Wherever you stand today is worth a deep breath of acknowledgement – and appreciation, for that matter. Wherever you stand today is different from where you stood at the beginning of this year, and there have been losses and gains for you to be where you are today. This is true of any year, but each year feels as if it builds on the foundation of the years before – as if it is a level up that could not have been navigated without the knowledge, skill, resilience, contrast and appreciation of the years before it. Each year brings learning, awareness and decisions that are unique to it.
As the eleventh month of 2022 draws to a close, and the rounding out of another year begins, taking a deep breath of acknowledgement for where we’ve been, what it’s required of us and what we’ve learned from it is how we ensure we mark the passing of the chapter of this year. Appreciation allows us to receive the gains, the lessons and the takeaways.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” He’s also the man who said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Both of these quotes and the combination thereof communicate the constant movement of time, with or without our willingness. If we imagine this year as a river that we’ve stepped through, has your river been deep and rapid with uncertain footing on stones that have threatened to turn your ankle at every next step? Has it been gentle and gurgling, just skimming the sides of the stones you could see clearly needed to be your next foothold? Or has it been a combination of the two? Who has it required you to be as you hopped from one foothold to the next, sometimes guessing about what you’d land on when you made the next decision to jump? Were there times when you just got in and waded? Or swam neck-deep? Was it warm and welcoming, or freezing cold and choppy?
Whatever your year has been, here we stand. In the proverbial shallows at the far edge of the river, able to turn round for a minute and acknowledge what we’ve crossed to be here before completing those last few steps towards the bank. Perhaps the current is still sucking at your ankles. Perhaps there are still a few pieces of debris in the fast-flowing water. But, what you have crossed is significant, and where you stand now, you do so as a new person.
One of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves is how we FEEL about the year gone past. If we have the self-presence to take stock, month by month, of what it has contained so that we can acknowledge the significance of it, we can take ourselves back over what it has felt like. Not all of that will be pleasant, but it is safe to do so from our vantage point as the people we stand as today.
It’s worth asking ourselves where we’ve felt we were in alignment with our value systems, and where we were perhaps a little left of center. This is often easier to feel than to define or express verbally. Where did a pathway, a decision, a person, a conversation make you feel uncomfortable? Where did you extend yourself and come away disappointed? Where did the leadership style you took have the desired effect and where did it not? What has worked for you this year and what has not? Where were you supported and where did you support others? What do we need more of, and what could we do without? Where did you feel joy?
These are all questions that help us stay true to our core selves and the development and growth of that core goodness and intention. It is from this core that our strengths, gifts, leadership styles and communication come. It is from this core self that we draw our navigation of life, of decisions and of contrast and find our way forward. Acknowledging the moments of growth and learning, of trial, struggle, sacrifice and realisation that this year has contained is how we’re able to slow that river for a moment – enough to acknowledge how we are changed, and appreciate what we have gained in the knowing.
I have a deep belief that whatever we are or have just moved through is preparing us for what comes next. Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards.” If we are unprepared to pause, acknowledge and understand our lives in reverse, we often lose the lessons gained as well as the vital recognition of how far we have come. This recognition within ourselves is what steels us to take on our next chapter filled with the determination and courage that strength of character delivers.
Before your brain kicks over to what comes next, do yourself justice by taking a brief look back and acknowledging what you’ve passed through. Choose to reap the strength and wisdom gained. Choose to file the lessons learned. Choose to step forward with greater knowledge of what aligns with you and what does not. Choose to recognise what you are capable of. Choose to place down whatever you are carrying, so that you can choose consciously to pick it up again and continue, or grasp with open hands whatever comes next. Choose to acknowledge and thank those who have journeyed with you and helped you cross that river.
By Christen Killick
November 28th, 2022