2015 / 23 December

2015: A steep learning curve for someone with no self awareness

I started 2015 on a mission. I thought I had finally found where I was meant to be. I genuinely thought I was contributing something of value to places and people who were trying to change the world around them. What I didn’t realise was that I was working my way deeper into the belly of the most toxic work environment I’ve ever been part of.

For me, it’s difficult to recognise that until after the fact. But the negative effect such an environment has extends far beyond the workplace. It’s insidious and permeates through every facet of your life. Couple that slow decline with other life events — the deaths of friends, the near deaths of others — and the lowest point of the year was probably the lowest I’ve been in years.

Those that helped me through it are not aware of the effect they had. While I’ve thanked them in many ways, calling out thanks during that particular period doesn’t sit right with me. The reason being, these people were just doing what they do every day and it’s those interactions that I enjoy. It made me realise what I value and who I want to spend my time with. Placing particular emphasis on that time may shift the dynamic, which is something I want to avoid.

If you’re anything like me, and want to leave some kind of legacy behind then these negative events, or little moments of truth, serve as a reminder that time is always more limited than you think, so you should spend it wisely. Previously, while I was aware of this fact, I wasn’t armed with the tools to act. A lack of self awareness makes it difficult to process information about your context and act in the way you believe is best. The strange irony here is that professionally, I pride myself on my ability to process, order and act on information quickly and intelligently.

The sudden need for self awareness was the positive side of such a negative series of events. Self reflection has never been something I was good at — in fact, I’m intensely stupid and stubborn about so much. So I set about trying to change that. I’ve documented that process in other blogs, but I bring it up only to say that by running myself through a crash course in self reflection, I’m suddenly much happier about my place in the world.

This shift has again permeated into other areas of my life — I find meaning in my work, the people in my life add value in their own little ways, I’ve started up some hobbies again and there are a small team of us working on something that I genuinely believe will benefit many Australians (and if I do my job correctly, many people around the world). I am finally excited about what’s to come next.

There are still many things I need to learn. I need to learn patience, because the expectations I place on my own time are not in line with reality. I need to learn to let my guard down, because quite simply, I very rarely do. I have learned that the lens through which I view the world is never the same as someone else but not yet how to deal with those differences. I need to learn that these changes won’t happen immediately.

I believe that the final part of 2015 armed me with the understanding of what is needed to create a happy, meaningful existence for myself — even just as concepts. But if you view these concepts as the ingredients, then it’s now just a matter of tweaking the recipe. And I’m pretty confident that 2016 will turn out to be delicious.

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