It is almost the year’s close, and soon we will all be singing or humming (for the melodically challenged ones like myself) the tune of “For Auld Lang Syne”. If you woke up on this side of the earth, count yourself as blessed, and smile with pride for you have survived yet another year. If your 2015 was anything like mine, it would have been wrought with trials, challenges and surprises. It would also have been heavily sprinkled with many moments of happiness, joy, gratitude and fulfillment, which can only come from facing and overcoming the periodic adversities of life.
It is that time of year when most people are in high spirits, gleefully planning the excursions and exploits of the festive season. The more conscientious and disciplined ones amongst us are steadily reviewing goals set on the cusp of NYE 2014. I personally still have 17 days to learn hand to hand combat, vacation in Europe, start fishing on the weekends and to lose 15 more lbs. I won’t beat myself up too badly, because considering the number and level of involvement of the things on my list I have done pretty well… In fact I think I deserve a cupcake or 6 (make that 16 lbs to lose, but who’s counting?).
By now, you may have picked up that I view life as a journey. Each leg, new travel companion, experience, pit stop and adventure comes with its own purpose. Every exchange is an opportunity to learn. Looking back, I can safely say this has been a year of expansion. Not necessarily financially or even at the waistline, but primarily in my mentality. 2015 was a year of growth. I have decided to encapsulate 5 of the key lessons I have learnt on my journey this past year.
- Goal setting is essential. The most beautiful thing about the rest of your life, is that you are creating it; even as you read this post. A man/ woman with a goal is a person on a mission. You may have heard the saying “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. Decide what you want for yourself. Start by thinking where you’d want to be 10 years from now. Visualize it; every infinitesimal detail. In this process, do not yet worry about the how. It is not your job just now to connect all the dots, but simply to hold a vision of where you are going. Break that into milestones. You cannot act in the future or the past; only in the now! Ask yourself “what things do I need to accomplish in 2016 in order to ensure that I have significantly advanced in my quest to get to 2026 me?” Write those down. There is something powerful about putting pen to paper or finger to keypad. It becomes an agreement with the one person you cannot avoid; yourself. Your goals should span several categories: health, financial, spiritual and personal development etc. Review them periodically and when faced with decisions; take ones which put you more in alignment with achieving these personal performance objectives.
- People first, everything else is secondary. There is an African saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. My most meaningful experiences and achievements have been those involving others. That funny joke I heard, that new restaurant I discovered, that amazing vacation I took, that new TV show, my foiled attempt at farming… The list goes on. All of these reflect moments in time when I created lasting, invaluable memories. None of these would have been the same without the true gems in my life. People just simply make life better. I don’t profess to be anywhere close to perfect, but for my part I have discovered that one of the most important skills one can hone is people skills. Whilst your IQ (intelligence quotient) may be a good predictor of your ability to solve complex puzzles and math problems; it is your EQ (emotional intelligence) which is most telling as to your probability of success in life. Being self aware, managing self, having social awareness and relationship management are extremely critical. If you have a gap in any of these areas, you will profit from developing a plan of action to close same. I have found it pays to listen more intently than preemptively and that using empathy truly helps. Making an effort to understand rather than be understood is key.
- Setbacks are to be expected. No one promised you an easy ride (or at least I hope they didn’t). By now you will realize that life has a helluva sense of humor. My friends will tell you that I laugh a little too heartily at times when faced with some very tough situations. This is partly because I get the satire at play and also because in my mind, it’s better than crying. Even with the noblest of intentions and the most robust of plans and goals; there will be disappointments. I remember that major sales order I was waiting on to make my monthly target, falling through with 4 hours to go. In moments like those, I have had to walk away, regroup, call on my support system and raw ingenuity to pull through. What I have found, is that when you start out with the preconceived notion that the problem has a solution waiting to be unearthed, it often finds you. If there is one thing I have taken away, it is “never give up!” Even if you don’t find the “fix”, look again, there is often a major lesson to be learnt. This lesson often proves to be the very widget you need to tackle the next major challenge on the horizon. Have a mindset where you never lose; you either win or you learn.
- It is ok to be different. Sure you may have heard that the blade of grass that stands out gets cut. However, it is often the flowering weed, which blooms most radiantly. Embrace your uniqueness. It is ok to think along different lines. Ask the questions which cross your mind. Challenge the status quo, but do so in a manner mindful of your impact on others. The key is to get your message across without distorting the channel. Anytime I find myself in a room buzzing with “uh huh”, “mhmm” and other expressions of mindless consent, I begin to look for the angle that I am missing. People are often in the “go along just to get along” mode; simply because it is less laborious, less lonely and less risky. Somehow connected to our mouth, is a bit of grey matter between our ears. We often let the former go into motion without consulting the latter. Or worse, we conceive a powerful, game changing idea but fail to ventilate same out of fear of ridicule, or isolation. Dare to be different. Be you.
- Balance is essential. Man is made up of mind, body and spirit. In the hustle and bustle of daily living, we often neglect an element or two. I remember going through a few months of battling insomnia. I would go to work and come home after a long and grueling day incapable of staying fully asleep at nights. After eliminating all possible physical causes (trip to the doctor and giving up my beloved coffee) it became apparent that it was my own mind keeping me awake. My mind was never still. Add to this mix, the fact that I began to eat indiscriminately and started to slack off with my physical activity. It wasn’t until I decided that I had had enough and that something must change, that I began to day by day make better choices. At first it was hard. The activation energy required to get going was tremendous. I began my fight against months of inertia. I got in the gym (slowly at first), started cleaning up my diet, tapping into my close relationships as a means of alleviating stress and feeding my mind (reading and watching videos focussing on my areas of development) after much introspection. It also proved important to take some time away to recharge. The results so far have been absolutely amazing. I am feeling far more energetic, am sleeping much more soundly, feel a lot less stressed and have strengthened key relationships which needed more attention. Suffice to say, anything which bothers your mind, affects the homeostasis of your systems.
As we approach the new year, it provides an ideal opportunity to look back before we leap forward. It is important to pull from each new experience the lessons we were meant to learn. Being clear on your destination is essential. However, taking time to enjoy the journey is the whole point of the trip. Live each day in gratitude, because in looking back at life there are certain perennial truths: it goes on; and over the long run it tends to get better.
Are there any other lessons that the year 2015 has taught you? What are some of your goals for 2016? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below. Feel free to share this article with your friends and family.