We're just into a new year. It has the potential to be a tough one given what the world economy is doing. There are some upsides. That same world is pretty much uniformly delighted with the change of guard in the American White House. Absurd perhaps, that so many can pin their hopes on one man but it shows the degree of disenchantment with the status quo.
South Africa is enjoying interesting political times. The end of last year saw the emergence of a brand new strain of haemorrhagic fever in a patient admitted to the Morningside clinic in Johannesburg. Songbird Miriam Makeba, 'Mama Africa', went to join her ancestors. And so on. But what does it mean for you at a personal level this year?
The past twelve months demonstrated, on many fronts, that social, economic, political and climate shifts are happening at an increasingly rapid rate. Digital communication has allowed us to become the global village so often spoken about. We now share the anguish, the joy, the fear and the uncertainty of that village, in real time via electronic media and the Internet. That can add enormously to stress levels and a state of anxiety. I have a view though: If I have no control over it, I'm not going to waste energy worrying about it. That doesn't mean not caring – just not worrying, counter-productively.
It's well known in psychology that when you have an action plan to deal with something, a strategy, a set of options, or you're doing something concrete to resolve or change an issue, your brain and immune system respond accordingly. So what do you want to, need to or have to change this year?
The greatest gift of being a human being is the gift of choice. Even though, as Gandhi famously described it, the scope of that choice is like a cow tethered by a rope to a stake in the ground. Meaning we can move as freely as we wish, but only within the confines of the length of that piece of rope.
A timely story for the start of a new year and one that's been around for ages, is that of an old Cherokee Native American talking to his grandchildren. Here it is: A Cherokee man was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is fear, envy, regret, greed, self-pity, resentment and ego. The other wolf is good. He is optimism, sharing, friendship, respect, compassion and trust. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too." They thought for a while and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" "The one you feed the most," replied the grandfather.
A radical thought perhaps, but if you were told you had six months to live, would you allow your life to continue as it did in 2008? Or are there things you'd like to change, improve, revisit, rekindle and refresh? Only you have the power to do that. You can either choose to make the change or wait long enough for circumstances to close in on you, seriously diminishing your options and forcing you to accept second best, without alternatives.
Sit down and list the things that are most valuable to you in career, relationship and life terms. Then ask yourself if you're content with where you and they are. Can you take them to the much talked-about 'next level', or are you going to risk being mired in mediocrity and dissatisfaction for another year? You can change your business, your life, your relationships and your level of contentment, provided you change your thinking. My question to you is, "Which wolf are you going to feed?"