December 29, 2023

10 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned in 2023

In 2023, I sold or donated almost all my stuff and moved with my family to Costa Rica.

It has been my best year to date in terms of happiness and inner peace.

Here are my most significant learnings from 2023.

Message Caterina Kostoula

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10 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned in 2023

As 2023 is ending, I look back at my most significant learnings of the year.

This traditional review is usually one of my most popular articles of the year, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

But, before I do that, I wanted to share a special invitation with you.

My 3-part live training series, the Life Vision Blueprint, begins on the 29th of January.

Whether you are considering a pivot in your life or know you are going in the right direction but would like more clarity, this training is for you.

I will share what makes a powerful vision and the critical mistakes people make that lead to misalignment. You will also learn my 7-step formula for clarifying what you really want.

The good news is that this training is completely FREE! You can sign up here.

My intention is for this live training to serve you in making 2024 the most epic year yet.

Now, let’s look back to 2023. 

In 2023, I sold or donated almost all my stuff and moved with my family to Costa Rica.

It has been my best year to date in terms of happiness and inner peace.

Here are my most significant learnings from 2023

1. The upper limit is a thing

In 2023, I experienced the upper limit like never before. It is a term first introduced by Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap. He explained that we all have an internal thermostat with a set temperature of happiness and success.

When our happiness goes higher or lower than the set temperature, the thermostat kicks in. We take corrective actions to bring ourselves back to comfortable levels.

I was so happy when I moved to Costa Rica that it felt uncomfortable.

My coach helped me see that the negative thinking that started creeping in was nothing more than a symptom of hitting my upper limit.

Once I diagnosed what was happening, it was easy to let it go.

As a result, I improved my capacity for joy and fulfilment substantially.

Have you ever hit your upper limit? Starting having negative thoughts or self-sabotaging actions when everything is incredibly amazing?

2. Address people’s higher selves

This was a breakthrough I had during meditation this year.

In spring, I felt a strong pull to book a night at a hotel and be alone. So, I did.

I was enjoying self-care and solitude. During my meditation, I saw, like in a vision, some people I cared deeply about. Up until that point, I thought they were sad and stuck in their old ways.

In my vision, I saw them happy and wise. I started crying. I realized that this is who their authentic self was. Our true nature is wise and happy.

This quote by Marvis Kain beautifully encapsulates my insight:

“You are already a completely whole, perfect person… The only thing that can keep you from enjoying all that you already are is a thought. One thought, your thought. Not someone else’s thought. Your thought.”

This notion that not only we do not need fixing, but nobody else does is liberating. All we ever need to do is let go of our unproductive thinking. Once we do, it is like we remove the dust from a masterpiece painting; its beauty is revealed.

After my meditation breakthrough, I started treating those people like I saw them in my vision. Like they were wise and happy. They started responding in that way.

I realized how often I had thought people were hopeless or they did not get it. That they were not able to change. Subconsciously I might have been condescending in my communication.

Now, I know that while people may have challenging times, they have unlimited potential.

And the best way to help them unleash that potential is to see them and treat them like they are genius. Because they are.

There was even some research in a school that showed that when the teacher thought her class were geniuses, they started performing better.

When you speak to people like they have unlimited potential, their hidden genius comes out.

3. Let go of blame and allow yourself to receive

After moving to Costa Rica, I slowed down my work, and my health and family became my absolute priorities.

I decided to read books on the topic of marriage. One of the most transformational books I read was The Queen’s Code by Alison Amstrong.

It talks about how harsh and critical women are with men.

And how, by attacking men, we stop them from doing what they naturally are drawn to do: provide for us, protect us and do everything to make us happy.

It was a wake-up call for me.

I worked on implementing a few changes in my marriage.

Criticizing my husband a lot less. Allowing him to provide for me a lot more.

I needed to let go of old notions of needing to be an independent woman and let myself be taken care of.

I worked on biting my tongue when his way of doing things differed from mine.

I showed more appreciation for everything he did for us. I prioritized quality couple time.

As a result, our marriage is stronger than ever.

If you let go of blame and simultaneously allow yourself to receive more, you can improve all of your relationships, not just your marriage.

4. Your food affects your mood – period

In 2023, I invested in working with a functional health practitioner. I did tons of tests, from DNA to blood glucose monitors.

I changed my diet. I focused on balancing my blood sugar, switching my oat breakfast for eggs. I let go of alcohol, gluten and most of dairy. I implemented a supplementation protocol.

I got an Oura ring and started monitoring and prioritizing my sleep. I implemented an “early bedtime – no exceptions” policy. In the last five months, I kept my bedtime (20:00 pm), even when there were temptations to stay up late.

My family and I are thriving because we have plenty of time to sleep. We do not need alarms in the morning.

I do gentle movement yoga and walks every day.

The results were not immediate, but over the whole year, they compounded.

My mood is way better, my hormones are more balanced, and I feel more energy. While that was not the intention, I also lost 7 kilos as a side-effect.

5. Ageing is the aggressive pursuit of comfort

I heard this quote on a podcast this year, and it stuck with me. Most of the youth hacks shared by experts include some level of discomfort from exercise to fasting to cold plunges.

There is a reason for that. Our body becomes stronger when challenged.

As we grow up, we tend to make our world smaller.

I consciously decided that I would seek a life of adventure. Even more this year. Not only did we move to another continent, but we tried many new and scary things, from ziplining to parasailing.

Pushing the edges of my comfort zone helped me feel more alive and young.

One of the fears that tended to keep me in my comfort zone in the past was fear of burnout.

I realized this year that burnout does not happen to me because I do too many things. It happens when I do too many things I do not want to do. That is why clear vision and courage are so important.

6. Your health, relationships and work are communicating vessels

This was one of my most controversial breakthroughs of the year, but once you see it, you cannot unsee it.

I observed that most people around me had the same level of success in all areas of their lives. My most professionally successful clients, for example, were also fit and had great intimate relationships. While most people had mediocre results in all areas.

The distinct areas of our lives are not competing for our time and attention, as we were led to believe. But they are communicating vessels; if you pour water in one, it raises the water level in all.

It makes sense from a psychological perspective.

Our level of success in all areas is determined to a great extent by our beliefs, many of which are subconscious.

Our subconscious beliefs are not segmented by life category. If you believe you are worthy and good, this will be reflected in all areas, from health to relationships to work.

When I moved to Costa Rica, I did not feel like working. I only committed to writing this weekly newsletter (because I love ya) and coaching a couple of long-tenured clients.

I allowed myself time to enjoy the present. Cook, walk, and swim. Do yoga, love my family, hang out with new friends, explore the country, and be free and happy.

My health improved, and my family relationships improved. When December hit, I was ready to return to work, more energized than ever.

I just hired a full-time assistant this week. We are hitting the ground running in January. I will be running the Life Vision Blueprint for all of you and the Life Vision Programme for INSEAD Business School. I will also be running VisionPath in February.

It did not matter that I did not devote much time and attention to my work for a few months. All the time and attention I poured into my health and relationships will pay off tenfold in my business.

7. Negative feelings are a signal you moved away from the truth

You are either in a virtuous or a vicious cycle.

When you are in a virtuous cycle, you think and speak positively, you take inspired action, you make progress, and you feel great.

When you are in a vicious cycle, you think and speak inaccurate thoughts, your actions feel like a grind, the results are disappointing, and you feel negative emotions.

The easiest way to know whether you are in an upward or downward spiral is your feelings.

Feelings are your internal fire alarm clock to alert you that something is wrong.

What I learned this year is that negative feelings let me know that I have moved away from the truth.

When you feel bad, ask yourself what the thought behind the feeling is. When you identify the thought, ask yourself whether it is true. In 100 % of the cases, I realized it was not true.

It is not failure that hurts us, for example. It is what we make it mean about us or our future.

Pain is the messenger that we have moved away from the truth with our thinking. How practical.

Also, this year, I was shown the power of positive thoughts and feelings on a whole new level.

At a business conference I attended last month, I bent a metal spoon like it was made of playdough.

We were guided to a high emotional state through gratitude and courage. And I bent the spoon.

I felt incredibly powerful but also doubted that the experience was real. Maybe my spoon was soft?

When I saw that hundreds of people around me had not managed to bend their spoon, I started trusting that, hey, maybe matter responds to energy. And not any energy, MY energy. How cool is that?

8. Do not resist reality, I repeat, do not resist reality

While this learning appeared in my 2022 recap, I have improved the implementation of it substantially in 2023.

Very few things phase me anymore. I have learned to accept reality and pivot quickly when things go wrong. Without unnecessary negative emotions.

Even this week, when we were coming back from a trip, I realized after 90 minutes on the road that we had to go back because I had forgotten my laptop. This unfortunate event added 3 hours of driving to our trip, making it last 12 hours!

We managed to do the detour without completely derailing our mood or, even worse, starting to blame each other.

9. Build one bridge to completion first before you build another one.

In 2023, I invested in a business mentor as well as my 1:1 coach and health coach.

My most significant learning was building one bridge to completion before making a second one. A bridge is a construct that allows you to go from where you are to where you are going.

I used my business as an outlet for my creativity. I created an abundance of products because I wanted to express my multifaceted interests and competencies. I also wanted to help people in different ways. I disliked boredom, and I thrived in variety.

But, when I looked at my business after this learning, it felt that I had a lot of half-made bridges.

2024 will be the year of focus. My key products will be VisionPath and my LeaderRetreats.

By finally deciding to focus, I can achieve more excellence in the products. I can also create more systems in my business that will allow more freedom and impact.

I resisted niching for the first five years of my business, and I am glad for that decision. I needed to play around before I found the calling that would feel important enough to let go of all the others.

Vision work, helping people clarify what they want so they can have the magnificent life they are meant to have is that calling.

10. The power of trust

Back in August, I was on a plane, moving to Costa Rica, a country I had never been to before.

A local guy would wait for us in the airport to deliver a used car we had bought online without ever seeing it.

With that car, we would go to the apartment we had rented for an entire year, again without ever stepping on it or even exploring the neighbourhood.

We took a leap of faith. And we were rewarded. The country, the car and the home are all beyond our wildest expectations. The universe favours the brave.

I also learned that when you trust that people are decent, you tend to be proven right.

And now, it’s your turn

Which one of my learnings resonated most with you? Can you share yours on social and tag me so I can read them?

Download my free guide with the 10 Powerful Mindset Shifts To Achieve Your Vision.

What are the 10 telltale signs that you are living your vision?
What are the 3 things you might think you need for success but you really don’t.
The 10 mindset shifts all my clients who enjoy success in all areas of their lives have made.

Link here.

Additional reading

You can dive deeper into many of the learnings above by reading some of my top articles this year (plus the previous two years’ top learnings).

  1. 10 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned in 2022
  2. 15 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned in 2021
  3. 40 Life Lessons in 40 Years
  4. From comfort to courage, what ziplining teaches us about life
  5. 3 Mind-Blowing Insights To Turn Your Pain Into Power
  6. Cherish or Cling To Your Happy Moments?
  7. Finding Aliveness At The Edge Of Safety?
  8. Master The Art Of Receiving By Overcoming 5 Hidden Barriers
  9. Break Your Invisible Happiness Ceiling
  10. No more complaints. Removing the 4 Barriers To Accepting What Is.
  11. How I Choose Trust Over Fear: Insights from My Costa Rican Adventure
  12. How Declining Help Can Be Selfish On Top Of Self-Sabotaging
  13. Blame: The Hidden Barrier to Your Potential And How To Overcome It
  14. We do not need fixing
  15. The Surprising Truth About High Performance
  16. Life Update: A year in Costa Rica