2020 Review: Alignment

If you haven’t, you can check out my past annual reviews here: 2019

FYI — My annual reviews are from April to March.

Overall Reflection

Generally speaking, I wasn’t concerned at all about the COVID pandemic — catching the virus, job loss and economic downturn. I am fortunate that no one I know suffered from the outbreak and aftermath.

Health wise, I felt prepared as I’ve already been improving my health and boosting my immune system since 2019.

Even though I had no job and no income, I didn’t stress out about money. I was generally calm despite my circumstances. In fact, I was grateful about the opportunity the pandemic created for me — time and freedom to work on the things I wanted to do alone at home.

2020 felt like the beginning of my life’s work. I was ready to live life with purpose and meaning — finally feeling guided by an inner knowing and feeling of reassurance that I am on the right path.

My top 3 intentions for the year were:

  • Show up as myself
  • Create honest, soul-level work
  • Connect with people, make new friends

Because I’ve learned to let go of my “achiever” mindset (still a work in progress), I focus on intentions and projects instead of goals.

I love Jason Fried’s take on goals — that everything in life is ‘continuous progress’ to make better things. He is the founder and owner of Basecamp — a successful company trusted by millions.

Unlike the majority of the business world that incessantly focuses on goals and KPIs, he focuses only on one metric which I feel is a much better way to live and make the important decisions.

While I watched and felt the chaos ensue around the world, the panic, fear, frustration and frantic energy didn’t affect me personally. I was calm throughout the crisis (feeling zen) — It was almost like I was operating at different frequencies to everyone else.

My outlook and mindset was positive throughout the year, which is the reason why 2020 was the best year I’ve had to date.

Things To Celebrate

Meaningful Work

I finally overcame my fear of writing, which dramatically changed my personal, professional interests and the projects I want to do.

Writing is now a part of my work because it’s how I’m expressing myself in the world. Writing is allowing me to build the foundation I need to create a new personal brand and career for myself. It’s the start of a new chapter.

I’m getting better at trusting what flows out of me, and learning to become more confident about sharing my work.

Even though the pandemic took away the new job opportunity I had at the beginning of the year, it opened up space for me to develop and test new business ideas with support around me, as I was invited back into the Mentorship Program I pulled out of in 2019.

The business idea development work felt easier this time around because being in alignment meant I was able to make better decisions on what niche to go into, what to offer and what problems I want to help people solve.

Revamped PKM System

My Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) System is an important part of my work because I’m a knowledge worker living in the information age.

Because I always look for ways to improve my productivity, I have tried a bunch of note taking apps and productivity tools over the years, but was frustrated at how limiting they felt to me as I tried organising my notes and tasks in them.

The first version of my PKM system was Evernote, then I eventually switched to Bear as I was attracted to the beautiful and simple design. However, I continued to run into the same issues with the way I wanted to capture, organise and store my notes so they can easily be retrieved when I need them. None of the tools I tried matched how my brain works.

When I finally found Roam in March 2020, everything changed. The magic is in the “bi-directional linking” capability between notes, and it made perfect sense to me straight away. I loved the thinking behind the design. Roam allowed me to organise and store my notes the way I’ve always wanted to.

Discovering Roam lead me to Building A Second Brain (BASB) course by Tiago Forte which I happily invested in and took in April. I finally found answers to the nagging note taking, organising and productivity issues I’ve been trying to solve for years.

Since taking BASB, I revamped the foundations of my PKM system in Roam which has allowed me to:

  • capture, organise, distill and store the information I want to keep
  • easily allow my future self to find notes for reference when I need them
  • work better, faster and more efficiently

New Friends Around The World

As soon as I became aligned with myself, I wanted to expand my network, connect with people and make new friends. Because I wanted to surround myself with the right people.

Continuing to invest in my own education and actively participate in courses and programs allowed me to meet other like-minded people around the world. I started building relationships virtually through social media and zoom this year.

Personal Financial Review

Thanks to the pandemic and the fact that I don’t have a job this year, my circumstances made me more vigilant about managing my personal finances. It gave me the motivation I needed to kick start and develop the much needed habit of conducting financial reviews every 2 weeks.

Financial management has always been a weakness. It’s so easy for me to neglect because looking at numbers feels like a lot of work. I had a bad habit of avoiding business financial reviews in the past because it’s not something I’m good at.

I knew I needed to instill this important habit before I got back into business again, because I needed to develop my financial skills to make better decisions in business.

Proud to report that I’ve been able to consistently perform financial reviews this year.

Push Ups Habit

Knowing I needed to incorporate more movement in my day, and instead of continuing to make excuses, I decided to start doing push ups in late December. I told myself to just start with something small so it feels doable.

Doing something is always better than doing nothing, no matter how tiny it is. So I decided to do push ups for 1 minute — basically do them non stop until my arms give out.

Developing new habits require triggers to kick start them, so I decided to do push ups when blending my smoothie in the morning.

Instead of standing around in the kitchen waiting for my smoothie to blend, I press the button, walk to the living room and do my push ups. The smoothie takes around 1 minute to blend so it’s the perfect timeframe. When my smoothie is done, I’ve also done my push ups.

Proud of myself that I’ve been consistent for over 3 months now. It’s actually not as hard as I thought to maintain because I took the time to design this habit correctly.

Understanding My Design Mechanics & Energy

I discovered Human Design in late Feb (2 weeks before I turned 40), and I have been intrigued and fascinated with it since.

I have obsessed about discovering and understanding myself since 2015 because I felt like I didn’t know myself and couldn’t find my direction in life. I was lost for a long time.

Understanding my unique design confirmed everything I learned in my pursuit of personal growth and that I’m on the right track.

It’s super interesting and helpful to discover how I’m best designed to live, work and operate in the world so I can be successful.

The Human Design body of work is amazingly deep, rich, nuanced and accurate. But most of all, it makes complete sense to me.

When I started looking into it, it felt like one of those moments when the student is ready, the teacher shows up.

What I’ve learned in 5 weeks so far have already helped me navigate through 2 big life things that recently appeared out of the blue (job opportunity and ex-boyfriend), so I can use my decision making strategy to ensure they’re correct for me.

What I’m Grateful For

  • Time to work on projects I’ve been called to do
  • Connecting and meeting new friends around the world through the programs I took
  • Received financial support from the Australian government which slowed down the leak in my savings
  • Working at home in my preferred environment
  • My landlord/housemate temporarily lowering my rent to help with my finances
  • Starting to be recognised by people, and attracting prospective work opportunities to me

Things To Improve

Nutrition & Movement

I haven’t been as diligent about my nutrition and movement this year because  I ended up spending most of my time sitting in front of my iMac, working on all the projects I wanted to do.

I need to start eating cleaner again in 2021 and redo WildFit (the health program I took in 2018) that improved my energy levels and helped me drop some excess fat.

In the last month of the year, I’m finding myself more fatigued. It’s a sign that I need to up my nutrition and movement game.

Piano Practice & Music Skills

Music has been getting shafted to the side, even though I’ve been wanting to get back into music since 2018, after stepping away for 15 years.

My skills are nowhere near what they used to be in my late teens and early 20s, so getting my skills back feels like a huge mountain to climb.

Because I don’t have enough time to consistently dedicate to music yet, it’s been easier to make excuses for not practicing rather than facing disappointment at the fact that I can’t play as well as I used to.

I am still finding a way to reframe and reconcile this for myself, because I do want to continue to improve my music skills.

Publish More Consistently

Even though I started the year feeling called to write and publish, I ended up getting buried in all the business development work I needed to do in order to develop new business ideas, from the pressure of finding a way to generate income.

The frequency of my newsletter dropped from once per week to once per month, and I haven’t been able to write as many articles as I wanted to.

Main Lessons Learned

Be Aware of ‘Monkey Mind’

monkey looking at mirror

As much as I’d like to believe that I have learned to trust myself and listen to my body and my intuition in the past 2 years… I realised that this year, I am still listening to my mind. This became clear to me when I look back at how I’ve made decisions that didn’t end up serving me this year. Oh the joys and beauty of hindsight.

For the second half of 2020, I was pushing myself to generate income — forcing a result because my mind is brilliant at alerting me that I am depleting my savings. I invested in tools and programs I shouldn’t have in order to push myself in an effort to launch business ideas into the world.

I realised I was reacting out of the need to survive and the need to prove myself. My mind justified all the things I thought I should do because it wants to be in control — which all stems from expectations. My expectations of myself and what is expected of me.

I am noticing how powerful the mind can be. It will always try to rationalise our decisions because of our unconscious conditioning for survival.

I’ve seen how this has repeatedly played out in my life. I’ve always regretted the decisions I ended up justifying with my mind — there were a metric shit ton of them. Understanding the importance of “body awareness” through my own learning and experimentation since 2019, has helped me get closer to my true self and further away from conditioning.

The life lessons I’ve learned so far on my own were validated through my recent discovery of Human Design. It profoundly confirmed to me that the mind is not for making decisions — and that the correct decisions for you always come from the body.

Writing this annual review helped cement this learning for me even more. I’ll continue to pay attention and observe how my monkey mind tries to trick me into making decisions that doesn’t serve me.

The lesson is to continue to trust myself, trust my body, trust my intuition and trust my own timing in life.

Ambition Vs Ability

This lesson showed up repeatedly this year as I tried implementing new habits into my life. I decided to dive deeper into habit design in October in order to get better at implementing the habits I wanted more successfully.

Because I didn’t understand the science behind behaviour change, most of the habits I tried developing were done by brute force. So my results were haphazard — some habits stuck and some didn’t.

At the end of the day, will power is not sustainable because the habits I’ve been able to integrate into my life before this year had a lot of effort (motivation, focus and dedication) behind them. I wanted an easier way to integrate the changes I desired in my life for the long run.

Working on my habits this year made me aware of the Ambition Vs Ability Gap. Because I have high ambitions to achieve my goals, I always set my goals too many levels above my current ability to do them, so I end up failing and feeling discouraged. It was counterproductive, because it used to lead to a string of negative self talk which caused me to give up until I’m ready to try again.

I would’ve had a better chance at sustaining my writing habit, if I started writing 100 words per day in July and worked my way up, instead of trying to write 1,000 words per day.

Learning from my failure in August, I changed my approach to implementing new habits. This year, I was reminded again of the importance of mindful breathing and wanted to add it to my morning routine.

I decided to breathe for just 2 minutes every morning before I start working. It’s tiny and easy enough for me to not skip it. Since starting the habit in October, seeing my success in sustaining it, I applied the same approach to adding in push ups in my day in December.

Life Works Itself Out

When I don’t listen to my monkey mind that’s pushing me to do something or forcing me to make something happen… I noticed that life kinda just works itself out.

I’m learning that life happens whether or not we try to control it. Life somehow has a way to provide what we need. It’s teaching me that I’m not here to just survive… and that there is no need to push, chase, force and hustle, if I keep trusting myself and my own timing.

This year, I learned that people and opportunities show up in my life when I need them. They also showed up to help me see myself better.

Experiencing life this way and seeing some of its magic unfold before my eyes is allowing me to trust myself more and more.

Correct Use of My Energy

Because the COVID pandemic created my perfect work environment, opened up space to work on projects that are important to me, as well as allowing me to create and develop a business again…

I ended up overworking this year while still in the process of healing my body. I realised I was being counterproductive by pushing myself too hard to complete projects, participate in the Mentorship Program and develop a business.

I didn’t understand how my aura and energy worked until I discovered Human Design 5 weeks ago. Learning about my design was profound. It helped me understand exactly how I’m wired and why the way I’ve operated in life hasn’t worked for me.

It took the weight off my shoulders and allowed me to accept myself even more, because all my life I’ve been trying to be something I’m not, and forced myself to work in ways that’s unhealthy for me.

I’m a Projector (Advisor) — a non-energy type, my aura is absorbing and focused. I’m designed to work by myself and in partnership with 1 person at a time.

It explained why using my energy incorrectly, doing what I was told and conditioned to do, spending my life working in jobs and environments not suitable for me has burned me out. I became completely exhausted, drained and ended up battling adrenal fatigue at 36.

Overcommitting and overworking has been a theme in my life that I am now learning to correct through better understanding of my design mechanics. So I’m better equipped to approach my work the right way and take better care of myself.

Recap 2020 Intentions

Build a personal brand website

Done — I built everything from scratch in April and launched my website on 1st May. In case you’re interested, I wrote a case study on my website project execution process.

Start a newsletter

Done — Got my very first subscriber on 21st April, and sent my first newsletter on 19th May. I wanted to keep people posted on what I’m creating, share my lessons learned in my pursuit of finding myself, and finding purpose and meaning in my work.

Start writing

Done — I launched a new blog section on my website on 3rd July with 2 long form articles. Now that I have a website, I have a place to house my work and start writing more.

Write 1,000 words a day

Failed — I started the writing habit on 1st July and quickly started to struggle.

I was only able to keep up with the writing streak for 24 days. My ambitions were too high for my ability (reality).

I had only just become comfortable with the idea of writing and publishing my work in March, and 3 months later, I stupidly decided to set this ridiculous goal for myself because I was inspired by other people’s writing habits and wanted to do the same.

I basically set myself up to fail, because I was not being realistic with myself and haven’t yet learned how to design habits properly at the time.

Develop new business aligned with me

In progress — I spent the 2nd half of 2020 developing and testing new business ideas to figure out what the market needs, who I want to serve, what problems I want to solve and whether the product/market fit feels right to me.

I managed to create an offer that I felt good about delivering in December, but still don’t have clients yet because I didn’t promote it much.

The business model development, market research, audience profiling and messaging development work takes time to develop and refine. It’s an ongoing process.

Create great experiences

In progress — How people come into my world is important to me. Unless they meet me in person or know me personally, most people come across me on the interwebs. Which means it’s a given that their experience with me starts on my website.

I believe in delivering a consistent and quality experience with people that cross paths with me — whether they find out about me online or meet me in person. So having disparities between my personal brand online and offline is a big no-no in my books.

Designing great experiences with any brand starts with authenticity, alignment and integrity. I’m all about marketing with integrity.

Relearn SEO

Nope — Never started going back down this traffic rabbit hole after deciding it was not a priority for me, and not a good use of my time and energy.

Continue refining PKM system

Done and in progress — An overhaul of my PKM system was finally in the works in April when I took BASB. Refining and streamlining my system and improving my workflows is something I will continually work on.

New Intentions For 2021

  • Publish 24 educational articles on my website
  • Grow email subscribers (aiming for 300 quality people)
  • Develop relationship management / follow up system and grow my network (advocates)
  • Study Human Design
  • Continue to refine audience, messaging and develop new offers
  • Complete WildFit again to improve health and energy
  • Incorporate leg workouts into my day (more movement)
  • Practice & play piano twice per week

I’m aiming for a balanced year to start my 40s on solid foundations. That means a healthy body & mind (no more burn outs, minimise aches and pains and improved energy levels) so I’m properly supported to do the variety of work I want to do.

  I’m Jen Kuo — A business and brand strategist, coach, consultant, designer, writer, aspiring music producer and personal growth enthusiast.

But really, I’m a multi-passionate creator.

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