2023: The Year of Ennui

2023 Year of Ennui - Life coach in Milan
I'm Emma!

Creative success coach, Photographer, rescue dog mom, book worm, INFJ, Enneagram 3, doing my best to be mindful, kind & help people be their most authentic, purposeful selves.


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4 Powerful Questions to Help you Make the Most of 2024

Never have I ever experienced such a clustercuss of a year as 2023. Externally I achieved nothing. No business growth, no financial wins, no awards for my photography, nada, zilch, cuss all.

I quite literally experienced a year of ennui; a feeling that combines tiredness and boredom and my own unique spin on it; wanting to go and live with humpback whales in Mozambique to escape my frustrating reality. 

This wasn’t unexpected.

2022 was a year of deep life re-prioritisation. Striving, hustling and working myself into the ground to hit financial goals kind of lost its appeal when my Stepmum died and I had a sharp reality check about the value of time in that no amount of money can buy it back. Having not been to visit my family in the UK since 2018 because I incorrectly assumed that there’d never be a global pandemic and consequential almost two year international travel ban, I very quickly re-adjusted my priorities.

Guilt and regret aren’t feelings I enjoy, so when Julia passed away after a battle with cancer which I wasn’t around to help support anyone through, what with being trapped on a different continent and all, I made a decision to live my life differently and no longer put work first. Easier said than done, of course, when I’m self employed and not married to a multi millionaire. But, to quote Ryan Holiday, “The obstacle in the path becomes the path.” And so began 2023.

For the past 12 months I’ve been working out how to reshape my life and how I run my businesses to fit in around what’s actually important and that’s the people I love as well as meeting my need for more purpose and meaning in my life and the work I do. The word that’s come to mind multiple times over the last year is ‘incubation’ along with pissed off, tired, frustrated and a collection of other expletives that I won’t jot down here.

I’ve been reading ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ (please have a moment to congratulate me for pushing through my second attempt at reading what is a bit of a challenging book, ‘Clarissa, stop waffling’ was a phrase I uttered many times) and I stumbled upon the following passage about the time period between a realisation that a change has to happen and the positive manifestation of said change which resonated like a sonic boom:

“This period of time is sometimes characterised by an ennui. Women will often say their mood is such that they cannot quite put their finger on what it is they want, whether it be work, lover, time or creative work. It is hard to concentrate. It is hard to be productive. This nerve-restlessness is typical of the spiritual development stage. Time alone, and not very far down the road, will take us to the edge we need fall, step, or dive over.”

Ennui indeed.

Reading this made me feel better about my year of massive external underachievement. And, it also helped me to reflect upon what I have achieved if I stop judging my life by societal standards of hustling, more-more-more and materialistic measures of success which I’ve certainly lived under the pressure of for a long time.

For meaningful change to occur, we have to break down what’s currently in place and rebuild it to our liking. I fell ungracefully over the edge of my ennui cliff in the middle of October and realised that I needed to give myself a break, a proper one. I started a 6 week sabbatical at the beginning of December and the time off has been both liberating (yay me for putting myself first and saying ‘no’ to quite a bit of work) and utterly terrifying as I’ve had to sit with the feelings of panic about not working and of course, not earning money, so I can refind and rebuild myself.

Here’s what I found. 

Whilst I’ve not been focused on external results, I’ve had the time to reflect internally and I’ve grown more in the past year than in the past decade. Thanks in part to my 9 month long Martha Beck Wayfinder Life Coaching training, in part to working with plant medicine and in part slowing down enough to hear and understand how to tend to my inner yearning for more meaning, I’ve been on quite the magical mystery tour.

I can now read Tarot cards and I’ve added them into my coaching tool kit, listen to episode 32 of my podcast for more on this, I’ve swum with humpback whales and dolphins in Mozambique (this was a bit like the taking 6 weeks off thing – exhilarating and utterly terrifying at the same time), I started a podcast, I’ve spent some quality time with my parents, I’ve been on three incredibly insightful plant medicine journeys and I’m closing 2023 and starting 2024 a much calmer, more centered and peaceful person. 

None of this would have been possible if my focus was placed on solely external results in the last 12 months, or if I wasn’t actively reflecting on where I am in relation to where I want to be in my life. I’d still be stuck in an ennui rut.

Taking regular ‘WTF is going?’ and ‘is this working for me’ life barometer readings is incredibly important if you yearn for more purpose and meaning in life, so I Invite you to ask yourself the following questions as the New Year begins, and I’m sure you get the gist after reading this post that I’m asking you to reflect on internal as well as external stuff here:

  • What went well in 2023?

Which goals did you reach? What were your wins? What did you learn? What made you happy?

  • What didn’t happen that I hoped for in 2023?

What goals did you miss? What went wrong? What broke? What changed? Where did you fail or fall apart?

  • Where do I want to be at the end of 2024?

If you imagine yourself in 12 months time at the end of 2024 how would you like to be feeling? What would you like to have done or seen or experienced? What goals would you like to have achieved? Who are you with? What are you doing?

  • What do I need to do differently in order to achieve my 2024 goals?

To get a different result, you need to take different action. What action will you take? Where will you make a bold move? How do you need to show up differently? Where do you need to be really brave? In what areas of your life do you need to create change?

I create a yearly vision board to help me stay on track with my goals and to give me a visual reminder of what I’m working towards (you can see mine below) and I invite you to make one too.

And of course if you need some help getting clear on what you want and how you’re going to make the necessary changes to get going, I’m here to help you. 

As the African proverb tells us, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Get in touch with me here to find out more about 2024 coaching packages.

Happy New Year! May your 2024 be free from ennui!

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