Takeaways from 2019

By Kate Riley January 1, 2020

Welcome to a new year! Are you a resolution maker? I’m really not. I don’t think making changes happens just by turning a calendar day, you can change your life at any time. But I do like to look back on the previous year and reflect on what I’ve learned!

In 2019, my personal growth game was strong. I faced some some stuff that I had been ignoring for a long time. I had some habits to address, self defeating beliefs, and my emotions were out of whack so I wanted to understand them better and gain control over them. Today I’m in such a better place and I’m really proud of myself for doing the work I did to know myself better.

Turning inward to face our truth is not an easy task. We live in a world where we can easily buffer our discomfort by numbing, distracting, or escaping, the temporary pleasures are everywhere. Buuuuuttt those nagging issues or habits you haven’t faced will keep coming up and spilling out into your life if you don’t address them and fix them. In 2019, I faced insecurities and fears, instituted new boundaries, learned to welcome discomfort, and doubled down on self care.

Where did all of this new wisdom come from? A lot of books I’ve been reading and podcasts I listen to. I became a student of personal and emotional wellness and soaked up a lot of knowledge. Here’s just a few personal takeaways from my experiences this year.

Carve Out Space for Yourself

I think every person needs a cozy corner to call their own, it’s an investment in your well being. Your mindset and mental wellness determine how you show up in the world. Having somewhere where you can read or listen to music or sit in stillness or just breathe is an investment in yourself because when you have a place to reflect and rejuvenate, it leads to greater peace. I truly believe that your mindset determines your day, so whatever your portal to serenity is, whether it’s meditation or prayer or breath work, that daily ritual should occur in a place that you set aside for you, and it can be anywhere in your home.

Do you always jump out of bed and immediately rush to meet the needs of others, or do you take time to recharge your physical and emotional batteries? The world and your family and your friends need you showing up as your very best self. Creating a space of one’s own and time to yourself will help you achieve that. You’re worth it!! Having my studio space helps me thrive and enjoy my life. It’s where I work and where I do my best thinking because it’s always quiet! I have great talks in this space, sometimes it’s just me, myself, and I having a staff meeting :) but I also love sharing my space with people I care about. There’s a lot of coffee and wine poured here. My space is cozy and simple with minimal decor and all the plants make it feel very zen and magical.

Healthy Boundaries = Better Life

We humans are the product of everything we ingest. The food we eat, the content we consume, and the people we hang out with. Healthy habits lead to a healthy life, that’s a concept known to most adults. I got better at the nutrition part, I started practicing intermittent fasting (off and on) and exercising control over when I ate gave me more mental clarity and better sleep. I spent a lot less time zoning out on TV shows and social media and more time listening to inspiring people in the arenas of wellness, business, and marketing. I’m learning new concepts every day and putting them into practice.

Most significantly, I learned to establish boundaries with people, they really are the key to healthy relationships. Time is the most precious commodity and we have limited hours on this planet. People who gossip or ghost, people who spread negativity or drama, no longer get my energy or attention. I’m better now at surrounding myself with the people that encourage me, inspire me, and give me peace. I choose to spend my time with the friends and family who see my value and show me their intentions are good. In return they get access to all of me, my affection, my attention, and my time. I learned how important it is to find the people that accept you for who you are and make you feel amazing when you’re in their presence. Those are your people. Why it’s necessary to distance yourself from those who reveal they are using you, and get closer to the people who feel like sunshine. You get to decide who you share your energy with, so make sure it’s with the ones who are lifting you up, cheering you on, and helping you move forward.

In Conflict, Allow Space

Every person that enters your life will teach you something. As you interact with other humans they will inspire you, challenge you, love you, or give you something to think about. And then there are those few you encounter that teach you how not to be.

I learned that when people are triggered and act out and take it out on you, it’s not personal, it’s something stirring inside of them that’s causing their behavior. A good way to handle this is to give them space and look at them through the lens of compassion. Someone’s bad behavior says everything about them and nothing about you and when you recognize it, you can choose to step aside and avoid engaging in conflict by creating space for that person to work through whatever it is they’re struggling with that’s causing them to act out in that manner. You don’t give that person permission to mistreat you, you simply see their actions as their personal struggle, big or small. Everyone is on their own journey, so opt out of their drama and seek to understand them.

To Experience Love, Welcome Pain

This was a huge lesson for me this year. I wrote about losing my closest friend to cancer and I spent a lot of time this year processing grief and reflecting on my relationship with her. She was the best friend I’d ever had. I’d never experienced real grief before and her death was devastating to me. But now looking back over a year later, I realize that if you want to feel real love you have to accept that at some point down the road that person you love could die. They could leave you. They could betray you. Or if you’re lucky, you could have fifty amazing years together. We just don’t know the future.

But if you live your life in fear of loss or betrayal or rejection, you never get to feel the deepest parts of love. You must be open to the possibility of pain. When we accept that loss or rejection or betrayal could be the ending and we still choose the possibility of pain at any moment, it’s then that we open ourselves to the opportunity for real love. If you give love and in return you’re betrayed by a friend or colleague, that’s really about them, your love was not wasted. If you’re rejected in love, or someone walks away from your relationship, that’s an invitation to choose (and love) yourself. If you lose someone in death, you still have the beauty of the love that you shared. I wouldn’t trade the days I had with my friend to avoid the pain I suffered, I’d choose it again. The grief was painful, but I see now how blessed I was to experience that friendship. Now I choose to love fearlessly, accepting I have no idea how it will end, because now I know just how good it can be.

Step Toward Fear

Welcome to the biggest challenge in adulthood, facing fear! Wow is this the hardest thing ever. I’ve struggled with this one a lot but since I hate the feeling I get from making a choice out of fear I’m making conscious choices to step out despite feeling afraid.

It takes bravery to be vulnerable and put oneself out there. I have to give myself pep talks to push myself forward into the arena, and even though it’s a little scary, I’m still determined to do it. When I look around at the people that inspire me I see that their uniqueness is their superpower and I have to remember that it’s mine too. The world needs me to show up as my best most creative self to make my contribution and that’s my plan for 2020.

Emotional bravery was another personal challenge but I figured out that instead of running away from negative emotions, it’s essential to turn toward them and let them flow. Whether it’s sadness or frustration or guilt or fear, I’m facing those emotions instead of suppressing them. With practice, it’s getting a lot easier. The best analogy I can think of is swimming in the ocean. When the wave (the negative emotion) is coming, before I would swim away and get pummeled by it, but now I know if I swim toward it, dive into it and get under it, the negative emotion loses much of its power because I allow it to flow through me. And it always passes, because it’s just an emotion.

We’ve all heard that phrase, no growth happens in your comfort zone. Repeated often because it’s true. Choosing to get comfortable with being uncomfortable is the key to personal growth. It can be done in baby steps, it doesn’t need to be major life altering thing each time. When we avoid discomfort we don’t learn the lessons we need to learn.

Discomfort is always hanging around in one of two forms, it’s either 1) the discomfort of moving in a new direction or 2) the discomfort of repeating old habits and listening to the old narratives that hold you back. Option #2 is a spin cycle that goes nowhere. My challenge to myself in 2020 is to do my best to choose option #1, the discomfort that moves me forward and this takes courage. But I’ll choose that instead of the nagging discomfort that comes from playing safe and small. Stepping toward fear is really hard, but it’s an important part of adulting, and it’s where the knowledge is. Will I rise to the challenge? I’ll get back to you next year. :)


I know this was heavier stuff that I dove into today, I don’t often get so personal but it felt right for me after I spent some time looking back on 2019.

I’ll be back to some great content starting next week, I have a new shelf project to share and some new fabric patterns too!

Much love to you my friends. Wishing you all a beautiful start to 2020!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing. A really great reminder of how we can step back and think about what we want to achieve in 2020. My word for 2019 was “focus” and I really tried to spend the year focusing on what made me happy, the goals I wanted to achieve (big or small) and the people in my life that are the most important to me.

    Looking ahead at the new year and I’m excited for what’s to come.

    • I can feel the excitement for 2020 in your comment and I love that you chose “focus” that’s a great word of the year!!

  2. Loved this entry! I check your blog every day. Thank you for the effort you put into it. I’ll bet your readers are resonating with the emotional parts of this entry, and I for one appreciate the occasional forays into the “real” stuff. After all, what is life if not one big cycle of yin/yang, up/down, etc.? Happy new year!

    • What a superb and thought provoking first blog read of 2020 in all sorts of ways.
      I particularly picked up on ‘the behaviour of other people’. as I am in a very difficult place with a close relative of mine.
      I’m in my 60’s but have heard through more than one reliable source that this particular relative firstly has been telling others that when (with the full permission of her husband) I personally cleaned their house from top to bottom, (their home was beyond filthy) without saying a word to anyone. I later hear that she is telling others that I stole some CD’s from their home. Which is a downright lie. Plus she is bad-mouthing’ my husband and me at many opportunities that she can get, both in her workplace and in her personal life.
      I have not challenged her about this but neither do I feel that I can be family friendly towards her either, yet I also feel that as a family these sort of problems should be dealt with in a sensible and understanding way.
      Life is full of so many challenges!

  3. Would you please share some of the books and podcasts that encouraged your growth last year?

    • Sure! Books: Ekhardt Tolle ‘A New Earth’ that’s a very eye opening book about discovering yourself separate from your ego, it has a lot of amazing insight. ‘Steering by Starlight’ by Martha Beck is so great for trusting your inner voice and intuition. Also ‘Loving What Is’ by Byron Katie helps you ask insightful questions in challenging times.
      Podcasts: Create the Love with Mark Groves (also his Instagram) is great for relationships. For encouragement, I’m listening to Brooke Castillo and The Life Coach School podcast. Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations is always good. I like Diary of a CEO (Steven Bartlett) and also his Instagram. For business and marketing, I like the Chase Jarvis Show and Amy Porterfield’s podcast too.

  4. I always race to your blog (and have been for almost 10 years!) but especially for these types of posts. Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability! I’ve told you before I lost the best friend I’ve ever had tragically six years ago and I still every year have to make sure I check-in with myself regarding that loss. The grief of losing her is still heavy at times, but the lessons I’ve learned about life and how I want to live it are the ultimate silver linings of her passing. There are times her death causes me to live in fear, and other times motivates me to live with fearlessness. I’m always trying to make sure the scale is tipped toward the latter. It is not always easy. I do agree that there is such a wealth of knowledge out there about overall wellness that I can’t wait to dive into in 2020. I wish you the best! ~Jill

    • beautiful Jill, and thank you so much. I’m a fan of your work! “Silver linings of her passing” made me smile. I feel the same about my friend.
      much love to you

  5. A great post for me to read today. I had 2 things I wanted to get to in 2019, and they got hijacked by other’s agendas. So I will start over and try again this year.

  6. I’m speechless… You are SO right in all this post! I wish you a good year, calm, serenity, and all you need. ☀️

  7. Beautiful, as always, Kate. Thank you for all the inspiration (in both decor and life). Happy new year!

  8. Thank you for these words of wisdom. You articulated what I’ve been thinking, especially about facing the negative emotions in our lives & getting through them. I’m a long-time reader, and I enjoy these AND your regular posts!

  9. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned. You write so eloquently. Much to ponder here. Thank you. <3

  10. I agree with what others have said. You have expressed it so eloquently and we can all take something away from it. Being aware of what we want to change/improve in our lives is really the first step. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Everything doesn’t always happen, but if we keep at it, slowly we can make positive changes in our lives. Thanks for the lovely, thought-provoking post.

  11. Hi Kate!
    I have been reading your journey for the last 8-9 years. I have enjoyed your writing and the effort you take into your projects. I have enjoyed your change of focus which now includes self discovery, taking the time to travel etc. While you are creating new designs and other fun things. Keep it coming…

  12. Oh wow, this is a fantastic end-of-year wrap up. Thank you for all of these helpful thoughts!!

  13. Precioso mensaje, cargado de sinceridad y valentía.

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