiences, learnings, and experiences faced while studying abroad at university. We brought together students from all around the world (US, UK, The Netherlands, France, and Italy), and we organized a one-day event of interactive talks, workshops, and Q&A sessions shared in a relevant, but fun and informal setting to participants. All in 3 weeks. Might sound crazy, but we were so passionate about it that we made it happen. We had 50 high schoolers show up, and five different Romanian media outlets came to promote our event. It was a huge success, and a beautiful experience that brought me new friendships, which turned into spontaneous summer adventures!
Enjoying my last summer break. It’s crazy to think about the fact that, beginning 2019, I am not going to have any summer off anymore, as I will be working on co-op. This does not make me sad in any way, it actually fills me with excitement for the future, but I’m sure of one thing: I made the most out of my last summer break. Going to the seaside, sleeping in a tent, attending festivals, partying on the beach until the sunrise, finding deserted beaches, clubbing with my girls, watching the Perseids, plane spotting, and so many more. So thankful for all these adventures, they reminded me of the beauty of just being. Present. Aligned. In a state of flow. Now I’m bringing that state back to my work at university.
Blogging. I really stayed on track with my blog posts, especially at the end of 2018. I managed to post quite frequently, and here’s how the year looked like: 17 posts published, 2,577 unique visitors, almost 6,000 views, out of which most of them are from Romania, US, UK, and Netherlands. Seeing that my posts are viewed and have an impact globally (even if it’s a really small one at the moment) inspires me to write more, share more, and produce quality content.
What didn’t go so well this year?
I’ve been talking about all these accomplishments, but of course there are many things which could have been improved, or just didn’t go the way I imagined. Here’s a couple of them.
Exercising. I managed to keep up with my goal to exercise at least three times a week maybe the first three months of 2018. After that, my gym attendance went down. A lot. I assume it’s because I just stopped thinking about it as a priority, but that affected my body’s health, and even my mood sometimes. Gotta get those endorphins in! This year, I manage to keep track of my exercising/yoga habits by making them part of my “daily routine”. I created a Habit Tracker for myself, and every day I check the habits that I accomplished that day (such as meditate, read, exercise…) This motivates me SO MUCH to make a daily habit out of going to the gym, yoga class, or just a short run. Here’s the template I designed for tracking my habits, feel free to use it!
Deadlines. Even though my time management skills got better and better, I’m still the kind of person who likes to push her work until the last minute. I work well under pressure, but sometimes it can be too much, especially when I have too many things going on. One solution that I found is to set “fake deadlines”, which are earlier than the actual deadline, and push myself to finish my work under the pressure of that fake deadline. Didn’t quite succeed in doing that so far, but I’m working on it!
Taking too much on my plate. Now this is probably the most recurring situation that appears in my life, and it has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages consist in the fact that I get to meet a lot of people, build connections, and get a variety of skills in different areas (project management, teamwork, strategic thinking), BUT it can become dangerous the moment I find out that I have no time left for myself. Going back to my 2019 mantra of following my heart, I’m learning to be more aware of what I say yes to, and to realize that a no is not mean, or rude, or disrespectful; it just shows that, at that point in time, a certain project/meeting/invitation is not aligned with your priorities.
Producing video content. Since the beginning of college, I literally documented almost every part of my journey, thinking about putting all of the footage together in inspiring videos on my YouTube channel. My freshman year experience, spring break in Costa Rica, marketing summit, everything! Guess what? It did not happen. All I managed to do was to post two videos: cape may diaries, and my thoughts on mental health. Still better than nothing, but knowing how many incredible experiences I had, I made it a priority for the next three months to create video content, so expect to see more in 2019! ❤
What did I learn?
Finally, here is what 2018 taught me.
Anything taken to an extreme becomes dangerous. At the end of 2018, I asked myself many philosophical questions, getting way too caught up in my thinking and journaling. That’s when I knew I had to take a break and just move on with life, because if I don’t, life just passes by me. This is an example of something taken to an extreme, but it can be related to so many things. Too much thinking, too much partying, too much studying, too much planning, and so on. Anything that becomes “too much” becomes toxic. Relationships too. So take a moment and think, are you experiencing balance in your life? In all aspects, balance is the key to growth and happiness.
Habits are essential for your productivity. The things you are doing today are shaping your future, and if you want to achieve big dreams, then you have to start with small steps. As James Clear was saying in his book Atomic Habits, “The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more. (…) as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.” Here’s the visual proof!
My agenda = my life. Again, not taken to an extreme, but setting my priorities and having my agenda as a guide in making sure I stay on the right track is honestly my tool for success. I found out I work better the old-fashioned way, in which I have to actually write down the things, but every person is different. You might prefer going digital, using Google Calendar for example!
Never stop being curious. In our twenties, I feel like it’s our duty to stay curious. Ask, wonder, think, learn. Nobody warned me that the moment I turn 20 life will become the biggest teacher I have. There is so much to explore. So many mistakes to be made. My biggest advice for myself as well as for people in their twenties is to stay away from the “safe mode” of living life and to live life in the “curious, risky mode”. This is the best time to do it.
Your instinct knows best. I’m going to end my “series of teaching” with this. There is no better guide than our instinctive self. If a situation doesn’t feel right, leave it. If a decision raises too many questions, maybe it’s not the right one. Usually, your first thoughts about something are true. Learn to pay attention and to listen to that inner voice that tells you if something is right or not, and then follow it before your mind comes into play. What helps me a lot in being more open to my instinct is exploring my creativity: art, writing, crafts, observing the world, or any other way in which you can get creative and inspired, even if it’s just a walk in the park. Next time you have to make a decision, take a break, get creative, and you might be surprised that, by the time you are done, your intuitive self will have already showed you the answer you were seeking.
That’s all, congratulations to me for writing my longest post ever! Hopefully you made it all the way up to here.
To be honest, I totally recommend you to do an annual review for yourself! It’s a good way to check-in with yourself, and ensure you stay on the right track. Let me know what you think in the comment section below! You can even share some of your reflections from your past year, or thoughts you had on my review. Would love to read them!
Also, I’m starting to post every Sunday again. Documenting my life, one adventure at a time. See you soon!