Reflections are to life what rear mirrors are to cars – helping drivers to either change lanes or avoid being hit from behind. In hindsight, 2023 was a uniquely special year for me. I experienced wins, losses, laughter, cries, and lots of what the duality of life offers.
Below is a self-reflected account of my experiences in 2023, and the unexpected lessons learned thereof.
#1: Life is seasonal, treasure every moment
I had just buried my father-in-law and saw my father admitted for a life-threatening surgery when I received an email declaring my role at work redundant. Three unrelated episodes converged at my doorstep, uninvited.
Often, we take life and its bounties for granted. Without realizing how precious it is, we move along its corridors unbothered by what the closed doors on the hallway conceal for us.
2023 taught me to treasure the moments we have with those we love, the abundant seasons we merry in, and the financial and body health we fail to notice or mistake for a right.
#2: Don’t stop dreaming
While appreciating that dreams cannot and shouldn’t be held onto at the expense of reality and circumstance, we should never stop dreaming. A life lived devoid of dreams is a life guided by wind…and just like a sailing ship, it bends in the direction of the wind.
A dream is a compass of your life. Use it to paddle your canoe albeit the muscle pains to keep up. If you dream and keep working toward that dream every single day, there are no limits to what you can achieve.
#3: Success doesn’t attract friends, lack of it reveals them
Losing my job, failing to take my company off the ground as planned, and getting hit by financial headwinds taught me a valuable lesson: Most of those you call your friends are really just acquaintances. They are riding along only because it’s convenient, and fun and know there is something for their take home. They come only to celebrate ‘their’ wins – you just happen to be the custodian!
They will disappear when you get fired, your company fails, the creditors are on your neck, or you get divorced. In a period of such distress, your true friends are revealed. Not those who give you money, but those who stand with you expecting ZERO returns… CHERISH THEM.
#4: Investing in yourself pays…ALWAYS
Personal development investments pay dividends for a long time and are worth making. We’ve learned from life that you cannot give what you don’t have. That, you cannot become what you want, unless you intentionally put work into it.
There is no secret to personal development except the discipline to keep the focus on what you really need to do to grow yourself and produce to your optimum. As opposed to the money market whose value fluctuates based on unforeseen circumstances, investment in personal growth is sorely a personal doing…and its value only appreciates.
#5: The past is gone; the future is yet to come…you only have THE PRESENT
Successes and failures of the past are just that: the past. They are gone and never to return, all that remains are memories and lessons learned. Our decision to change the future can be influenced by our past, but only holds water based on our present actions. We cannot wish our way into a better future – work and sweat are the only tickets we’ve got.
By wisely taking action in the present, we influence how our future will be. The present may be harsh, greyish, or obscure but that’s the only armour we’ve got to fight for our future. Step out and take charge!
#6: Learn, unlearn, and re-learn
Learning never stops. As a lifelong learner, I can attest that nourishing our brain not only keeps it healthy but also strengthens its muscles – enabling it to expand to a capacity we could never imagine.
Be intentional in learning that which is new, unlearning what is no longer relevant, or wrong, and re-learning the things/skills that you had forgotten, or had thought not important to keep.
#7: Celebrate small wins
When toddlers begin to hold onto seats, chairs, tables, or even walls to stand up, we clap emotionally and with celebration. Why? Because those small steps are what births future walks and ultimately, runs.
In the same breath then, shouldn’t we celebrate the small wins that we make – especially under very unforgiving circumstances?
You’ve read one more page than yesterday? Celebrate it. Made one new friend? Rejoice. Made that application to your dream job? Clap for yourself. Reduced alcohol intake this month? Be happy, you are getting there.
Only by celebrating these small wins do we build character and are more grounded to capture that coveted prize.
#8: Life is not a ZERO-SUM game
2023 reminded me of the fact that despite the many blocks thrown our way, life is never a zero-sum game. Going through life in a winner-takes-it-all (also known as scarcity mentality) is infectious. Playing to win OR win can be draining. A loss with such a mentality gives no space for reflection to improve…only regrets and sour grapes.
Play to win OR lose…but aim for learning and improvement – no matter the outcome. Sharing doesn’t deplete what you have but rather creates room for more. An abundant mentality opens up opportunities to learn, improve, and grow. There is always more, go for it!
By Kirimi Mitambo – EdTech | Innovation Leadership | Product Management