Growth has to do with the creation of options. Once you run out of choices, there’s not much to live for any longer. Functional and happy people are those who manage to create options in life. This ability is embedded in the human DNA and it is one of the skills that separate us from the other creatures we share our world with.
But unlike other natural abilities, this is one, when neglected, it fades into obscurity.
There are mainly two ways of ensuring progression in this area. The first being the constant development of the number of skills you have. While keeping those you possess active, learn something new every year. The increase of abilities is direct proportionate to the number of options you have in life.
The second is to develop an eye for the gap. The skill to see an opportunity needs to be trained and nurtured.
Having options put one in a position of power, the power of choice.
I am, because we are. “Ubuntu” is the African word for describing the essence of co-existence and the importance of my own position in society. Although my own place in humanity is largely defined by the group I find myself in, my value is determined by myself.
The position I occupy does not establish my worth. The influence I have on my environment does. That is the reason why statues are only built for people who influenced society. Usually having to go against the flow of the usual. Not allowing the way of least resistance to direct their actions.
Standing alone amongst my peers and facing the challenge of the strong current of opposing the institutionalized wrongs that will define me. That is why no statues are built for people who had an easy life.
Whistleblowing is not seen as a virtue among those who have vested interests in mediocrity and the iniquitous.
My attitude towards my own purpose should then rather be: “We are because I am”.
Call it Utopia, Paradise or any other name. It remains the ultimate dream of society. An imaginary place of perfection in all social systems. The irony lies in the word “Utopia” itself. Literally it means “nowhere”. In the mind of most people the concept of a perfect world lies outside and beyond what we know in this life, so it can only be possible in a place and time on the “other side”.
If that is your belief, you have accepted the brokenness of this world as your destiny. Then you gave up on good, well and contentment.Utopia is not a destination, it’s a direction. Even if my influence is limited and does not allow me to change the world, I can at least direct my own life. Living in the direction of perfection allows me to alter my own little world.
Amidst a chaotic and uncomfortable space, my drive is to build a bubble of happiness where I make the rules I live by. I will not allow the negative environment to dictate my quality of life. I will not allow my lack of resources to set the level of joy. I will find my Utopia in my relationship with the important people in my life. So, Utopia is not “nowhere”, it is “everywhere”. A borderless paradise.
The way to the top is often interrupted with a downward turn. In striving to achieve excellence, the route to follow does not allow for an uninterrupted upward gradient. Where excellence does not mean to be the best, but to constantly improve. Not in relation to “others”, but compared to one self. Improving on your own abilities, capabilities and self-worth that are where achieving excellence becomes a constant fight against yourself.
In order to give the next step to reach the next level, there is the need for an ongoing reflection of what lies below the surface. The shadow of what your personality shines towards the world around you. The hidden motives that push you, the concealed anger you mask as “drive”. The envy you present as empathy or the arrogance you screen behind confidence.
The only way to discover and understand the shadow-side is to dive down into who I really am. To constantly ask the question, “why do I feel this way?” or “What is it I actually want?” “Why am I upset?” This kind of diving, gives you the insight into yourself to venture forward and upward.
In Africa there is a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go together”. In venturing through this life one quickly learns that going alone is very dangerous, very risky and extremely lonely. Somewhere in the late teens of one’s life the main objective is to go alone. Be independent, do your own thing. It is only in the first major predicament that the realization dawns on you that you actually need others not only to survive but also, and especially, to get ahead – to grow.
Soon you also get to understand that although you may need the others around you, you cannot “like” everyone. Some of those you come across just cannot fit into your template of like-ness. Usually we then try to avoid those or at least evade them to save yourself from having to deal with them. Yet, the sooner one learns to grasp the fact that not to like someone is not to be confused with not to respect or even endure those.
We often hear the phrase that we should “love” one another. That does not mean to “like” everybody is even possible. It means to respect the others and acknowledge the contribution they can make in assisting me to develop my own strengths.
Alone, personal growth is just not possible. Only when you recognize the value of those around you- the ones you like as well as those you don’t- growth towards maturity can commence. Together is more.
The drive for success or for mere survival does not always depend on constant movement. To ensure a continuous effort in the direction of your set destination, replenishing your energy and inspiration is essential. Like a ship mooring in a harbour to restock and replace the natural thing to do would be to stop, attach and refill.
With the change of seasons in nature or in your life, this would be the wise thing to do. Stop for a while; contemplate on consumed energy and capacity. What were the areas you spent the most effort of in the recent past? It could be depleted energy because of irritations of frustrations in you or around you. Even the worn-out feeling because of a lack of recognition for all your hard work.
Now is the time for mooring to your strengths. Re-tying the ropes to your assets.
The secret is not to ponder on the frustrations of the past, but to reassure yourself of your potential and competencies. Mooring is not suspending, but sustaining. Get the provisions on board and set out for a new adventure.
It depends on the angle whether you will be able to see the rainbow. It is there, it is always there, but for your observation point it remains hidden. Two things are important in this process, one’s own position and the awareness to spot the light.
To be “in the right place at the right time” one has to pre-determine your position towards life in general. The angle at which you look at opportunities and difficulties will govern your view towards the environment. What might seem like problems or failures to some may reveal itself as an opportunity if seen from the right angle.
The awareness to spot the light from your angle just might show the rainbow against the insignificant background. In business or relationships the angle regulates one’s response. Opportunities are always there; it is often just hidden by false reflections of darkness. Changing your angle could allow you to spot the possibilities in the testing times. Once you developed the habit of consciously placing yourself at the right angle, it becomes easier to grow an awareness to opportunities.