2014: The Year I Discovered What Matters Most

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Since launching this blog, I’ve written a post that recaps everything I’ve done and accomplished, at the end of each year. In 2011, it was 100% finance-related. In 2012, I divided my achievements into categories, and announced it was the year I had changed my life. And I kept those same categories in 2013, but deemed it the year of possibilities, instead.

Right from the start, this year took on a different tone. I’ll be honest and say I felt a little lost back then. Perhaps because debt repayment was no longer a top priority, and I’d never been a good saver, I wasn’t confident I’d be able to meet my savings goals. And I had some idea of what I wanted to accomplish, but no idea how I’d make any of it happen.

So, rather than set hard goals and deadlines, I decided to live by a mantra in 2014: do good, feel good. I wrote it on a note that sat in my wallet all year, as well as a piece of paper pinned to my cork board. Partway through the year, I scratched it out and changed it to: do better, feel better. And I think I’ve managed to live by those words…

I was good at my job. Rather than set unrealistic expectations of what I could accomplish and then work insane hours to prove I could, I created calendars for all the big projects I took on and set (mostly) reasonable deadlines to complete them. Setting realistic expectations and being able to meet my deadlines allowed me to work smarter, not harder, so I never felt too burned out. This year, I also built real breaks into my hours, didn’t work on weekends and even took a few short vacations. All of this made me a happier employee and a better editor.

I was good to my body, and I was good at listening to my body. There’s no denying this hasn’t been an easy year for me, physically. I hoped and prayed I would kick the residual pain from my car accident to the curb, but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. I still have trouble sleeping, I still can’t run, and I still need to ice my back and hip all the time. But I did get back into the gym, this year, and discovered a workout that allows me to break a good sweat and doesn’t hurt for too long after. Hopefully the MRI I got a couple weeks ago gives us some answers, so I can do better soon.

I was a good member of my family, and I was a good friend. Maybe it’s the warm fuzzies from the holidays talking, but I like to think I achieved this. I paid multiple visits home to Victoria, where I spent a lot of time with family and my friends there. Mom, Baby Bro, Baby Sis and I also went on a road trip to Edmonton this summer, when we moved him out for school. I got better about spending time building the friendships I’ve made with people in Greater Vancouver. And then I took every opportunity to Skype, text, write and send care packages to long-distance friends.

Finally, I did some good in my community. I volunteered with the YWCA’s high school mentorship program, donated blood for the first time and made charitable donations a priority (thanks to monthly contribution plans, I donated $700 in 2014). I’d planned to do more – and even started working on a special project with Sarah – but shifted focus this fall. I’ll try to pick that up and do better in 2015.

Aside from the mantra, I also set and crossed off a few goals this year:

  • boost my Emergency Fund to $10,000
  • contribute $5,000 to my RRSPs (will before the 2014 deadline)
  • travel wherever my budget allows (Cabarete, Tofino, Whistler, Edmonton, Columbus, Portland, New Orleans, Denver, New York, and Victoria and Toronto multiple times)
  • purchase a new bed, as well as a desk and chair (the desk and chair were gifted)
  • finish the Canadian Securities Course / pass the exam (extended to 2015)
  • start communicating offline more (thanks to our meet-ups this summer)
  • read 24 books (I deleted my Goodreads account, but I think I read 20)
  • incorporate yoga into my workouts (mostly restorative for chronic pain)
  • donate blood at least quarterly (anemic, can’t)
  • give back whenever, wherever, however possible

I accomplished most of what I set out to do – and that feels good. What I couldn’t have planned for back in January of this year, however, was my decision to embrace minimalism – or how you’d all respond to it. That post received more comments than any of the others published on this blog. And then the decluttering posts that followed received more shares than I could’ve imagined. It’s been nearly six months since I started this journey, and I’ve already removed 56% of my belongings (530 items) from my home… and there’s more that will go next year.

To go along with my plan to embrace minimalism, I also put myself on a yearlong shopping ban, which started  in July. The decision was so innocent, at first, but has changed my entire life and the way I think about so many things. I’ve figured out what triggers my desire to spend money, as well as some of the bad spending habits I’ve built up over many years, and have maneuvered my way around them. One slip helped me see what the toughest bad habit to kick would be, but I’m still confident (or just determined) I’ll stick to the rules for the full year.

Overall, this year, I discovered what matters most to me (being in good health, spending time with people, travelling and saving for my future) and what doesn’t (owning more, consuming more or needing the newest of anything). And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve learned how to live a good life with less “stuff”. My debt repayment journey taught me what matters most in life, and I promise you it can’t be found in a store. Since I’m only halfway through the shopping ban, I think there’s a lot more to explore and learn about myself in 2015… and that’s only the beginning of the challenges I have planned. But we can talk more about that next week.

First, tell me how you’re feeling about the end of 2014 being in sight. Was it a good year?