My end of year message to students and staff (2023 edition)

I set out this year to be a lone wolf. Instead, I found being in the pack was much more rewarding. My end of year message to blog readers. Happy Holidays Everyone!

The year is winding up (err derr Gareth, thanks for the update). What kind of headspace are you in?

My head is in the behaviour change space, as I work with a colleague to put together some great content for allied health students next year.

Although I won’t be taking the foot off the accelerator much this holiday season, I still like to use this time of the year for reflection. At the heart of this reflection is my 2023 learning journal, which I put the final touches on yesterday. A lazy 33190 words. Honestly, that is a bit over the top, but that is a story for another day.

Psychologists (like me) are required to a) engage in ongoing professional development and b) keep a track of those learning experiences. In the last few years, I’ve tried to learn more into that process and use journalling to enhance my personal and professional development.

Reviewing the entries I’ve made over the year revealed a few interesting themes:

First, I noticed that projects that had people attached progressed more during the year than my solitary projects.

Second, I noticed how many insights I gained about my work were gained from meetings/sessions/seminars/interactions I had as part of my work. There is incredible knowledge and expertise on the doorstep here at Flinders.

Third, I learned that even at my ripe age (46), it is possible to forge new connections and friendships that make learning and working much more enjoyable.

These lessons/themes are all the more important, given that I set out at the beginning of the year to walk a solitary path. The universe it seemed, wanted to teach me something else.

With this in mind I want to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you 🙏🏼 to my colleagues at Health, Counselling and Disability Services and Oasis, to all the staff around the university that I get to work with, and to all the students I’ve met and taught and learned from this year. I remember writing last year that ‘I consider myself very fortunate to do the work I do’. I’d amend that to read ‘I consider myself very fortunate to do the work I do, with the people I get to do it with’.

So, my big lesson this year was that I am surrounded by incredibly talented people and that my best work will be done, and I will be happiest, when I engage closely with them.

What lessons are you taking from this year?

If the year was a success, have you taken the time to really let that sink in? Did you/will you celebrate? See if you can identify the personal practices that set you up for success, as well as the people that supported you. Protect those practices and people. Maybe take a moment to thank those that helped.

If the year didn’t go quite to plan, are you able to meet that disappointment with self-compassion, rather than self-criticism? Human psychology is such that we often meet other people’s setbacks with kindness, but our own setbacks with criticism. Could you talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend in a similar situation? Take note of whether being kinder to yourself motivates you to dust yourself off and have another crack in 2024.

It might sound naff to say out loud, but do you think being nasty to yourself will motivate you to get back into life?

As mentioned earlier, I’m not slowing down much over the holiday season. I’m only taking a short break this year. There is too much cool stuff to build, no time to waste. The time I do take off will be spent reading, walking, learning, writing, gardening, and obviously socialising. Not quite the rock-star lifestyle but in my defense, I am not a rock star 🤘 I do also need to make a winning trifle for Xmas day, but like the oversized learning journal mentioned earlier, that is a story for a future date.

Everyone has different goals for the end of the year/start of the new year, so I don’t want to wish readers a singular outcome. Rather, I hope that whatever you need from the Holiday Season is what you can materialise.

Looking forward to 2024, I have started thinking about my goals. My central work goal remains unchanged. Keep learning about mental health and communicate what I learn with the Flinders community via whatever means I have available to me.

I also think that writing and its value beyond simply submitting assignments will be a dominant theme. This year, I’ve been fortunate to forge connections with writers and those teaching writing. We’ve got a Writing for Wellbeing presentation written and ready to release. And I’ve been using and will continue to use writing as a core piece of my own self-care plan. In a day and age where chatGPT can pump out written content that bests me easily, there is something important to me about asserting and growing my capacity to write.

What about you? Do you have any goals for 2024 starting to take shape in your mind?

Whatever those goals are (or turn out to be), if you’re at Flinders next year, I look forward to us resuming this conversation soon.

Take care of yourself 😊

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