Expaters do you do a self life audit? Every year I take stock of where I’m at. However this year has been a little, ahem, unusual, right?
As I write this I’m having one of those frustrating, zero achievement days. The type of day where you just want to crawl back under your duvet (or depending on where you’re based, mosquito net) and start all over again.
Alongside my annual life audit, every night I write down things that make me happy, grateful and proud. Tonight my achievements will read ‘made a cup of tea; showered and dressed; researched article angles’. (The last one is code for read a magazine).
Pandemic and priorities
My excuse is, as it has been for the greater part of 2020, the pandemic. And no, I’m not experiencing any COVID symptoms, unless ‘generally can’t be bothered today’ is a cause for concern.
2020 has been a restless year for me, but on the whole I’ve been very lucky. It has been a challenging year, with two country moves and a lot of change, but I haven’t faced any of the tragedies that many of those close to me have.
Bombarded with New Year’s motivational quotes, it’s tempting to feel I’ve underachieved this year. Compared to others who have written a book, established a business, started a podcast… I’ve done… well what have I done?
This made me think back to some of my other expat experiences. On paper I didn’t always achieve a lot, but inside they were often the most formative experiences of my life.
Looking back to my time in Angola I often question why I didn’t use my time to write a book, get this blog going or create an online business. But life there was consumed with challenges of a different sort. There were practical challenges such as a lack of water, electricity and internet, and emotional challenges too. One mugging, a few robberies, one detention and a threat of sexual violence took their toll. But looking back, the way I dealt with these challenges was not the obstacle to my growth, it was my growth.
Growth isn’t always about hard facts and quantitative results. Sometimes the most life challenging experiences happen without you even realising. And here’s where a self life audit can come in rather handy…
My ongoing self life audit
As the time comes round for my self audit I feel grateful, and inspired to rejiggle my priorities. I’ve had a really hard think about where I’m at and where I’d like to be heading.
I’ve set clearer boundaries with my use of social media and my phone in general, and I’m feeling a lot better for it.
I’ve also set stricter timetables for my work. I work just a few hours per day, maximum. If you can call it that. In fact my limited work hours are more like paid relaxation. It’s time for me, just me. The rest of the time I’m doing the toughest job of all, motherhood. My god, who knew such little people could cause such big headaches (and heartache)?
I’m very aware how hard 2021 has hit my kids, and I’ve been doing the best I can to keep them happy. And that also means looking after myself, so I can look after them. I’m better at identifying when my parental pressure cooker has reached its limit and I need a moment to myself.
Fear of Disappointment
With self life audits and New Year resolutions comes the fear that I might not achieve my goals.
As I wrote in an article for Psychologies magazine (out soon), too often my fear of disappointment has gobbled up my ambition. I’ve felt disappointed when I don’t reach my targets, and the fear of failure has prevented me from attempting to better my life. But this year, darn it, I’ll be having a go.
Looking forward to 2021
I have lots more in store for this blog, including an initiative to help you wonderful Expaters link up among yourselves for whatever you need. I’ve also got a rather exciting writing project in the pipeline. I’ve enrolled in a course to deepen my understanding of psychology so as to help other expat women. And my biggest plan is to scrap my relocation to Ecuador and move to Uruguay instead.
Why is self auditing important?
I’m not saying all this to brag. I’m jotting this down here in the hope you’ll do the same, too. Chatting to some close Expater buddies, we all lamented that we hadn’t achieved anything this year, or indeed in our lives.
It’s too easy to see the trees blocking our path, and ignore the forest that’s grown despite the bad weather. It’s too easy to compare ourselves to false ideals on social media. The only people we should compare ourselves to is ourselves.
My 2020 audit
Comparing myself to last year I can see the changes. My blog is turning into its own small business, with its very own RewardStyle shop. I’ve taken part in some fun brand collaborations, spoken at female empowerment webinars, interviewed Expaters from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, and connected with inspirational expat women from all over the globe.
In my turbulent nomadic year, I’m even more proud to have home schooled my children. So preoccupied with not letting my kids fall behind, I failed to spot how far they’d already come. My eldest can now now read, write and ride a bike. But most importantly he’s become more mature, kinder and more empathic.
All in all I feel a lot more grateful, self aware and confident than I did last year.
What is a self audit?
I’m sorry if you feel this is all self reflective indulgence. I hope you see how a life audit can be useful.
You might prefer to jot down random emotions regularly, or take a more targeted look at your wheel of life on an annual basis (see below).
Whichever route you choose, recording where you’re at is not only a cathartic experience, it holds you to account without fear of reprisals, and allows you to see how far you’ve come. There is no single correct way to do a self life audit, just your way.
Tonight as I jot down my life audit, I’ll be reminding myself how far I’ve come emotionally and professionally. A life audit is not about self flagellation, but self care.
And I’ll be reminding myself of this everytime I drink tea while reading a magazine, unshowered, in my PJs.
Called the wheel of life among life coaches & psychotherapists, this wheel above is my own edited expat woman version. I use it for my self life audit, and generally just to think about where I’m at and where I’m heading. Here’s a printable version.