This year is one day old, and I’m writing the kind of post one would expect at the end of the year. Well, for me, 2017 has already begun with a bang, and left me on a shifting sand.
Up until 30th of December, I’d plans. I had decided my goals for 2017. I was really looking forward to returning to London from family visit, and get stuck in. I wanted to just dive into my work, get on with my goals. I felt ready and committed for 2017. I had a plan. I was ready to implement it. After three weeks away, I expected to return fairly relaxed. I was even considering that I would go to the gym a couple of hours after I got home, because I expected to get good night’s sleep before catching my afternoon flight from the US.
It was all in hand. It all made sense. I was ready for 2017.
Turns out, 2017 has other plans for me. And it is from that single eventful day, split across continents and time zones that I bring you these lessons, which I hope will not only make my year better, but help my perspective for life. And I hope it will help you too, because what unexpected things happen to all of us. Life throws curve balls, and we must learn to dodge, hit back, or recover as gracefully, and as optimistically as we possibly can.
1. Expectations vs. reality (Shit happens. Sometimes due to no fault of your own.)
If you noticed, in the first paragraph above, I mentioned multiple times how I “expected” 2017 to start. My expectations were based on my planning, based on my schedule, and basically based on things turning out exactly so. Of course it’s nice when that happens, but I’d a stark reminder literally a minute after I toasted 2017 with my family.
I found out that someone has spent several thousand pounds on my credit card. Of course there was instant shock, and panic. Forget midnight celebrations. I was then supposed to pack for my flight. Everything got delayed, while I spoke to the credit card company, and instead of what should have been a fairly restful and last fun night with family, we all had a tiring and sleepless night.
Shit happens. There was nothing we could do about it. In “real life” bad things, unpleasant things happen on a daily basis. But you also can’t sit home worrying about all the things that may happen. Fear of unknown, fear of failure, fear of the unexpected…you can’t let them dictate your life. You have to find a way to shed the fear. It isn’t easy, nor always possible, in which case, you have to find a way to deal with it.
2. Be grateful (the people who stick by you in down times, matter. A lot).
You know what the first thing I did when I confirmed that this genuinely had happened? That someone had indeed committed a fraud on my card? I shouted, “Dad!” I’ve not lived with my Dad for over 16 years. But because I was home, and because this happened, my first instinct was to shout for my Dad.
The fact that my family was there helped immensely. My dad and my sister, two very practical and capable people, were calm and collected. Their calm helped me.
Even on that night, while I was tired and stressed, I was extremely grateful for my family. It matters to be surrounded by people who love and support you. Always be grateful for them. Value them. Show them that they matter.
3. Sometimes, being physically “Stuck” can make you actually “Unstuck”
I spent most of the 1st of January on a plane, and by the time I got to the UK it was 2nd. I was literally travelling across time, and stuck in air. I couldn’t make phone calls, or start solving my problems. I really couldn’t do anything much at all. So I read, and I tried to sleep. As it happens, I was reading, Boston Bound by Elizabeth Clor, which is about her 7 year journey to get qualified for Boston Marathon.
I’d wanted to read this book as an inspiration for my running. I started running last year, and this year I wanted to take it up a notch. My first half-marathon is in seven weeks, and again, I’ve a specific training plan. Only to discover couple of days ago constant pain in my shin. I’m not sure how bad it is, except to know that it was there 4 weeks ago, and it hasn’t gone away completely despite a lot of rest. So now I am not even sure if I will be running the half-marathon, and more importantly, actually need to investigate the cause of this shin irritation because wait for it to go away hasn’t worked.
Boston Bound is about running, but it’s actually about overcoming one’s mental barriers. In Clor’s case, her perfectionism. I can relate to that. If not entirely an perfectionist, and perhaps a tad more relaxed than Clor was, I, too, measure my achievements as if they are my worth. I know they contribute to it, but they don’t entirely define me. Yet it is easy to forget that when you are caught up in the fever of accomplishing your goals.
So being stuck on a plane, at the beginning of a year where my idea of how I was going to start my new year had been completely taken over by things outside of my control, I reflected on how I incorporate these “unexpected” things into my expectations. (Ever the control freak!). No, but in all seriousness, it has helped my perspective. I will be revising my goals, because I realized that with what I’ve planned, I’m still expecting too many things to go according to plan.
Being stuck on the plane was also an exercise in the lesson that there is no point worrying when you can’t do anything about your problems. Up there at 35000 feet, I couldn’t do anything to fix anything. So instead of dwelling on it, I just had to let it rest. It doesn’t mean it goes away from your brain, but you don’t let it take over.
4. Yes, life is unfair. Accept it. Deal with it.
You would think that being a victim of a credit card fraud and shin splits that affect what is a very important goal to me would be enough to start off a New Year with. No. I also got the worst jet leg in my memory, which has extended into physical symptoms well after the flight. My hands are swollen, and they go numb when I go to sleep, so then I wake up. They also feel numb and tingly as I am typing this. I’m not entirely sure but I believe it is called peripheral edema. So besides being completely knackered, bit worried, I also now had to deal with these other symptoms, while of course regular life is already starting to crowd in. Work that needs to be done, people to see, chores to do…none of that waits for me to be “normal” and back on the “plan.”
But it’s the way it is. Sometimes, things just happen. And you just have to deal with them. You just have to look for the next step. For the next way out. You just have to keep looking for the light. Because there is a light. Always. Some people just give up before they see it.
5. Perspective for 2017 (and life)
I’m looking at the start of 2017 as a sign from the universe. I’m looking at it as a reminder that unexpected things will happen, often unpleasant ones, and that I need to be more mentally ready to deal with them. People matter, and that I should never forget that, even when I am busy pursuing my goals. Likewise, people who treat me like I matter, no matter how busy they are…well, they are the keepers.
And most importantly….
Goals are a part of life. They are not life.
This is the lesson I think I need to remember the most.
With that, I would like to thank YOU, Kaizen Warriors, for being here. I hope that no matter what life throws at you this year, you find a way to turn it to your advantage, where it becomes a joy or a lesson. I wish you the best.