This is my December reflection, looking back at my journey in 2016 and preparing myself for the new one ahead. This post is an expanded version of my talk last week at a Christmas party. So grab a cup of coffee (or tea if you’re like me), put on a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, then relax and enjoy reading.
December always evoke a unique feeling in me. It’s the end of something old and the start of something new. It’s like being in transit. December evokes in me a mixture of feelings – from sentimental to high excitements. What about you?
Traveling is something I’d look forward to, like many would at this time of the year. So, I’ll be using traveling as the metaphor in this reflection post, sprinkled with a handful travel quotes serving as pointers to prepare our hearts and minds for the new year. After all, we are in a journey of some sorts, aren’t we?
Thriving in 2017
1. Plan for your life as you would plan for an epic vacation
What I mean by ‘an epic vacation’ is not an impromptu drive to a neighboring city or a short getaway to a nearby attraction. An epic vacation has to be grander, longer duration than an average holiday and filled with “Wow” moments.
What does an epic vacation look like to you? Perhaps you have been to one or you’re going to have one.
My next question is this: How long would it take you to plan for that epic vacation?
It’s funny because I’ve asked this a number of times and found out that most people would spend weeks and months to plan for a grand vacation but they don’t think much on planning for their own life.
I would encourage you to carve out some time before the year ends to reflect on some of your biggest lessons in 2016, and plan ahead for 2017.
If you would spend as much time planning for your life now as you would plan for an epic vacation, then your new year would likely be an epic one as well!
2. “If you look like your passport photo, you’re too ill to travel.” Will Komen
I saw this quote on a wall of a youth hostel at Mount Cook, New Zealand last year. I thought it was both funny and profound.
Jim Rohn said there are two ways to face the future: one way is with apprehension; the other is with anticipation.
You’re not ready for the great journey ahead if you come from a state of gloom, cheerlessness, solemn and a downbeat mood.
I’ve heard a few talks and read a couple of articles describing the world we’re living in now with the term ‘VUCA’ – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Doom and gloom are the reigning moods as unexpected and undesirable events taking place around the world (eg. Brexit, Trump etc).
Despite the circumstances and events, how can you enter into the new year with a great sense of anticipation and enthusiasm?
Instead of the usual new year resolutions and toxic goals, what are the authentic goals and desires which you really want to achieve?
Toxic goals are goals that drain you, promote dissatisfactions and feel obligatory in nature. They are meant more for pleasing others and to fulfill their expectations. You become who they want you to be.
In contrast, authentic goals and desires are something you really want. They’re inspiring and intrinsic in nature. They put the light and spark back in your eyes. The journey of pursuing them makes you come alive. You become who you are meant to be.
What are your biggest anticipations and authentic desires for 2017?
What would you want if you don’t have to please anyone?
3. “He who would travel happily must travel light.” Antoine de St. Exupery
I’ve been to many trips with friends and fellow travelers. I notice there are two types of travelers: those who travel heavily and those who travel light.
Those who carry large baggages are bogged down by the weight of their burden. They have more things on their mind as well. It shows in their faces.
In contrast, those who carry less can go faster and farther. Their energy and mobility are not restricted. They seem to walk with an extra spring in their steps.
My question for you is this: What are the burdens that you are willing to let go?
Those baggages and burdens could be in various forms: failures, regrets, mistakes, guilt and shame. Release those thoughts. You don’t have to carry them across into 2017.
For some, they need to let go of certain toxic relationships. For others, they may need to fire their boss or be released from certain job or project.
For some, they need to forgive themselves. For others, they need to forgive someone else, and let go of the grudge that has been eating them up from the inside. Unforgiveness is a terribly heavy burden to carry.
Remember, those who travel lighter have less on their mind, and are more happy. Imagine this, a hot air balloon is able to fly higher and farther with less weight. Don’t carry unnecessary weight into 2017. Excess baggages cost too much!
Again, what are you willing to leave behind in 2016?
4. When you’re up there, big things become small
The plane’s engines roar as it takes off from the ground. From the window, you see things that were once close are now distant. Big things become small in a matter of seconds.
This is the ‘global view’, where you see the ground from the sky. Whenever I travel in a plane, this reminds me to shift my perspective of life and work into global view.
In the global view, I see things more objectively. Things that were once emotionally attached now feel more detached. Things that were once personal now seem more impersonal. I gain more clarity in this view.
Big challenges and problems look much smaller. My embarrassments and failures are now less big of a deal. My hurts and regrets feel less painful. I could see that they don’t matter two years from now, 5 years from now, in the grand scheme of things.
Similarly, my successes and victories look different in the global view. All the things I brag and shout about, are actually quite tiny.
I am reminded that the world is so big. This world is not about me; it’s so much more than my problems and successes. I am humbled in this view, and gain a unique sense of freedom. I don’t take myself too seriously. Up there, I allow gratitude to overwhelm me. It’s enjoyable hanging out in the global view.
Here’s a little secret: you can shift into ‘global view’ at any time.
5. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller
Don’t let the doom and gloom of the world news dampen your spirit. Don’t let them cripple you with fear. Another quote says that shallow waters won’t lead you to new continents.
From my reflections over the years, the things I regret are usually the steps I didn’t take and the words I was afraid to say. I regret over the things I didn’t do more than the things I did.
I’ve learnt that I don’t have to wait for 100% confidence to start something. I just have to give myself the permission.
In the same way, I’d encourage you to give yourself the permission to explore, to fail, to play, to fall, to love and be loved in return. Give yourself permission to venture out into deep waters.
You can do anything and be okay no matter what, if you give yourself the permission to do it, irregardless of the outcome.
What would you want to achieve, knowing you will be okay no matter what?
6. “Take wrong turns. Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors…” Randall Munroe
Detours are sometimes good, whether accidental or deliberate. Some of the most beautiful scenes and moments are found in unexpected turns.
Deliberately try new things. Tread unfamiliar grounds. Give yourself permission to be lost sometimes.
Be curious. Talk to someone new. Start new conversations in unexpected places. Show unreasonable amount of care. Don’t just mind your own business (reminder to self).
Don’t be too rigid with plans. Allow for more open spaces, surprises, spontaneity and serendipitous moments.
Who knows what delightful surprises may be waiting behind some of those “wrong” turns, right?
Here’s the full quote by Randall Munroe:
“Take wrong turns. Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors. And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing. Do things without always knowing how they’ll turn out. You’re curious and smart and bored, and all you see is the choice between working hard and slacking off. There are so many adventures that you miss because you’re waiting to think of a plan. To find them, look for tiny interesting choices. And remember that you are always making up the future as you go.”
7. “A journey is best measured in friends than miles.” Tim Cahill
Ultimately, relationships are what matter most; they are treasures we hold closer and more dearly than all other possessions.
A shared journey is both enriching and uplifting. Relationships make our work and life worthwhile.
All our achievements and success become meaningful when it is shared in relationships. Similarly, our frustrations and lowest moments become bearable because of the relationships we have forged.
Each of us has our own journey, our personal race to run. But we can run it together and lift each other along the way.
I am a licensed scuba diver in open waters. One of the mandatory safety rules we follow as divers is the buddy system – we don’t dive alone.
The buddy system is an interdependent relationship. We mindfully watch out for each other. We submerge together, we surface together. We do not abandon our buddies no matter what happens.
In my dives, I’d plan and adjust my itinerary, pace and duration according to the buddy I am with. Everything I do underwater, I have to take into consideration my buddy.
For someone who often prefers to be alone, this has taught me to support and be supported by another person throughout the dive. Best of all, we enjoy the dive together.
My final questions for you are these:
Who are you spending your last moments of 2016 with? Count your blessings (each of the individuals).
Who will you be supporting along your journey in 2017?
Who is supporting you?
Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year ahead.