Lessons learned

Social media today has its share of videos looking back on 2016. In addition to the obvious detailing of the crap year it was in terms of the number of greats who shuffled off this mortal coil and in terms of national decisions with global consequences, other posts are detailing the good that happened. Child mortality is down, the number of tigers in the world is up.  Six million homes in California now have solar power, while in India, 50 million trees were planted in just 24 hours, and Portugal ran the country on renewable energy for four days in a row. The 800 Boko Harem hostages were released and a bank is picking up the tab for college tuition for the children of employees who died in 9/11.

The list goes on and on and there are plenty of lists out there. So it wasn’t all bad; we’re simply conditioned to focusing on the worst.

2017cLooking back on 2016, for me it was an instructive year. I learned some new things and was reminded of some lessons of old. And that’s always good.

I learned the importance of listening to my gut. If it feels right and won’t hurt anyone, go for it. Life is too short to dither.

I learned that voting doesn’t end when the ballot has been cast. A huge part of the process is accepting the right of the other side to have an opinion and realising that some people are so entrenched in their views that no amount of talking or reasoning will change how they think. Better to be an example of what you believe to be right. Goodness will out.  Don’t preach, show.

I’ve always known that the more I give, the more I get in return. But this year, I’ve realised that regular giving to those who do nothing but take creates a culture of expectation and dependency in them and unwanted resentment and frustration in me. It’s important to find the balance.

I’ve learned that constant negativity, something I once thought contagious, is now simply a pain in the proverbial. How we react to life is a choice.

I’ve learned that the secret to a good relationship lies in actively caring, in doing something nice for that person every day, every single day.

I’ve finally got the hang of the whole eat less/exercise more thing. Fad diets work – in the short-term. Long-term, it’s about changing habits.

I’ve learned that getting upset with people because they don’t behave as I expect them to behave is a waste of energy. If I can’t accept it, I can either adjust my expectations or see them less often.

I’ve learned that commutes are blessings in disguise as I rediscover the joys of driving and the music that goes with it.

I’ve learned that compromise isn’t nearly as painful as I’d thought. To get you have to give – something for something. Everything is negotiable if both parties are coming from a place where they want the best for the other person.


I’ve realised that without my faith in God, life would be a lot more difficult; without my eclectic set of friends, life would be a lot less fun; and without the dream of a better tomorrow, life would be a lot less meaningful.










Looking forward

We’re taught to review, to learn from our mistakes. We’re conditioned to examine what has happened, to glorify the lessons we have learned. And perhaps we spend too much time looking in the wrong direction.

IMG_9119 (800x598)December is a time of reflection; we evaluate our successes and our failures, what went right and what could have gone better. As the end of the year approaches, we fall into one of three camps: those who are happy with a year well lived and are looking forward to 2014; those who can’t wait to see the back of what has been a series of one disaster after another and are looking forward to 2014; or those who are too busy living the present to demarcate their lives into annual segments and will still be writing 2013 in March.

The papers are full of what has happened in the last twelve months. Catastrophes are being replayed. Famous births and deaths are being recounted. Milestones in sporting history are being relived. We will parse and analyse the political shenanigans of those we have elected to office. From our armchairs we will dish out our expert opinion on where exactly the world went wrong this year. And with the benefit of hindsight we might even be wishing that we had done things a little differently.

For me, the end of the year is not about reviewing what has happened to learn from my mistakes. I’ve never mastered that art – I make mistakes so that others can learn from me. It’s not about measuring my success or failure against the 12-month plan I agonised over in January because my plan has always been to have no plan. It’s not about checking my bank balance and share portfolio to see how much better (or worse) off I am this year vs last year.

For me, the end of the year is about giving thanks for all that has happened – good and bad; each tear and laugh has helped shape who I am, the person I’m born to be. It is about counting my blessings, blessings that take the shape of friends and family, kind words, good deeds, opportunities and experiences. It’s about realising that generosity of heart and spirit is the secret to a life well lived.

Let’s not overcomplicate things in our review of 2013. Let it go. And let’s keep it simple for 2014: live well, laugh often, love much.

First published in the Budapest Times 13 December 2013