2023 Reflections: My 4 biggest lessons — and how they’ll help YOU!

Dec 14, 2023

Does the start of the year seem like a lifetime ago — yet events from February feel like they happened yesterday?

It sure does to me!

2023 has been a challenging year for many — myself included. People have experienced a lot of big changes, personal transformations and professional transitions.

Can you relate?

So if you’re hanging out for the holidays and are ready to put the year behind you, it’s not surprising.

But before you do, it’s important to recognise these challenges as opportunities for learning. Then, take a moment to and acknowledge ALL you’ve accomplished. Personally, I’m celebrating my resilience, adaptability and commitment to my direction in 2023 — and encourage you to do the same.

Because as a high performer, how often do YOU rush on to the ‘next thing’ without pausing to observe how far you’ve come?

Which is why at the end of each year I reflect on what I learnt — and what I’ll be taking with me into the next one.

Read on to discover my 4 biggest lessons (and honest confessions) for 2023. Find out what worked, what didn’t — and how these lessons can help you!


One of my biggest takeaways from 2023 was prioritising connection and growing my network strategically. Have you missed connecting with people in person over the past few years? I know I have!

So with in person events back on for the first full year, I doubled down on a couple of professional networks in 2023. One was my local AHRI network — and the other, an incredible group of women in business, curated by a wonderful friend. I made some new and valuable connections through both groups this year.

Talking of events, a 2023 highlight was speaking at the Law Society of NSW Conference back in October. It was wonderful to be live in person — and such a different energy to presenting online. My goal for next year is to do more interstate events and I’ve already lined up another Sydney trip for March 2024!

I’ve got more travel planned in 2024 too — and I can’t WAIT to get overseas again. I’ll be heading to Bali in February for my brother’s wedding and then to the UK to visit family and (hopefully!) enjoy an English summer. I’m planning to catch up with some peers and professional contacts when I’m in London too — many who I’ve only ever met online.

I was also intentional about building 1:1 connections with past clients, peers and potential partners in 2023. This fell by the wayside in recent years, especially with more people working from home. As an extrovert, I thrive on the energy of others and this has amplified the joy and fulfillment of my work this year!

Connection is one of my core values. To me this means building genuine relationships and sharing my knowledge with others. Here are some simple strategies I used to create more connection in 2023 — which you’re very welcome to steal!

First, I made it a practice to connect with one person a day. I did this via email, or by sending a short voice note instead of an SMS or LinkedIn message. I also arranged one coffee catch-up a week and attended at least one networking event each month.

Second, I made sure every 1:1 meeting had a clear purpose. And third, I was intentional about adding value to the other person and focusing on what I could give versus get. By sending someone a helpful article, connecting them to a new contact or inviting them to an event.

I often talk to my clients about the importance of ABC — to always be connecting — and doing it on an ongoing basis. Many people forget to nurture their network until they need something. Whether you’re searching for a new job or trying to figure out what you want next in your career.

The lesson for you is this… When you consistently invest in your connections, you grow your career organically.

Consider — What does connection mean to YOU? And what’s one step you can take to cultivate more connection in your career in 2024?


My biggest lesson this year was the impact of inviting more creativity into my work. A creative project which has been on my heart for YEARS is starting a podcast. And launching The Career By Design Podcast in November was one of my 2023 highlights!

Now, I’m a naturally creative person. For as long as I can remember, I did dance, drawing and creative writing, right through to my high school years. I also took art as one of my final TEE subjects.

Then I got ‘busy’ working in my corporate career and later, building two businesses. So, I decided to put off these creative hobbies until I ‘had more time’. Because I can always pick up painting when I retire, right?

Well, this isn’t always guaranteed. I lost my Dad in his early 60’s, after watching him work hard his entire life. After an uncle unexpectedly passed months before his retirement too, I’ve learnt not to put off the things I want to do!

The truth is, I’ve had lots of opportunity to satisfy the creative spark through my business. Whether it’s writing a blog, developing Canva graphics and slide decks — or coming up with creative business solutions. Yet after a while, writing a fortnightly blog or creating social posts on schedule became something I ‘had to do’ — rather than a true creative outlet.

Starting a podcast had been on my goal list at the start of ever year — and it was one of the intentions I set back in July. I even recorded 5 episodes, which sat there for over six months! However, I was trying to ‘get it perfect’, put off by the tech — and at times, it felt like another thing ‘to do’.

At the end of a busy season in October, I realised: there were 2 months left in 2023! So I decided to launch my podcast in November. But to do so with no expectations — and let it be a fun, creative project.

I ended up launching within 2 weeks — and it’s been such a joy to bring this project to life! My imagination is overflowing with ideas again and I’ve enjoyed every part of the process. Even the editing, which I’d been dreading!

My intention with this podcast is to help ambitious leaders like you, create your career, your way. I wanted it to be a place to connect with my listeners, build community and share practical strategies to support your development. NOT something I created from ego — where the focus was on attracting clients or trying to be ‘perfect.’

I trusted myself to bring this podcast into the world — and it’s completely reignited my creative spark! Because when you allow yourself to follow your heart, you will create the career you want too.

Consider — What plans or ideas have you been putting off until you ‘have more time’? And what ONE new creative project will you commit to in 2024?


A big realisation I’ve come to in 2023 is the power of intention and simplifying your goals. Back in July, I identified two priorities: launch this podcast and develop my facilitation skills. The simplicity of these objectives meant I knew exactly what I was working towards in the second half of 2023.

I also got clear on the ‘why’ behind these goals. The purpose of this podcast is to connect and share practical strategies to help high performers create a career by design.

I’ve also done a lot of key-note speaking and short lunch and learn style trainings — including many online in recent years. So I wanted to challenge myself to design and deliver full day workshops.

This internal motivation is critical to stay on track and reach your goals.

As a Type A achiever, I have a tendency to set big goals and create the ‘perfect plan’ to fulfil them. Yet this means I often get caught up in the metrics and how I’ll meet a certain outcome. And in doing so, I lose sight of why I wanted it in the first place!

Every year I choose a ‘word of the year’ which describes what I want to achieve, who I want to be and how I want to feel for the following 12 months. So the ‘theme’ word I selected at the start of 2023 was PRESENCE.  

This was about having a clear vision and goals, taking action towards them — but surrendering the timeframes and outcomes. Plus, being present in the moment and enjoying the process towards accomplishing my goals.

It required complete self-trust: believing in myself and trusting I would follow through on my vision. As I look back on the year, I can see how much I leant into this!

The bottom line is this. When you know what you want and why, you get results, fast.


  • What were your intentions for 2023? And what was your ‘why’ behind them?
  • How can you start to simplify your goals in 2024?


Awareness of what you want is important — but hoping it happens is not enough. You also need to take aligned action to make your vision a reality. Aligned being the key word here: intentional, strategic steps towards what you want.

One big lightbulb I’ve had around this is learning to hold these intentions lightly — and let go of control of the ‘how’. By this I mean it has to happen in a specific way or set timeframe.

In the past, I’ve always mapped out an entire step-by-step plan before taking action. Yet this year, knowing my desired outcomes and the first step was enough. As a result, I accomplished what I set out to — and much more quickly than if I’d been trying to control every aspect.

Let me give you an example. In the past, I’d focus on a financial goal and rigid action steps, such as sending 6 emails or contacting specific people.

Instead, I set the intention to sell a couple of spots in each of my coaching programs and book one corporate presentation. Then, connected with past clients to have an intentional conversation about their 2024 objectives and how I could help. Recently, I realised: I’d reached all these outcomes — and without forcing or striving.

This doesn’t mean I had NO plan. But by relaxing those Type A standards — ever so slightly — I was able to achieve my goals with a lot more fun, ease and flow!

The other AHA I’ve had around aligned action is it often requires you to do the thing which makes you uncomfortable. This takes courage and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone.

Back in July when I set the intention to develop my facilitation skills, I didn’t even think it was possible to run a full day workshop. I mean, what would I even teach or talk about for that long? As it turns out — a lot!

So I said yes to an invitation to design and deliver my first full day workshop. This occurred within the same month of delivering three other keynotes and workshops — two which I created from scratch. I also travelled to Sydney to speak at a conference during this time too.

The idea of delivering so many presentations back to back was also daunting — as I hadn’t done it before. Still, I backed myself to take on a new challenge and refused to get stuck in perfectionism. Through this process, I proved to myself once again that I CAN do difficult things.

And the best part? It was a lot of fun — and next time it will be a whole lot easier!

When you choose to let go and do the ‘uncomfortable thing’… you will rapidly reach your goals — with greater ease.

Consider: What stopped you reaching your goals in 2023? And what’s one aligned action you can take to overcome it in future?

So, there you have it. The 4 game-changing lessons I’ve learnt during another extraordinary year. My hope is you can learn from my experiences and celebrate your year too.

Next week, I’ll be sharing my annual Christmas bonus to wrap up the year. A simple year-end reflection to help you review your year and get ready for 2024!

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Stacey Back is a globally recognised and certified career coach, speaker and facilitator. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.