2021 Review: Realignment & Grounding

Note: March is my birthday month — when I finish my year and start a new lap around the sun. That makes my year April to March (not Jan to Dec).

I typically conduct and publish my Annual Reviews in April each year, which can be found here: 2021, 2020, 2019.

Overall Reflection

2021 was the year of realignment.

The unknowns of what life was going to look like with the continuation of the pandemic, multiple lockdowns and restrictions presented the perfect opportunity to further ground myself.

I finally learned to really slow down after finding myself recovering from yet another burn out early in the year, realising that the marketing work I thought I wanted to do was not my path.

This was the year I stopped being a “bulldozer”.

I stopped getting caught up in the hustle energy; that insidious conditioning of our society and culture, and its never-ending drive for “more, bigger, faster”.

I had finally let go of the toxic achievement mindset that has overshadowed my life, as I recorrected my old habits of mowing down goals with intensity.

As I asked myself “Who am I becoming?”, the lesson from The Tortoise and the Hare kept appearing in the corners of my mind…

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

After watching Kung Fu Panda (1, 2 & 3), it became clear to me that a version of Master Oogway is something I aspire to become, so I decided to adopt the tortoise 🐢 as my spirit animal.

The catalyst that changed the game for me, and helped me do the work I needed to do to realign myself was learning about my human design as an Advisor. Human Design deepened my understanding of how I’m designed to best operate as a human being in this noisy, materialistic world.

It’s the best body of work I’ve ever come across that gave me the knowledge I needed to really understand why I am the way I am, why I’ve done what I’ve done and what I can do to move through life with more ease, flow and abundance.

Because I was blown away by the accuracy, depth and nuances that no other personality assessment tools were able to provide me, I decided to study BG5 so I can integrate this work into what I do for clients in the future.

As a result of being patient with myself, a new business and career direction I’m excited about has emerged.

Highlight of 2021

My self worth is no longer dependent on my achievements.

I noticed that I don’t have anymore negative chatter in my head, and I’m not particularly worried or stressed about anything.

My mind is at the quietest it’s ever been, and nothing is over-consuming my mental space. I’ve finally began to experience a sense of inner peace I’ve never experienced before and it feels amazing.

I feel great just “being” me.

Things To Celebrate

Optimal Mental & Emotional States

woman in black tank top sitting on brown wooden dock during daytime

This is the domain I am most proud of. How I think, feel and relate to myself and others is at the healthiest it’s ever been.

It’s unreal to see how far I’ve come, and witness how much I’ve changed as a person from the time I struggled with the idea of taking my own life in 2016.

The mental and emotional tools were core life skills I recognised I needed the most that I didn’t have in order to live a quality, happy and fulfilling life. I realised how I thought and how I felt about my experiences governed every domain of my life — physical health, relationships/love, business/career, finances, family, social, hobbies/adventure.

I’ve come to realise the power of these 2 interconnected Archimedes levers. Honing these 2 core skills makes everything else in life better, while lacking these 2 core skills makes everything else in life worse.

It wasn’t until I went through the pain of watching my entire life fall apart right in front of my eyes that I’ve come to recognise the importance of doing this work. From the first ‘wake up call’ in 2015 and a new understanding that emerged as a result of deciding to go on a personal transformation journey, this work has remained high on my priorities.

As I spent the year navigating the unknowns and uncertainty of what the pandemic brought to the world while “figuring out what to do with my life”, I was able to approach this somewhat heavy challenge with a sense of lightness and joy because of my much improved mental and emotional capacity to deal with stress, frustrations and demoralising emotions.

I now have a sense of stability within myself that allowed me to stay calm and entered even though it looks like I’m still stuck in long transition periods of ‘nothing seems to be happening’ (from the outside) because I don’t have my business and career completely figured out yet.

Piano Skills is Back!

In the beginning of the year, I committed to practicing the piano twice per week. Then something interesting happened 11 weeks into this new commitment…

1. I found myself spending 90min per session.

From the time I sat down at my keyboard, to when I caught a glimpse of the clock… I found myself saying “Whaaaat? It’s been 90mins already?!”

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun!

2. I found myself performing better in other domains in life.

Playing the piano does multiple things for me:

  • It helps me process my emotions
  • I feel the most connected to myself (I feel free to be me)
  • I enjoy the challenge of figuring out songs, learning new pieces and improving my skills

Music contributes a lot to my mental, emotional and spiritual states.

After deciding to incorporate music back into my life, and discovering these 2 important things, I increased practice sessions to 3 times per week so I can do more of what I enjoy consistently.

Other magical, delightful things also happened on the music front…

1. Lyrical ideas came to me for the first time ever (ideas that I don’t hate or think it’s stupid).

This was huge for me because of my lifelong struggle with words.

I thought I could only write music, and that was it. What I’ve always thought was impossible is now a possibility. Now I feel like it’s finally possible to write songs on my own without needing a lyricist to write the words.

2. I didn’t need to learn new songs from sheet music

I can better play from memory now instead of relying on reading sheet music like I’ve always done in the past.

3. I felt noticeably different — playing felt easier and more effortless

Compared to my teenage/early 20s self, more difficult, technical pieces felt easier to learn and more effortless to play now. The improvement in both practice and performance feels wild to me because I’m only spending a fraction of the time on the piano as I used to.

The changes I’ve seen is definitely attributed to my personal growth. My body feels more relaxed, I’m less self conscious, I trust my fingers more because I’ve learned to let go of self criticism, judgement and perfectionism.

Most importantly, I’m doing it for the love and enjoyment, rather than for achievement or to prove myself.

New Business/Career Direction

person holding black and green compass pointing to west

For years, I wanted a business/career that I can see myself doing for at least a decade or two because the idea of doing the work lights me up. I feel like I’ve finally arrived at that point after decades of searching, trying different things and going down the wrong paths…

I started the year promoting myself as a marketing consultant until I realised how much I was fighting with it internally. Then, the idea of moving into branding work felt closer, but still not quite ‘it’.

It wasn’t until I checked myself, slowed down, and created space that the new direction began to emerge.

While I actively waited, exciting things started to happened that I feel is worth celebrating…

As I built my network and engaged in 1:1 conversations, people transform themselves into a prospect in front of my eyes and ask me if I’d be interested in working with them.

I never go into a conversation with the intention to sell nor to blatantly promote myself. So when people express their interest to work with me out of the blue, it’s a pleasant surprise I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate because I do not expect it.

This way of attracting clients is completely new and refreshing to me. It’s so much more enjoyable compared to when I hustled, listened to “business gurus” and grew my business the traditional way with direct mail, outreach, sales calls etc… which NEVER felt good to me.

I realised that the fastest way to deplete my energy and continue to meet resistance is to go against myself and how I want to show up in the world.

I’m so glad I don’t do any of the big pile of hustle shit anymore that the business world tells you to do.

What I’ve come to know for certain is that the more I’m in alignment with myself, the more of the right clients and people show up.

This new phenomenon happened to me 3 times this year.

What’s really interesting is that they were all able to sense what I’m naturally good at before I was even able to articulate it to them or to myself.

In a weird and wonderful way, they helped me see my strengths and remember my superpower, which actually helped me get a better sense of the direction I feel pulled towards.

Their requests centered around asking for help with strategy, clarity and structure — which turned out to be what I enjoy helping people with the most:

I enjoy guiding people out of the weeds of their disorganisation and bring order to their chaos, so they can perform better and be productive.

Who knew that turning my back against archaic, traditional business advice and actually listening to myself would make such a dramatic difference to the way I’m approaching business building and the way I’m experiencing life? 🙂

Better Rest & Recovery

As I’ve come to a deeper understanding about how my energy works, I got more serious about prioritising my recovery and sleep.

After I let go of my achievement mindset, I stopped pushing myself to work when I don’t feel well, and allowed my body to rest when it needed to. I don’t feel bad, feel guilty or feel lazy anymore when I take the time to take care of myself.

I also got better at taking entire days off periodically, spending more time with my family, doing more fun and enjoyable activities, and completely switch off from work and business.

A Better Body (No Weight/Size Gain)

person standing on white digital bathroom scale

Every year without fail, for as long as I can remember, I gain at least 3kg in winter from eating more and being less active. This meant I’d try to lose weight in summer, every damn year.

My old behaviour was no different to anyone who yoyo-diets every year trying to lose the same fat they put on after they “fall off the wagon”.

The extra weight I’d gain every year didn’t just show up on the scales. My clothes and pants would become tighter as my body ballooned in winter. There were years I went up a size or two from not being able to fit into the clothes I had.

Here’s what’s interesting about what I noticed at the end of last winter…

Although I was eating more chocolate and junk food in the colder months, my clothes and pants didn’t feel tighter. Because I saw no change in my clothes that I usually expect, it piqued my curiosity to check my weight which I haven’t done for over a year up to that point.

Instead of seeing 58kg show up on the scale like I normally do, I saw 55kg with clothes on. What I saw was so bizarre to me that I weighed myself a few times to make sure the scale was accurate.

Looking back, the only major change I made to improve my physical health over the past 4 years was adopting better eating habits and putting better quality “fuel” into my body.

I learned to improve my nutrition, learned to cook and prep food, practiced mindful eating, and incorporated lemon water, celery juice, heavy metal detox smoothie and supplements into my life.

Better quality nutrition not only allowed my body to heal from lifelong chronic health issues, but my guess is that it also altered my biochemistry in some way which made my body more effective at getting rid of excess fat and bad stuff that I allowed in.

Seeing the incredible changes to my body over time inspires me to keep improving the quality of my life and work towards longevity.

What I’m Grateful For

  • 1:1 human design consulting session with Lucas and 1:1 career design overview with Tuck helped me recognise and accept qualities about myself that I’ve made myself wrong for in the past that I’ve never been able to articulate nor express
  • Enrolled in BG5 Foundation Course to gain a deeper understanding of the human design body of work
  • A friend took the trouble and set up a lunch for me and a friend of his to be introduced to each other
  • No one in my family got covid, everyone is healthy
  • I had no symptoms from any of the covid vaccines, my body reacted well and did a great job protecting me
  • My landlord/housemate reduced my rent to help me out with expenses
  • The things I used to love have all showed up and came back to me this year — music (playing piano), basketball (NBA), connection to Japan (friends and new connections with similar backgrounds)
  • Having a clean, organised, joyful physical and digital workspace
  • Getting invited to work for a mentor I have admired and respected from afar for over a decade. The asynchronous role not only helps pay for some expenses, but I am most excited about seeing things behind-the-scenes, forging deeper relationships and be around people I want to continue to learn from
  • Met 2 new people who appreciates my eclectic background/skillsets with the potential to lead to collaboration down the track

Things To Improve

Increase Physical Energy & Fitness

woman in blue sports bra and blue denim shorts standing on wooden dock during daytime

While the physical change I saw with my body was awesome… I became lazier with my nutrition this year, and was not as diligent nor mindful about my food choices.

As a result, my energy levels have gradually dipped over time. My energy is no where near the peak levels I experienced when I decided to transform my physical health in 2018 that lead me to lose 10kg.

For me, eating clean still requires a certain amount of mental bandwidth because these skills (positive habits) are not ingrained deep enough yet to become automatic.

Because I live with a housemate who doesn’t share the same values and goals in the domain of health, and the fact that I don’t have complete control of my environment. It’s more difficult to sustain healthy habits when you live in environments that doesn’t support your goals. Because I’m surrounded by fast food and junk food everyday, sometimes I get tempted by what I see — KFC, McDonalds, pizza, chips, popcorn, chocolate, ice cream etc.

In 2018, I invested in WildFit to transform my health. I’ve been feeling the need to do the program again to further improve my relationship with food and regain my energy.

On the movement front, while I’ve made a conscious effort to stretch my body between work sessions and meetings, I want to incorporate more movement, fitness and strength training activities into my week and work towards my goal of longevity.

Which means, I need to better design movement habits to build on and sustain, while preventing myself from falling off the wagon.

Practice Emotional Clarity

black card

Because I dedicate my time to meet new people and expand my network, I had an unpleasant experience with 2 people I met this year.

They showed up with ‘good intentions’ until I realised they were not the type of people I want to associate myself with. This is just a part of life.

In hindsight, I allowed myself to agree to something I wasn’t 100% comfortable with because I was forced to make a decision on the spot without given the time I needed.

Because the engagement felt off, it lead me to question what I agreed to. I was not surprised when this new relationship turned sour in the span of a few weeks, when they showed their true colours.

Two things lead to this unpleasant experience…

  1. I didn’t listen to my intuition. Something felt off from the beginning but I let that feeling slide and believed in people’s good intentions.
  2. I didn’t use my decision making strategy and entered into an agreement incorrectly. I didn’t wait for emotional clarity like I was supposed to, to decide if it was the right thing for me.

This experience proved why it’s critical to continue to listen to my intuition, follow my design and utilise my decision making strategy correctly.

I need to continue to put this into practice because I want to move through life with more ease and flow — making the right decisions without unnecessary friction down the road.

Avoid ‘People Fatigue’

woman lying on bed

As much as I enjoy meeting new and interesting people around the world, I’ve felt drained after meetings and events on a number of occasions throughout the year that made me realise I needed to adjust my “people time”.

Being an introvert, and an Advisor (non-energy type), spending too much time around people depletes my energy.

Experimenting with network building activities this year and learning through my experience… I need to be mindful about how much people time I have, and limit the time I dedicate to meetings, events and engaging in communities.

I need to create better rules and systems for the way I want build and maintain relationships in the long run.

Main Lessons Learned

Grace, Joy and Allowing

woman laughing on flower field

I continued to learn about the different ways my monkey mind pulled me off track, and created resistance in my life this year.

Lesson 1: Just because you know how to do something, doesn’t mean you should.

The reason why marketing consulting work felt off to me was because in 2020 my mind was focused on generating income. I participated in a business mentorship program at the time to start a new business. When it finished in 2021, I realised I got caught up in other people’s hustle mode because everyone was busy “doing the doing” building their businesses.

At the time, my mind justified that the shortest and fastest path to gain traction is to do what I’ve done. This was also exacerbated by my need (bad habit) to achieve. I’ve spent over a decade figuring things out in digital marketing, but I realised doing marketing work for others actually sapped my energy.

Why I ever thought that was a great idea, is proof just how powerfully convincing the monkey mind can be when it’s operating from conditioning.

It wasn’t until I recognised the errors of my ways and understood the cause behind my burn out, that I stopped myself from over thinking, trying to conjure up business ideas and allowed my mind to dictate which path I should take. I reminded myself to let go, slow down and allow ideas to emerge as I practiced the art of active waiting.

In the spirit of realignment, I also didn’t want money to influence how I made decisions in business, career and life, and to stop myself from making bad decisions like chasing after the wrong clients and doing the wrong jobs.

I also wanted to stop operating in survival mode, and the best way to do that is to let go of my need to make (chase) money.

I chose to watch my bank account deplete and saw my situation as an opportunity to really test my relationship with money to see if I will “freak out” and become irrational.

Instead, I focused my attention, time and energy (the resources that’s actually limited) to create space for a new direction to emerge.

Turns out, choosing to trust myself and trust that I will always get what I need in life gave me a new level of freedom and peace I wanted.

Not only do I now know that I’m not trapped and influenced by money (money usually comes with chains), I also know that my bank balance doesn’t affect my mental and emotional state nor my self image.

I learned that when you stop chasing after ‘the next thing’ (money, business idea, achievement) and stop operating in survival mode, the right people and opportunities show up.

Lesson 2: Only engage in experiences in alignment with who you are.

Because ‘relationship building’ is one of my core business and life activities, I spent the year testing and trying out different groups and networking events to build my network.

Early in the year, I committed to one community to see if it’s something I can see myself sustaining.

While I enjoyed interacting with likeminded people I met in that community and made friends I want to stay in touch with… I ended up staying longer than I should have because even though their system didn’t 100% resonate with me, my monkey mind justified all the reasons I should stay.

This meant I sat with resistance for months before I recognised the cause of the dissonance I felt with that community.

So I decided to let go of the need to be liked by my new friends, let go of that group in order to free up space to focus on building my network and the relationships I want to have in a way that aligns with me.

After learning these 2 big lessons this year, they’ve lead me to become more cognisant of what creates ease and flow in my life.

Moving forward, I’m approaching my goals and aspirations with the lens of “What if it was easy?”

I realised that I don’t have to make myself suffer to create the life I want. I want to continue to recalibrate my relationship with the material world and navigate it through the perspective of grace, joy and allowing.

Protect My Energy (Beware of Other’s Energies)

woman wearing floral dress standing on brown grassland

A few years back, my good friend Steve (healer and owner of Jade Healing) told me that I needed to learn to protect my energy from others. At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant because I had just started embarking on my journey of personal transformation — I was on the journey to become Jen.

It wasn’t until this year that I finally understood what he meant as I learned to hone the skills of self inquiry, self observation and self reflection over time. Human Design & BG5 further cemented what I’ve come to understand about myself.

I have a lot of open functions in my design, which means I take in energy from others “thinking” it’s my own when it really isn’t.

Because I’ve spent my entire life operating in the shadows and distractions of my design from conditioning, it has distorted how I saw the world which ultimately influenced how I made decisions.

One way this has shown up in my life is that I’ve bought more courses and programs than I care to admit ever since I began building my own business in 2010 because there’s so much about business I didn’t know that I had to figure out.

I even became an information junkie and was addicted to information and learning for years before coming to my senses.

I learned that the more I operate correctly as myself, the more I lean on my intuition/inner wisdom and the more I trust myself, the less I need from others.

I noticed an even greater shift in my relationship with information and the need to seek out coaches and guidance this year. Rather than relying on other people’s knowledge and opinions, I’ve come to rely on myself a lot more.

I’ve also become more ruthless about eliminating what’s not relevant to me and removing anything that doesn’t contribute to my priorities and goals. Which means I’ve become more protective of my attention, time and energy as my ability to filter out the noise/distraction from the signal continues to improve.

Discomfort & Imperfection is My Friend

brown dried leaves on sand

Giving presentations isn’t something I particularly enjoy because I feel awkward when speaking to groups. Speaking is a skill I’ve yet to hone. However, I had an opportunity to give a presentation this year, and decided to see it as a chance to practice being comfortable with discomfort.

Because I chopped and changed ideas the week before and struggled to land on a topic, I allowed the discomfort of the deadline to force me to create something on the day of the presentation.

As someone who prefers to plan and prepare, I left no time for any practice runs I needed.

The idea of doing a new presentation without any practice made me nervous, because the chance of stumbling my words all over the place, embarrassing myself and royally screw up in front of people was high.

To my surprise, my talk went much better than I thought it would, and I even received positive feedback from the audience.

One thing that saved my butt and made all the difference in my performance was that I remembered to remind myself that it’s ok to be imperfect right before crunch time. That helped calm my nerves.

Instead of focusing on how unprepared I was, I focused on being myself. I trusted the material I had and told myself to allow my energy to shine through. This prevented the nerves to hijack the presentation and helped me deliver my message.

I learned that by embracing discomfort and imperfection not only helped me perform in an activity I suck at, but doing so also boosted my confidence and self esteem.

Recap 2021 Goals

Publish 24 educational articles on my website

Not even close — My rebranding project (Website V3.0) became a priority instead of articles. I did write a lot, but none of the content are ready for publishing yet.

Grow email subscribers (aiming for 300 quality people)

Nope, too early — Wrong time, this one is moved later down the track after Website 3.0 is complete.

Develop relationship management system for growing my network

Done — designed a simple system to help me better keep track and stay in touch with people in my network.

Grow my network

Done — I met 76 new people this year that I’ve had 1:1 conversations with on zoom. I’ve developed a friendship with a number of them from recurring conversations who I want to continue to keep in touch with. Now that I’m slowly making my way back into the business community and kick started my new network, this activity will remain on my priorities for the next decade or two as I refine my network/relationship building skills.

Study BG5 (Human Design)

Done — so glad I enrolled in the BG5 Foundation Course.

Continue to refine audience, messaging and develop new offers

In progress — changing business/career direction means this is something I continuously work on.

Complete WildFit again to improve health and energy

Nope — I realised it required too much mental bandwidth, and I needed to prepare myself to follow through, so I moved this goal to the new year.

Incorporate leg workouts into my day (more movement)

In progress — Still inconsistent because it hasn’t become a habit yet, it still needs improving.

Practice & play piano twice per week

Done — upped the ante and enjoying practicing 3 times per week. This goal stays the same for next year because music makes such a huge difference for my happiness and health.

New Priorities For 2022

  • Develop shutdown/evening routine — stop eating by 8pm, read for 10mins, be in bed by 11pm
  • Visit Judy (my sister & the kids) every 1-2 months
  • Improve physical energy and overall health
    • Incorporate Wildfit again
    • Better design and incorporate lunges and squats 3 times per week
    • Walk 3 times per week
  • Create coaching & consulting offerings
  • Build my world online (Website V3.0)
    • Create MPPS, RBS, SPP and manifesto
  • Develop and practice 3 key skills:
    • Content Creation
      • Think through narrative arcs
      • Framing
      • Open loops
    • Writing & PKM
      • Complete Obsidian Flight School
      • Write/edit marketing assets an hour per day on week days
      • Stop editing when writing shitty first draft (self awareness)
    • Prioritisation & Decision Making
      • Ask MIQ at least once per week
      • Refine weekly reviews
      • Refine monthly review and planning
  • Continue to build network & deepen relationships with important people
    • 1:1 new people calls — 2 per week
    • 1:1 existing network calls — 2-3 per week
    • Create important people list
    • Revise important people list every quarter
  • Practice piano 3 days in a row per week, learn more challenging pieces

2022 is about establishing myself and planting my flag on the ground. I want to continue to develop systems and habits I can rely on to not only reach my goals, but to better support the lifestyle I want to live while enjoying the process of moving my business in a new direction with ease, fun and flow.

  I’m Jen Kuo — advisor, strategist, designer, writer and personal growth enthusiast 🌱

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

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