Reflections from 2021

By Kate Riley January 3, 2022

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you are feeling rested and ready to jump in (or ease in if you prefer) to this brand new year. I’ve packed up the last of Christmas and I’m also eager to share with you some space reveals in the coming weeks. That flip investment property we’ve been renovating is nearing completion!

I like to set intentions for a new year, but I think it’s worthwhile to take a look back on the previous year and summarize some of the lessons learned or practices that helped to better my life. 2021 was not as strange as 2020, but it had its challenges. I feel expanded and wiser as a result of my experiences and I’m grateful for the lessons from the past year.

As for 2022, I’m feeling hopeful. I believe this pandemic will come to a close and as it does we will all have a chance to redefine who we are and what we want from our lives. My focus is on creativity and productivity, new projects and growth, but not at the expense of a peaceful life.

I know this upcoming year includes some big transitions. We’re selling the family home in the summer and my daughter will leave for college in the fall, and I have about six months to prepare for those major changes. I know that will come with some heavy emotions but it also opens the door to a new chapter and a different home which I’m excited for.

As I was reflecting on 2021, these were a few of the principles that helped me grow, but also appreciate this season of my life and feel gratitude for exactly where I’m at.

Learn to release your attachment to things that no longer serve you.

Just because something worked for you in the past – a job, opportunity, relationship, or thought – if it’s not helping you get where you want to be, let it go. Thank whatever it is for how it helped you in your past and release it with love. This practice creates space for new opportunities, relationships, and thoughts that will serve you at your current and future stages of life. This is challenging because we want to cling to the familiar even when we sense it’s not good for us anymore. The unknown is uncomfortable, but if we can learn to sit with that discomfort and trust that better things await, our future selves will thank our present selves for having the courage to let go.

Trust your intuition over the opinion of others.

It’s wonderful to have coaches or mentors or spiritual teachers to turn to for insight or inspiration, but with any decision that impacts your life, let your intuition be your compass. There have been times that my brain dismissed what my intuition was telling me and it led me down the wrong path with people or opportunities. Your gut instinct is a far more accurate source for answers. Gather information and bounce your thoughts off trusted individuals, but the final decision should come from that inner knowing we all have.

Inside every challenge or conflict is hidden knowledge.

We don’t get stronger or smarter when life is easy, it’s only when we’re challenged that wisdom is waiting for us. Instead of complaining about the situation, start looking for a solution but also for the knowledge you’ll gain from the difficult experience.  Become an archaeologist in challenging times, and go digging for the golden lesson by asking, ‘what is this teaching me?’. Process the answer and store it as wisdom. When we shift our mindset and see challenges as lessons in disguise, we don’t resist them as much because we know even though they are painful or unpleasant, there will always be that knowledge we will gain as a result.

Joy exists only in the present moment.

There is no such thing as a future when you will feel more joy. You might physically feel more comfortable with a fancier car, bigger house, or high thread count sheets, but you won’t be more joyful. Joy exists only in the present moment. It’s found in simple pleasures of a good meal, a walk on a sunny day with the flowers in bloom, or a conversation with a good friend. Gratitude for the blessings of the moment, for what exists in your life that is good right now, that is the true source of joy.

The best form of self care is having a calm life.

For me, self care doesn’t come from products such as candles, serums, or chocolate. Those things are lovely but the way I take care of myself is by creating and living in a calm environment.

Create calm in your living space by surrounding yourself only with the things that have purpose or meaning. Create calm in your body but eating natural foods, staying hydrated and active, and getting plenty of rest. Create calm in your relationships by inviting into your circle only those that bring love and support to your life and keep the rest at arms length. I’ve learned that having strong boundaries around your time, energy, and money allows for greater peace in your life.

No matter how small, do something playful every day.

All of us have watched children play with no worries about the future or regrets about the past. They live in the moment and because they do you can see the happiness radiating from inside them. We adults can do that too. Whether it’s chasing your little one, or playing fetch with your pooch, or dancing in the kitchen while you cook dinner, the more playful moments we allow in our lives, the happier we feel. There is plenty of time to do the “adult” things. If you take a few moments to stop thinking about yesterday or tomorrow and just enjoy today in a simple and playful way, you’ll catch yourself smiling and likely find it’s the highlight of your day.


If you’re curious about my past reflections, here are the lessons I learned in 2020 and my takeaways from 2019.

What are you focused on this year? Do you have a word or a list of intentions or goals? Are there any big lessons you learned?


  1. I don’t read or comment on blogs as much as I used to – but I enjoyed this post. It felt, and I guess that’s the best way to express it. I kept looking for the right word, it just embodied feeling without being religious or forceful – it was relatable and caring. I thought about it again today cruising Hobby Lobby’s 90% off (haha) and thought, I need to go back, read again and leave a comment. Happy New Year, best wishes to you and your family!

  2. I sure love your writing, always have! This is all such good advice but I really needed the paragraph regarding playing more. You are right, it does become the highlight of the day. Here’s to more kitchen dancing! Happy ‘22, Kate!

  3. Great article! My friend and I started keeping a gratitude journal – it helps you see the joy in your life and find those playful moments that you talk about, making you happier in the long run.

  4. Thanks for taking time to compose and share these insights.
    ‘Trust your intuition’ resonates with me. Logic has let me down so many times. I used to tune out the little voice in my head, cuz ya know, that isn’t factual, logical, linear. But damn, intuition proved many times to have been the better choice (with hind sight). So over the last couple years, I have added The Little Voice to my decision making committee.

  5. I keep an annual jar of written notes of things that make me happy or grateful. Each New Tears Even I dump out the jar and read all the notes to reminds myself of how good my past year was.

  6. Absolutely agree with the calm life comment. We should all be careful about what we allow into our lives, be it people, movies, news articles or whatever. That’s why I like your blog – it’s interesting and informative, upbeat without being psychotically positive, and you share beautiful images.

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