‘…it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life,…whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. -Steve Jobs (Apple Inc. Founder)
It is said that your life is a gift from God and what you choose to do with it is your gift back to Him. The next 12 months of this New Year 2107 is a blank canvas waiting for us all to put our imprints on it. It is yet another opportunity to live a life of purpose, to plan and to produce meaningful work and life experiences that will bring our hearts the greatest joy and fulfilment. Living life intentionally and on purpose in 2017 will in turn prove to be a great blessing to us, our friends and families and to those in our sphere of influence and beyond.
I however find that to plan for a productive year, it’s always best to do an introspection by reviewing the year that has just gone by. So instead of being so quick to discard 2016 as being done and dusted, before I dust it off completely, I find that it’s always a good idea to spend some time reflecting on the previous year. By reflection I mean to look back on 2016 and to draw on the valuable insights, experiences and life lessons one has learnt from the previous year. It is to derive meaning and understanding behind the highs and the lows of the previous year, the joys and the sorrows, the tests and the trials and the ensuing testimonies. All these experiences though hard-won contain valuable nuggets of wisdom which if harnessed properly and applied in 2017 can set you up for a great new year. For it is only in looking back, reflecting and extracting those hard-won lessons from the previous year 2016 will we be better-equipped to handle this new year with all the possibilities and opportunities that it holds.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly and to expect different results. So, in looking back, we get to analyse the lessons that served as well in 2016 and we purpose to go into this New Year with those lessons and to discard the lessons that didn’t serve us so well. That is how you set yourself up for a productive new year.
The quote above by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc. perfectly encapsulates the wisdom in looking back in order to move forward or as he puts it ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward’. In his own words ‘This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life’.
So, as I contemplate the next 12 months ahead I wanted to use this blog post to introspectively look back at 2016 and to explore the BEST lessons I learnt last year and to encourage you to also do the same and to use the insights you glean from this exercise to look forward into 2017 and to plan your most productive New Year yet. So, my
Lesson #1 is: Look Back to Look Forward
Lesson 2-Define Success On Your Own Terms
It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy or like the Bible puts it ‘…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise’-2 Corinthians 10:12(KJV)
It is not wise to compare your life’s journey with another’s. For sure, you can take inspiration from another’s journey through life but you have your own unique set of life experiences, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and preferences that make you quite unlike anyone in this world. That difference if properly harnessed can become your USP (unique selling point) or your advantage in this life. Life is all about choices and decisions. You are where you find yourself in life today because of the choices you have made in the past whether good or bad and you are the only one who can change the course of your life this 2017 if you will boldly make choices and decisions that will move your life onward and upward and into where you want to be. That is why it is so important that from the onset of this New Year you define what success means to you. In other words, define success on your own terms.
Defining success on your own terms is designing a life that allows you to embrace your individuality and to create a life that contains the things that bring you the greatest joy, happiness and fulfilment instead of chasing a ‘cookie cutter version’ of what a successful life ought to look like. In 2017 decide to dial up the sound of your own voice where you exercise the free will that God has given you to design a life where the people, the things that matter most to you, the work that brings you the greatest fulfilment, joy and contentment are included in it. This allows you to live life authentically and on your own terms without allowing the thief of comparison to rob you of your peace and happiness.
Defining success on your own terms is also about designing a life which includes the things you feel deep passion for, the causes that matter most to you and where expending your time and efforts fill your heart with the most joy.
Defining success on your own terms is about achieving your boldest dreams and ambitions but doing it on your own terms and about dancing to the beat of your own drum. No one can define success for you.
In 2016, I learned a very valuable lesson which is that God’s gift of free will to me means that in union with Him only I can decide what success looks like to me and on the strength of that blueprint I have the freedom to embrace the opportunities and possibilities that come my way and that align with that definition of success. This brings my heart the greatest joy because in the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take. Please don’t subscribe to a ‘cookie cutter version’ of what success is. In conjunction with God the creator of the universe, let His Word (The Bible) help you to define success on your own terms. The Bible if studied contains so many valuable life principles and wisdom keys which when applied to your life will see your life tangibly going from strength to strength and from grace to grace.
Joshua 1:8-‘Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do’
Defining success on your own terms is doing well at what you love and doing it with excellence as your hallmark. It is being well regarded by those who mean the most to you. It’s about learning about yourself and what you want out of life and having the confidence to admit it to yourself and to those around you who mean the most to you. It’s about having the grit and virtue to pursue with passion your life’s dreams and goals.
Defining success on your own terms is about living your life in accordance with your values and being authentically you by pursuing the things that bring you the greatest joy and by contributing your gifts, talents, abilities, time and resources to causes that matter the most to you. That is what defining success on your own terms is all about. Happiness doesn’t come from success. Success becomes happiness because you poured your heart and soul into achieving the things that matter the most to you. You are happy because you exercised your freedom to do and to pursue the things that matter most to you.
Defining success on your own terms is about learning to say ‘no thank you’ to things, as great sounding as they may be, but somehow don’t align with your values and goals in life and rather exercising your free will to say yes to only doing the things that fill your heart with the greatest joy. This means designing a life in which you have ‘… the daring, and the will to make your boldest dream come true…’’-Jessica Delullo Herrin (CEO and Founder of Stella & Dot Family Brands)
Lesson 3: Passion
The BIGGEST lesson I learnt last year can be summed up in one phrase ‘PURSUE YOUR PASSION(S) and GO AFTER YOUR DREAMS’. We all have things in our lives that bring us the greatest joy and add meaning and purpose to our lives. Those things are the desires of your heart and they are signposts to help you to pinpoint your passion(s) and if pursued allows you to build a life of meaning and purpose. You owe it to yourself to identify your passion(s), to follow your passion(s) and to live a life of purpose, meaning and fulfilment by pursuing the things that bring you the greatest joy and enables you to be a blessing to others.
In the words of Fabienne Fredrickson “The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” There is nothing as fulfilling and as life changing as having the boldness to pursue the things that you are passionate about. It is the secret to living a life of happiness, fulfilment and contentment. We go through years of education just to prepare for a career that in some cases ends up not bringing us the fulfilment that we so desperately desire and all the while the very thing that will bring us the greatest fulfilment in life which is actually the desires of our hearts which is expressed as our passion(s) is left largely ignored. So, life transforming was this revelation that I now teach my students not to discount their passions as they pursue academic excellence. If I see a passion that they have an exceptional giftedness in, I encourage it with every fibre of my being because I have come to realise that your passion(s) gives you the freedom to be your creative best and to produce your most excellent and meaningful work. The best part of pursuing your passion is that in time you can turn your passion into a career.
Last year I discovered the truth of scripture expressed in the verse that says ‘A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men’-Proverbs 18:6
God has put a gift or talent in EVERY person and should you choose to pursue it, the world will adjust and make room to accommodate it and even pay you for it. In 2017, decide to exercise your gift and find the gateway to a life of real fulfilment, purpose, and contentment in your work.
It is interesting to note that the Bible does not say that a man's education will make room for him, but that it is his gift which does. Find your gift and pursue education that is in line with your gift. The education you pursue in line with your gift will allow you to sharpen that gift.
‘Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings…’-Proverbs 22:29(NIV)
Most people don’t realise that the gift they are sitting on expressed as their passion(s) is loaded. The world won't move over for you just because you're smart. However, when you exercise your gift, not only will the world make room for you, but it will also pay you for it. Do what God has given you the grace to do and genuinely serve others with that gift. There is joy in lightening the load of another by serving them with your gift. No matter how big the world is, there's a place for you in it when you discover and manifest your gift. Your passion is simply the expression of the stirring inside of you that seeks to edify and bless the sphere of influence that God has placed you in with your gifts, talents and abilities. So in 2017, prayerfully find out what stirs you the most and make it a lifestyle.
Lesson 4: Write Down Your Vision For 2017 & Have A Concise Plan to Smash Them
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to actually sit down and to map out the future you desire to have in 2017. What you don't plan and act upon, will never happen. By clearly writing down your goals and specifying exactly what it is that you want to achieve in 2017 and specifying the timeframe within which you want to achieve those goals will go a long way to making 2017 a fruitful year.
Journaling allows you to do just that YET it is one of the lesser known SECRETS of GREAT productivity. The word journal comes from the French word "jour" and from the Latin word "diurnalis" meaning daily. Thus, a journal is some form of notebook in which daily writing (or at least regular writing) is recorded.
You see the world is ruled by ideas and EVERY single day even on social media we come into contact with SO many ideas but most people take these ideas and even their own ideas which God so generously gives them for granted. We don't curate the ideas we receive or come across & neither do we take the time to reflect on it or action it. The best way to organise all those ideas is to keep a journal. The discipline of keeping a planner or journal will allow you to do this. In 2017, decide to be a collector of ideas through journaling. It allows you to be watchful and to notice the things around you. Journaling is one of the MOST overlooked & underappreciated of spiritual disciplines. Journaling is the difference between learning & remembering. It is the difference between forgetting & fulfilling. Journaling allows you to become a student of your own life, your own future, your own destiny.
Journals help you to write down your own ideas and the ideas around you and to clarify your thoughts. It allows you to jot down your feelings, responses, and the insights into daily events that occur in your life. This gives you the opportunity to discover what you actually think and how you feel about different topics and events. You might think that you will remember everything you see and experience around you but it is very easy to forget VALUABLE information and that is why you should keep a journal. You can't always trust your memory to recall every single specific detail about an event. When you listen to something valuable, write it down. When you come across something important, write it down. The discipline of journaling allows you to turn your wishes into dreams and your dreams into goals and your goals into actionable plans. Journaling is truly transformational in every sense of the word. It is not for nothing that God instructs Habakkuk in Habakkuk Chapter 2: verses 2-3 to: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry".
When you look back at your journal in years to come you will marvel & stand in awe at the faithfulness of God. What you pray, plan for and act on in union with God, God is committed to helping you bring it to pass.
Lesson 5: Have Faith
Usually when it comes to the subject of faith, people talk a great deal about having faith and confidence in oneself. This is all well and good but have you ever come to a place in life where having all the faith and confidence in yourself didn’t quite get that tricky situation in your life to shift or move in your favour? That is why I stopped trying to do life on my own terms long ago but instead I make it a point to involve God because I am only human and I am very much aware of my weaknesses and limitations. Just the business of living alone will prove to you sooner or later that your efforts and self-confidence can only get you so far. So yes, have faith and confidence in yourself but draw that self-confidence from your relationship with God. Let your faith rest on God and His promises. I have proven God over the years and I have come to realise that of a truth ‘For with God nothing will be impossible'-Luke 1:37
I don’t know what this coming year holds but I do know the God who holds 2017 and His promise to us all as expressed in scripture is that ‘…I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear…’-Hebrews 13:5-6.
So, in 2017 go boldly in the direction of the things that set your soul on fire and trust in the contentment of God’s provision, the companionship of His presence, the confidence of His promises and the comfort of His protection.
I wish you all a very happy new year & thank you all so much for your continued support. I have incredibly amazing content planned for this year that will add real value and impart tangible blessings to your life.
Lots of love & best wishes,
Psalm 65:11-'You crown the year with Your Goodness and Your paths drip with abundance'.
Green jacket: Zara
Badges on jacket: Zara
Green Tote Bag: Zara
Green Pashmina Scarf:Gifted to me by a work colleague (Thanks Kemi X)