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With every year that passes I learn many lessons that move me forward, both personally and professionally. At the end of the year I take time to reflect, count my blessings, and assess what worked and what didn’t so I can make changes and improvements for the upcoming year.

2016 provided a good butt kicking!

It was definitely a wake-up call to a few things I was ignoring that could have caused a lot of pain had I not recognized them and decided to take action to change.

The biggest pain point for me was my work. I love teaching Pilates and helping people improve their quality of life through movement. There is nothing more rewarding than watching someone with low back pain walk into class after six months and say they can play on the floor with their kids again pain-free. Or helping someone who is afraid of going outside of their comfort zone to develop the confidence and strength needed to execute a challenging movement sequence with grace and ease.

But this love and satisfaction became overshadowed by the stress of teaching up to a couple dozen classes a week, managing a Pilates studio, and growing a business in a challenging economy. It began taking its toll on my health resulting in weight gain, poor sleep, fatigue, back and neck pain, cravings for junk food, distraction, lack of motivation and joy, feeling overwhelmed and lost, and many tears of frustration at it all.

How could I, a fitness instructor, who is supposed to be the epitome of good health, inspire and motivate others to take care of themselves when I wasn’t doing that for myself? I couldn’t.

So I decided to close my studio and change course. After eight years of hard work it was a very difficult choice to make but I knew it was the right one as soon as it was made. I didn’t plan to walk away from my business but needed some time to take care of myself first before embarking on a new path.

Here are the five biggest lessons I learned in 2016:

#1 Health = Wealth
My health and wellness is the most important thing in my life and that of my family. If I am not in good physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, I cannot effectively take care of my family or serve my clients to the level of care they deserve. Nor am I going to be happy and fulfilled in my own pursuits.

#2 You Can’t Be Everything to Everyone
I am one person. There is only so much energy and time I can give to my work, personal pursuits, and the people I care about. I had to determine what was most important (in other words, priorities) and set non-negotiable boundaries that would help me realize those priorities (like my health).

#3 Time Is Precious, Use It Wisely
Time is finite; once an hour passes by you never get it back. I need to use my time in a way that serves me well in achieving my goals. Once I determine what my priorities are and set boundaries, I now plan my time around what I need (and want) to do to make effective and productive use of that time. This doesn’t mean I spend all of my waking hours working. The time I schedule to relax and refresh is just as, if not more important, than my time allotted to work. It means that what I do in my leisure is thought out, serves a purpose, and is on my calendar as an appointment with myself.

#4 Change Is Good
It’s OK to change course when I see that something isn’t meeting my goals and expectations or life throws an unexpected wrench into my original plan. The world isn’t going to end and there is no such thing as failure, only an opportunity for learning and growth. Going in a new direction is not easy. It takes grit and the ability to go outside my comfort zone. And I might disappoint some people with my new direction. But it’s all good — I (and they) will survive, adjust, and thrive on!

#5 You Are More Than Your Title
Don’t let your work or title define you. I am much more than a Movement Coach or business owner, just like you are more than a Teacher, Web Administrator, File Clerk, Mom, Wife or whatever title you might use to currently label yourself.  What I do does not define who I am. Neither does the label other people may assign to me. It’s easy to get lost in a title and forget that I am a strong, outgoing, ambitious woman who has an amazing vision of what I want to accomplish, where I want to go, and what I want to feel and experience. The key is honouring and building my life around who I am, not what I do.

I will be keeping these lessons in mind as I plan my goals for the upcoming year. What major lessons did you learn in 2016? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.