It doesn’t matter how grand your next step is, nor if you are planning that “journey of a thousand miles,” just commit to forward momentum—all the while mindfully practicing the occasional pause on a blessed plateau along your sometimes-steep-and-challenging climb—to rest, reflect, reenergize and rejoice in the view and experience of the moment. This is one of the many insights gleaned from my climb of, and book about, Mt. Kilimanjaro—the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. I offer you these above words of working wisdom to help bolster your positive, mentally healthy approach to a more hopeful and brighter new year. A new year that is still unwritten. I love this time of year for that very reason. The “unwrittenness” of it all.
I prefer working with a paper planner (yeah, yeah, I know… I’m a Luddite in this regard) so, at this time of year—the first week of January—when I open my brand new, full-sized, hard-bound, gold-edged planner, I love the sound of the cracking spine, the smell of the pages (the odd ones still fused, in need of peeling, so that each day stands alone), and the “tabula rasa” look of all those pristine leafs… wondering what will be “written” on them, literally and metaphorically. It makes me think of the first lines from Rogers and Hammerstein’s (Sound of Music) song: I Have Confidence:
I wonder. What will my future be? I wonder.
The future. We spend a lot of our lives fretting about it (perhaps particularly with this most recent turn of events in the USA this week). We want to plan it; predict it. Or at least try to. As if figuring it out will soften the blow or help us feel safer. But the future is a rascal. You can’t see the future, but you know it’s there. Hiding. Coming. Always changing. The future is the residence of our deepest fears and craziest hopes. But we all know, from our own past experiences, that the future never goes exactly the way we imagined or scripted. Just look at what happened in 2020. Case in point: On January 28, 2020 my cousin from England came to Toronto on business for 24 hours. That evening, as we chatted about the dawn of Covid-19, Ontario was reporting five cases. Five. The UK proudly boasted that they had none. None. Then look what happened! It’s still less than a year from that “whose got the better numbers” night. You never can tell what the future holds. As John Lennon reminded, in his song, Beautiful Boy:
We all know this now, at a whole new level, but it’s still worth remembering: the future can change on a dime. The future is always waiting for us to arrive, but we also have the day that’s in front of us—and the week, month and year, too—before we move on to “normal” once again. While some are professionally required to look way into the future, e.g., government leaders, healthcare professionals, finance-focused professionals, etc., from a personal perspective, biting off merely a one-day-at-a-time part of 2021 is enough for now.
Last year everything looked “regular” and typically on track. Then it wasn’t. This year we anticipate that “future 2021” will reverse the destiny of 2020; that it will start off, perhaps, with continued global worries, cautions and growing Covid-case numbers, but then hopefully turn “regular” by year’s end. Meantime, just for today, and then for tomorrow, etc., standby with hope, perseverance and a continued commitment to demonstrating mindful extra kindness and patience with your colleagues, family, friends, neighbours and other community members—now, more than ever. Especially if you are now finding some people’s fuses are growing shorter. For yourself, practice conscious, mindful, deep breathing throughout your day—especially if you sit a lot. Count to ten more often, to come back to centre, when you feel your anger or fret rising. Embrace the Carpenter’s Credo of measuring twice and cutting once—meaning, thinking twice and speaking (or acting) once, when it comes to your interactions with all others, both professionally and personally.
Day by day, step by step (just like my climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro!), we are getting there. We all know that time goes by so quickly, whether or not we’re moving through a good time, or a peaceful time, or an unpredictable historical time. So, before you know it, despite it all, you will be at some dinner party, or wedding, or annual conference, or some other social event (yes, social event, in person!), in, let’s say 2025, and someone will say, “Remember back in 2020 and 2021, when we went through the pandemic and all that other tumultuous political stuff? What are your “war stories” from back then?” And you will dig into the archives of your mind to recount your tales to tell. Your current Covid-19 and other experiences will all be merely stories from your past… This current experience will be totally behind us soon enough, in the future; but for now, tend to your today. Focus on the day and person in front of you right now. In many ways, the only time and person that really matters. And perhaps hold on to this truth, while doing so:
Remember that there is only one important time and it is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at your side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”
― Leo Tolstoy, The Emperor’s Three Questions
To fortify your 2021 mental health and hopeful heart even further, consider profound messages contained within this Louis Armstrong classic, What a Wonderful World… an interesting and inspiring testimonial to juxtapose on the news stories of this first week of 2021:
They’re really saying “I love you.’”
It’s still a wonderful—full of wonder—world. Always has been; always will be. You just have to remember to look for it. And at it. And embrace it. And be an active and enduring advocate for it.
This year is going to be a much better year for us all/for the whole world. And while we may not right now “see friends’ shaking hands, saying ‘How do you do,’” we do know that, despite the masks and gloves, those friends really are out there, and they really are saying (in gesture, kindness, and smiles), a philios/brotherly, “I love you.” You can see it in their eyes and the rise of their cheeks behind the cloth, if you look a little harder. And if you don’t see it in their eyes and their cheeks, you be the one who starts the cycle. Let it start with you.
As well, I’ve dug up the following poem (from the archives of my own teenaged mind, lol) that may also serve as inspiration when reaching for some hope, encouragement, and sage and simple advice to see you through your early days of 2021. I first experienced this offering as a song, while I was at high school—Desiderata, by poet Max Ehrmann. For many, this poem serves as a life-changing template—a mantra by which to live through hard times, and any time. “Go placidly amidst the noise and haste… as far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons…”
So then, while it’s true, that we spend a lot of time worrying about and focusing on the future, commit to taking your thoughts off of auto-pilot long enough each day to realize that NOW (especially after the year we’ve all just experienced) is the time in which your life is happening. Not after tomorrow. Not after the pandemic’s done. It’s happening right now. It’s here today. As Ferris Bueller reminds us:
If you don’t stop and look around once in a while,
you could miss it.
Circling back to those unwritten “planner pages” of 2021, and those wonders about how it will all turn out, consider embracing the sentiments behind these perfect-for-this-time-of-year lyrics:
Can’t read my mind.
I’m just beginning.
The pen’s in my hand.
— Unwritten, By Natasha Bedingfield
Have confidence that, despite having to sometimes beg, “Oh help!” “spring will come again!”:
I’ll do better than my best. I have confidence they’ll put me to the test.
But I’ll make them see I have confidence in me…
With each step I am more certain, everything will turn out fine…
I have confidence in sunshine. I have confidence in rain. I have confidence that spring will come again… All I trust I leave my heart to.
All I trust becomes my own….— I Have Confidence, Rogers and Hammerstein (Sound of Music)
And finally (in more ways than one), take heart at these worldwide good news trends. Things really are getting better, even if this short-term reality appears otherwise. Hang on and just Take That One Next Step. Today. ☺
My earnest good wishes to you, your colleagues and loved ones, for great moments of happiness and fortified health in 2021. ☺
P. S. These above messages are contained in my virtual keynote presentations—alongside many others, both inspirational and educational—and are drawn from my two bestselling volumes, Getting Passion Out of Your Profession: How to keep loving your living come what may, and, A Time to Creep, A Time to Soar: Leadership and life lessons from climbing Kilimanjaro).
* I’d be delighted to deliver a first-of-the-year bolstering and encouraging virtual keynote presentation to your work team, association members, etc. If you’re keen to explore the possibility of our partnering on such a project, feel free to give me a call at: 416-588-3334. No need for an emailed request for appointment. I love spontaneity! I’d be happy to chat with you anytime. ☺ If you’d prefer, feel free to visit my website (first) to read client accolades, such as this one from my most recent virtual keynote presentation:
“A heartfelt thank you for your (virtual) contributions yesterday Nina! Your keynote messaging, your engaging spirit, and your delivery were exactly what our EarlyON sector needed. Including the books! I can’t wait to crack mine open! I’ve connected with you so many times and I always leave with new insights, ideas, and more energy to push forward and continue on! Our virtual participants left feeling acknowledged, energized and inspired to take on their roles and the challenges and victories that await them in the year ahead. Mission accomplished! It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside you this year. We appreciate your partnership and look forward to working with you again!”
— Tenneil Dhaliwal, Manager, Quality Initiatives, Child Development Resource Connection Peel/CDRCP (Within The Region of Peel)