Lessons from an Extraordinary Man:
This post might be a little longer than others, but it certainly wasn’t intended that way. As I was devising the usual “Beat the holiday stress” or “Tips for a great year” type of blog, I became absorbed in a book that ate up my time and fascinated me. As I read, I realized that everything that I would like to say was reflected in the pages before me in the qualities of the great leader, Nelson Mandela. I don’t believe in idolizing people as we’re all imperfect individuals, but I do believe it is helpful to take the wisdom of teachers who have gone before us. The book was “Good Morning, Mr. Mandela” and gives a personal account of his life and experiences during and after his presidency as recounted by his personal secretary, Zelda la Grange. As we know, he was extraordinary and tasked with the formidable job of bringing South Africa together after being imprisoned for 27 years. He walked his talk. Here are some of the lessons he embodied that are timeless and we can use as we step into a new year.
1) It’s never too late to make change. Mandela was released at the ripe old age of 70 and changed a nation, so surely it’s not to late to make that career, life, health or relationship change you’ve been pondering.
2) Follow your passion. He often stated this and it showed in his clear vision of change. Our lives go where our focus is. Keep a clear vision of what you want. Dream, write, speak about it, act on it every day.
3) You can allow your past to victimize you…. or not. This one is self-explanatory! We can re-live the past or go on to make great change in the future.
4) There is always room for forgiveness. If Mandela can forgive and work with the people who imprisoned him, surely we can let go of grudges that hold us back. This is never to say that a wrongdoing was right, but more that “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”. Forgiveness is a choice for your health.
5) Helping others, or living a life of service, does not mean being a doormat. Mandela had many different groups to consider and respect, but his time was limited. He had clear boundaries.. meetings were short, discussions were focussed, he would cut people off. You can offer others your assistance, but also learn to say a loud ‘NO’!
6) Not everyone will like you. Accept this fact now. It’s not your job to change other’s minds, only your own.
7) To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains. How do we imprison ourselves in our minds with judgements, fears and negative or limiting thoughts about ourselves or the world. Sometimes we put ourselves in our own prison cell!
8) Lastly, in Mandela’s words… “it seems impossible until you do it”. I have certainly seen many examples of this in my own life. Just start, step by step, and slowly the impossible comes closer to possible.
So, as this is natural time to reflect on whatever new leaf you are turning over in your own life, as Nike says “Just Do It”. But do it with compassion, ease and respect for yourself. Laugh at your mistakes… and laugh a lot!!
What’s Your Word?
The second part of this blog is an easy, fun and powerful way to restart and refocus your intentions for your life in the next year. Our lives go where our minds focus, so why not focus on what you want? (This is also the last of the mindtraps that we were exploring). As our minds tend to naturally wander to the negative, simply to protect us from perceived threat, we have to continually be mindful and bring our thoughts back to the present and to what is good and positive.
So, what word would you pick, or 2-3 words, to describe how you want to live each and every day of the next year? It might be practical such as “motivated” or “energized” or something more esoteric like “love” or “with compassion”. Take a moment, jot down what comes to mind. Now revisit these words every day and stay in the groove you’ve created.
My best wishes to each and every one of you and my thanks for being part of the Mindful Living community. I hope you have found the posts useful in your own life this year. I LOVE writing them and will continue on a (mostly) weekly basis into 2015!!
Happy New Year and may this be a year filled with lots of what you are looking for.