I lost one ear of a pair of earrings precious to me. For days on end, I looked for it but couldn’t find it. All the familiar places, under the bed, on the table – and still couldn’t find it. Then in the early hours of this morning, I heard a metal drop on the wooden floor beneath my bed and I knew it was my earring. Just as I was losing hope of ever finding it, it turned up. Just like that.
This led into my reflections on 2017 which has been a year of great unfolding for me. One of learning, one of insight, new friendships made, breakthroughs achieved and deepening self-knowledge. It was a year too that had me appreciate too that out of disappointment and hurt can come light, learning and even joy.
This is some of what I have learned in 2017
1. Recover fast from a setback or disappointment. On one of the rare occasions when I watch a football game that doesn’t have Man U in it, I watched a Newcastle United game against West Ham in which Newcastle beat West Ham at 3 – 2. Henri Saivet the Senegalese player made a boob that led to West Ham scoring a goal. His face at his error was one that brought a tear to my eyes. He looked downcast as if his world had come to an end. His first league start under his manager – Benitez - looking like the worst ever. But then a few minutes later, he made a 25-yard free kick that ended up in the back of the West Ham net. As he celebrated with his team mates and I felt the elation in me, I remembered the importance of choosing to recover fast from a setback, the value of having people on your team who support you in getting back up and a willingness to try again, knowing that a mistake should never define you.
2. People are not always what you assume them to be. Time and time again through 2017 I made assumptions about people because of their behaviours in the moment or that I’d experienced or observed. Wanting to write them off because of things that they had done that let me down. And then just before the ties were severed – time and time again – the person would do or say something that challenged my earlier supposition. I learned and am still learning that people are never their behaviour. No one sets out to upset me or disappoint me. They just do. Just like I never set out to upset or disappoint any one. I just do. When we choose to focus on the innate goodness of another person even in times when their behaviour may hurt or disappoint, we give room for that goodness to show up in the world and for bridges to be repaired.
3. Stay connected loosely or strongly – just stay connected. Some of my most rewarding and enjoyable experiences in 2017 have come through the reconnection or the strengthening of connections with people who’ve been in my world for years though not strongly so. Platforms like LinkedIn support you in doing so but there are also many other ways – e.g. the phone – that can be used in staying connected. Wonderful work, awesome clients, laughter, growth, new perspectives and capabilities have come through connections. It also has been a joy too, to connect others along the way which brings me to my 4th learning of 2017
4. Connect others and contribute without condition. Or indeed if you have a condition, make it clear as no one can read minds! At least not in 2017. Many of the opportunities that came my way in 2017 were because someone and sometimes someone whom I least expected to, had gone out of their way or simply did what they said they would to help my success. And because sometimes this was someone whom I least expected, it reminded me of the value of remaining open and staying connected. And when I have done the same for others and when this has led to something wonderful for them, the feeling of joy has been quite inexplicable. If there is one purpose that we have as humans on this earth, it is to have another human be successful. Not that I have never known this but more that my experience of this was deepened.
5. Nothing like family. Spending quality time with those who matter to you and to whom you matter is precious. It can be one of the strongest demonstrations of Love. As I watched and listened to my father in law laugh, share stories and interrogate each of his grandsons in turn over Christmas and then turn to his son- my husband – to help him with the various technical issues he was having with firstly his laptop, then his iPad and then the TV – I remembered what it is that money cannot truly buy. I also know that for my stepsons the true and genuine appreciation of moments like this may not come until years later – when they themselves become parents.
6. Letting go can be good. I found that some friendships albeit had for a very long time had come to their natural end and trying everything to keep the flame alive can prove to be futile. People grow and go in different directions and relationships can be in seasons. Sometimes the new directions have a finality about them as some die. 2017 was a year in which some of my friends, previous colleagues, old school mates and family members died. It also reminded me of my ageing years and the value of being present and embracing all that life has to offer today. I learned too of the importance of spending my time and my energy with those who edify and help to build me up and who I can also help to build up. I learned that genuinely laying down the burden of guilt and hurt to myself of mistakes innocently made in the past makes it possible to see and welcome the wonderful and awesome experiences that can be had and lie ahead. Out of bad can often emerge the good. Finally, I learned so much in 2017 of the power of forgiveness – in business, in friendships, in family and in self. Most powerfully in self because when we start with self, it becomes possible to extend this grace to others.
7. There is power in storytelling. On Friday 8th December 2017 I ran the first ever London – What’s your story? Conference of The Enjoyable Life Series. This was almost 3 years to the date of the launch of The Enjoyable Life Series, a community organisation that I established in order to help men and women in all walks of life to develop an acceptance of who they are, to connect with their unique sense of purpose and to tap into the depths of JOY they have within them. It is run as a non-profit with monies raised going towards the support of the work of charities whose purpose and values are aligned with ours. The conference exceeded my expectations – we had sponsors and sponsored two awesome charities – Dress for Success and The Passage. We were sold out. But most significant was the willingness and selfless service given by the individuals who gave of their time and themselves to tell their stories from a place of who they are and not what they do. Stories of when they were stuck and found a way out; the impact of loss; the power of letting go; dealing with bereavement; being vulnerable and so on. Each story having the listener understand that if they can get through this, so can I. If they can accept who they are, so can I accept who I am. The Bible talks about the power of Testimony. In 2017, I learned that there is nothing more powerful and encouraging than the personal story of another. It confirms that we are indeed, all human.
So, as I look forward into 2018, I am full of hope, excitement and above all a reminder to have faith in the people around me and those that I will encounter along the way. They will bring surprises. They will bring joy. They will bring hurt. Through them will come breakthroughs, learning, growth and progress.
Most importantly, as I look forward into 2018 I must remember to keep the faith in myself and the trust in my own ability. To remember to focus on the good in me and to remember who I am and what I stand for because in doing this, I will give room for others to truly do the same for themselves.
I wish you all a wonderful 2018 – a year packed full of awesome jaw dropping experiences, each one over flowing with buckets of inexplicable JOY.