Shortly after Christmas this past year, my eldest son and I traveled to the UK for a short visit. The reason for our trip was simply to connect with family and spend unhurried time together face to face. And that is exactly what we did.
When it came time to board the plane for our return to Johannesburg, I was sad to say goodbye but my heart was full and I was so very thankful for the time that we had shared with family and the memories we were able to make in just a few short days.
But what I didn’t expect to take home with me that day was a fresh perspective.
By perspective I mean our attitude towards situations and challenges in our lives and our ability to view these things in a reasonable way with wisdom. Our perspective is heavily influenced by our beliefs and experiences. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. But we always need it. Usually it is in short supply and more often than not, we find ourselves trying to obtain it only when we suddenly realise we are in need of it.
So here I was thinking I was going on a short break to spend time with family. Little did I know I was also about to gain much-needed perspective for my life and the decisions I need to make in 2020.
At the start of a new year (and in this instance a new decade) it is so easy to become overwhelmed by all that we have set our minds to accomplish, whether on a personal or professional level, that we can feel defeated even before we get off the starter blocks.
I have found that cultivating a personal prayer life is the starting point. Even when I don’t know what to pray for or am unable to narrow down what I want to accomplish in the year ahead, I believe that giving voice to my dreams and my seemingly unrealistic expectations as well as any fears associated with them, opens the door and gives God permission to invade that area of my life. Then I can begin to have perspective and see change happen, both in my heart and in my world.
We also cannot underestimate the value of healthy relationships in our lives. Relationships that challenge us to be and become the best versions of ourselves. These are the people we can count on to support us even when the going gets tough, whether it is a parent, a sibling, a spouse or a friend. No judgment, just unconditional love and support when we need it.
Ashley Stahl, a leading international career coach recommends incorporating three steps into our daily routine so that we maintain perspective while working towards a personal objective or a career goal:
1. Take a breather
It is a common misconception that in order to achieve something we need to work at it constantly without taking a break. That this will make us more productive and ensure that we will achieve our goal in record time. Stahl argues that this is not true and that even highly productive individuals recognise the need for a break time. For some of us, this may mean taking a series of short breaks during the day. For others, it may mean that we will need to find an activity, a sport or a hobby for example, that allows us to focus our attention on something other than our work. For when we slow down, our stress levels decrease and our ability to think creatively and effectively increases.
2. Take an inventory
Oftentimes we find ourselves looking at our lives from the perspective of what is missing. More money, a bigger house, a better car … Stahl argues that what we often need is less not more. In other words, the question we should be asking ourselves is not what can I add to my world to make life better but rather what can I remove from it to make life better? When we declutter our homes and our lives, we not only free up our mind but also our time, allowing us to reach for our goals, however large or small they may be, with fewer distractions.
3. Serve others
Stahl argues that one way to be more in control of the work we do is to incorporate volunteer work into our lives. Most of us are involved in doing work where the reward is not always immediately visible. When we volunteer our time at community initiatives, we are reminded of the power we have to make a difference and we gain a greater sense of purpose for our lives – almost instantly.
I wish you all a happy and blessed New Year!