This is the moment where I remember how long last year’s post was, and where I tell you that I will keep it short this year, only to get into the same situation next year.
So prepare. Because 2018 was crazy. 2018 was my rising from very thoroughly burned ashes.
Imagine you don’t feel very happy most of the time. You work all the time but don’t get much in return. The things you start don’t work out. You get frustrated, sometimes depressed.
And then you find a magic potion you drink at New Year’s Eve and your life explodes into mainly awesomeness.
This is what happened to me in 2018. And while some might interpret the potion as my little substance experiment in the beginning of that year, it’s not what I mean. It was great to remember what it feels like to live a 100% in the present, but it was another kind of experiment, that turned everything around.
That’s right. I decided to start anew and let go of anything I’ve been working on – in some cases for years.
But I also made the decision to not stuff my life with new goals again. And this turned out to be the best decision I made since I ‘kidnapped’ my boyfriend in Spain four years ago.
No goals. What happens next?
Of course I wanted to get things done and grow as a person. In the past years I would have tried this by setting goals and slicing those into sub-goals and then todo-lists. Usually this didn’t work due to unexpected happenings in my life, btw.
Instead. I decided to set up systems to stay productive.
One of these systems I just published a book about.
And in order to navigate the flood of options that hits you at some point after you let go of a hyper-focus like a goal, I decided to create themes for my life.
But first, none of this has really manifested in my mind.
In fact, the first days of the year were really confusing: I caught myself not knowing what to do. I hadn’t had that for years. There was always something to do. In fact, I had turned into a workaholic and had a really hard time shutting down over the weekends – much to the discontent of my boyfriend, Augusto.
So here I was, sitting in front of my laptop, staring at an open Google tab.
I had no idea what to do. It felt liberating, scary and horrible at the same time. And so I got up and started looking around our room.
And then I spotted the water colour paper.
The past years I had painted once a year. I was usually quite content with the outcome and other people tended to like what I painted. I still have people marvelling over my ‘High on Walz’ portrait of Vienna from two years ago when I wear it on my chest.
The big issue was always the process to get started. I had to empty the desk, get all the materials out and – since I wanted to document the process with a timelapse – I had to set up my DSLR. That didn’t even include the process of loading all the stills onto the computer and turning it into a timelapse that needed to render for at least an hour. By the time everything was ready I hardly felt like painting anymore.
And so I used the task void I was floating in to set up my first system: A little table that would always be ready for painting. Instead of the DSLR, I fixed a selfiestick (that I never really used anyway, since putting About Wings on ice) above it and downloaded a timelapse app onto my phone, which would turn the hours of tedious rendering into a matter of seconds (the loss of quality was so minimal it was worth it to me).
And so I started painting. I might be a little off with my calculations, since I gave plenty of my paintings away as presents or postcards, but:
In 2018 I created 16 paintings and about 25 sketches.
And every single time I felt great doing it.
After the initial overwhelm of void, I started experiencing the overwhelm of options and opportunities, that his you right in the face, once you aren’t distracted by goals anymore. I didn’t have my themes worded and written down up until later in the year – which made the next big change – but it was helpful to have some priorities in line.
In order to find income sources that wouldn’t make me miserable I created a list of ideas. We had moved a couple of blocks next to the second biggest opera stage of Vienna the year before. And since my best friend has tried to get me into the extras of the biggest one for years – unsuccessfully, cause my goals had priority – I figured it was time to try this.
After an email, a casting and a month of rehearsals I found myself acting in front of 1500 people on a professional stage regularly. And I still do.
Some of the parts I play aren’t very exciting, but the dynamics of such a big theatre still get me really excited and I like switching characters as often as I get to do it at Volksoper. One thing’s for sure: It’s not a job that gets boring any time soon.
In fact: Calling it a job still feels weird. It feels like play. And I get to explore myself from very different perspectives. Other people don’t get paid, but pay to do this kind of stuff!
In the Spring I started the education to become certified NLP practitioner.
Think of it what you want. In my opinion some things work, some don’t and I always saw it as something where I’d pick what I needed and what made sense for me to make use of it.
I had an interest for the human mind for a long time and had my first contact with NLP when I was a kid. So when this option came along I decided to go for it.
Originally my interest for the field grew especially out of the marketing field I was in the years before. When you understand the human mind, it’s easier to sell to it.
Ironically, I’ve always had an issue with marketing:
Essentially you manipulate people into doing what they don’t want to do.
This never fit into my ethics catalogue, but I was fairly good at it and it did go well with my growing interest for how our brains and minds work.
It was due to this NLP education that I stumbled upon life coaching.
I figured, people like me – Multipotentialites, people with ‘too’ many interests and talents – might feel as lost as I had over the years. We live in a society that tells you you have to specialise in order to become successful. This can lead to frustration and depression.
In the beginning of the year I had the chance to talk to a life coach myself – we traded logo against coaching sessions. That was the first time I thought: “This is something I might be good at myself!”
directly followed by
“But who am I to tell other people how to live their life?”
So I stuffed the idea into my mental drawer that says ‘Maybe later’ and moved on.
Months later and unknowing friend sent me the link to a webinar about life coaching and told me I simply HAD to do this. This was so me and I’d be amazing at it.
So I took the ‘hint of the universe’. While the webinar was quite bad, I read three books about the topic in no time.
And so the time came when I went to Facebook and posted an offer into a group of Multipotentialites:
I offered a two hour session for five people. For free.
Little did I know the next day I’d find the comment section of my post flooded with interested people. So I quickly removed the five people rule and just offered two hours to anyone who needed it. Life coaching is a long term game for most people, so I thought, if people liked it, they’d come back for money. Also, this was the perfect chance to test my skills and collect feedback.
Not only have I found the first people who wanted to pay me for my service. But I (re-)found out how happy it made me to help others.
When I turn of the webcam after a coaching session I don’t know what to do with all that positive energy.
And judging by the feedback people gave me, I was not the only one feeling empowered by it!
I effectively turned my interest for the human mind from:
Manipulate people to do things they don’t want to do.
Help people do the things they do want to do.
This also made me understand that marketing is for losers. The most efficient way to sell – be it for money or other, be it selling the concept of you, a service or a product – is to be helpful and personal to people. Not for the sake of selling. But for the sake of making their life a little better.
If you offer the right thing and manage to stay present on people’s minds, they will come and they will recommend you when the right time has come. And the best way to stay in people’s minds is by getting to know them as well as possible and helping them with their things without expecting something in return.
Big lesson there. Everybody wins.
Besides the painting desk, I mentioned above I’ve also implemented several systems over the year. Some fell apart again and where replaced by new ones, others ave remained stabile and have done a great job helping me manage my days and staying productive.
One concept I worked with was the Chaos Routine. It’s a way of maintaining habits in an unpredictable schedule like mine. I’m not gonna go into depth about this one, because I’ve written an entire book about it, which you’ll get much more value out of than a mere blog post. And it doesn’t cost more than a coffee. The book was written, using the very technique it’s talking about.
Other examples include:
That’t just what popped into my head. The number one system I found was asking myself every day:
That’s a biggie I’ve found in 2018. Aiming to be happy is a never-ending struggle that has great potential to make you very unhappy.
Happiness is a very fleeting feeling. An unusually big amount of dopamine kicks into your system. You feel like you’re on Cloud Nine. Then your brain starts producing serotonin to bring balance to your extreme spike in mood. That’s the moment you think: “I should feel more happy still! Why is this fading?!” – it’s also a good explanation why I think the goal-mindset is not sustainable.
So, if happiness is so temporary, what could we aim for instead?
My personal answer to this goes hand in hand with switching from goal-thinking to theme- and system-thinking:
While happiness is something you have to aim for to begin with, contentment is a state of mind. It can always be there. Even if you feel sad. Even if you have a moment of anger. Even if you have a moment of happiness.
I’ve changed a lot on a mental level. I’ve already talked about this plenty above. so I will try to keep those points out of the equation in this list.
However, I do have to say that – due to my shift in thinking – I have accomplished so much more than within the last five years. And it feels amazing. So here we go, in no particular order:
? Became an actor at the second biggest opera stage of Vienna and was part of three different plays and 25 shows.
? I stopped drinking alcohol for the drunkenness. I hardly ever drink alcohol anymore. I tried getting drunk one time and realised that I don’t need this and that I can’t relate to people anymore who do this to their body several days a month, let alone week.
? Learned to dance freely without caring about other’s opinions (much better than alcohol!)
? Worked out on about 190 days.
? Meditated on about 200 days.
? Painted or sketched about 50 pictures.
? Successfully started a life coaching business, that’s not only making money but that gives me and the coachees lots of positive energy.
? Simplified & semi-automated the accounting process of my design business.
? Monetised my camper van for some time – but didn’t feel comfortable renting it out (It’s our home after all, even if we don’t live in it full time right now).
? Published 3 books in the public domain with my illustrations.
? Appeared in Wall Street Journal and a local Austrian newspaper.
? Confronted my biggest fear, my needle phobia – though not quite there yet.
?️ Became ‘Founding Father’ of Vienna’s Gay Men’s Chorus ‘Männersache’.
?♂️ Managed to bring my injured mother back from Ecuador within a week.
? Became more privacy aware: I only use Facebook for events and groups anymore and deleted all my data. I deleted my useless, time-eating LinkedIn account. I’ve replaced WhatsApp with Telegram, Chrome with Brave, and Google Search with DuckDuckGo. I’m still in the process of replacing all the Google services.
? Helped refugee photographer recover his deleted photography.
? Became certified NLP Practitioner.
? Published my new book ‘Chaos Routine – How to Maintain Habits in an Unpredictable Schedule’.
? Read 34 books.
As every year I want also want to set myself an overarching theme for 2019. In 2018 it was Now over Tomorrow. And I think that worked out really well. Not only have I lived by it, but it’s become such a paramount part of my life, that I’m sure it’ll stick with me.
So what’s my new overarching theme of 2019? As most years I’m still struggling with deciding on one. This time it feels even more complicated, since I work with several very fluid themes on a daily basis.
It took me a while to word this one. It’s my first annual theme that doesn’t have an antagonist. And I feel like it’s very important for this one. Originally I wanted to go for something like ‘Nature over Artificiality’. The problem with this one was, that I do believe in technology and some parts of modern medicine. I do believe some manmade, artificial things like AI and certain vaccinations can enhance our life and aren’t necessarily destructive for mother nature.
I’m not gonna lie to you. I have lived by this theme for a long time. Living in harmony with nature has always been important to me. Augusto and I have lived without producing more plastic waste than fits into a jar for two years now. My coaching business plants three trees for every paid session.
However, in the end of the year I noticed, that the majority of this mindset was focussed on helping nature, helping our planet. What I missed to a big extent was, that humans are nature too. We mistreat our bodies on a daily basis, feeding it with tons of sugar, sitting all day, working things that aren’t species-appropriate at all, and so on.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the radiators in our flat (in Winter), but last autumn I decided to try to wear as few layers outside as possible for as long as possible. While other people started running around with Winter jackets, I was still wearing only a T-Shirt. Also, I took cold showers. And I hate the cold. My point is, that now, that Winter has arrived, I feel much more cosy in my Winter jacket, because my body got the chance to adapt to the cold weather naturally.
With a few exceptions I haven’t used shampoo in over five years. Augusto for tree years. Instead, we comb our hair under the shower. It took my body about three months to return to it’s natural dose of grease production. The grease in your hair is there for a reason: It cleans it! Nowadays I was my hair only once every or every other week.
In 2018 I also started intermittent fasting: Every day I don’t eat for 14-16 hours and then eat whatever I want for eight to ten hours. Also, when I break my fast I try to eat as little carbs as possible, in order to keep my insulin level steady. Since I’ve implemented those changes, I have much more energy in the day.
Due to my needle phobia I lack many vaccinations. While I’m not 100% anti-vaccination, I have to tell you, that I’ve never had the flu in my life. I am generally very healthy and get sick from bacteria or viruses a maximum of once a year on average.
You can tell, I’ve already tried to go with these principles before. But I want to bring it to another extreme.
We decided to stop our focus on plastic (for several reasons that I’ll soon point out here) – though we will still measure how much plastic waste we produce.
Instead, we (Augusto usually joins my annual themes to an extent and makes it much easier this way ?) will ask ourselves with every decision we make:
We already know what we can buy without plastic and where. We will continue to have an eye on it, following this question.
However, this newish way of thinking will also impact our quality of food:
We want to eat more bitter and reduce sugar (a lot). That still sounds horrible to me. I love sweet, I don’t like bitter (mostly).
But supposedly, the more bitter you eat, the less you’ll crave sweet. So, with the experience I’ve made so far, I’ll let my body work it’s super powers for me.
We also want to get less food from supermarkets, and more from the foods and highly organic farming: Where the soil isn’t just fertilised by animal faeces but by mother nature. Most European soil is damaged to an extent that’ll bring you hardly any nutrition via fruit, leaves or roots anymore. Not to mention the US. Vitamins, minerals, salt, sugar, protein. All of this could be taken in with naturally grown food, without the need for supplements or processing it.
In the pursuit for this, we’ll go hiking in the woods much more often. The air there is a natural power-boost for the human immune system. Not to mention the most species-appropriate exercise: walking, running, climbing. Remember, we are coming from a very long line of hunter-gatherers.
But we also want to continue help rebuilding nature. So, “Symbiosis with Nature” keeps the balance there. In every choice we make: Is this as natural for my body as it can be? But also: Is this choice the best I can make to support the planet?
It will be tricky, but it will be a great experience and I’m sure it will be as life altering as the theme of 2018.
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