By Howard Feldman
Later today I will go to the local bookshop where I will buy an unreasonably priced moleskin notebook and a gel-based pen. My wife will roll her eyes, thinking of the half-used ones I have back home, but she will not attempt to talk me out of doing it. Because this is a yearly ritual that assists me to focus, plan, introspect and execute.
And is something that I would encourage everyone to do.
The purchase of the items marks the beginning of the process. What follows is a requirement to take yourself out for a coffee. Go on your own, find a place that will allow you to sit comfortably, order a superb cup of their best, put your phone away and indulge.
When looking back at the past year and forward to the year that will be, I like to start by asking myself three questions:
- What should I continue to do?
- What should I start to do?
- What should I stop doing?
There is a tendency that we all have, with looking ahead is to focus on the things that we haven’t achieved. So, if for example we have not been exercising (yes, that is on my list), it is logical for this to be listed first. The danger with this approach is that it removes perspective and context and will likely result in a list of useless “resolutions” and little hope of success.
Which is why I like to begin with the “What should I continue to do?” question. What are the things that worked, or are working? What has gone well and what are some of the systems that are in place that are worth holding on to. Then I can look at the things that haven’t been good for me and that I need to stop doing. Only then do I list the things that I need to do.
I like to focus on different areas of my life, including creativity (“work”), family, friends, faith and health. Some might require more focus than others, but it is worthwhile spending a minute or two on each in any event.
For most of us, the work or creativity area is where we will spend the most time. It can also be the most daunting. Which is why, following the questions above, it is worth posing the following one:
What does success look like to me? In other words, what would allow me to sit at the same coffee shop at the end of 2023, with a new overpriced moleskin diary and gel-based pen, and to be able to say “Wow! That was a great year!”? Forget the limitations, forget the nay-sayers, and forget the voice in your head that is brilliant at listing the reasons it won’t succeed. Just write it down. Put it in on that paper and then ask yourself what there is to lose by trying.
Imagine what would happen if the leader of every country were to do this. Imagine if President Cyril Ramaphosa took himself out for coffee, sat down and asked himself three questions. What should the ANC continue to do? What should they stop doing and what should they start to do? I imagine that if we all had to do that for him, we would likely write the same, or similar things.
The value of holidays is that they allow our overworked and overstress brains to slow down. Although we can never get away from who we are (because we take ourselves on vacation after all), it does give us the opportunity to look elsewhere for a bit. So that when we turn back to our lives, we have a perspective that might have been missing.
I am excited about 2023. I believe that South Africa will begin to turn the corner, that as home after home, business after business turns to renewable energy, that we will be less dependent on Eskom, that the industry itself will create jobs, boost the economy, and stimulate growth. I believe that the opposition parties will continue to mature and that South Africans will continue to live, to laugh, to be kind and to fill their overpriced notebooks with dreams of a future without limitations.