A time for reflection


I like to reflect on society and the human condition. It allows for greater discovery, tolerance and broadmindedness in my personal journey.

This week, though, I call for a more specific kind of reflection, one that looks back at the past eleven months of your life.

The only reason for the choice of this particular period is, it gives you a specific time frame that is common to all.

We tend to fix our framework within time periods that are sometimes imposed on us, rather than of our choice.

It could be financial year, tax returns periods if you are in a country where that regime still applies or April if you are managing an English Premiership soccer side.

Whatever the case, how has your year gone?

Let’s assume that you started off the year with a desire or a specific goal.

Different people frame these differently.

Others write down their desire or think about it until they die, and others have a vague idea of what they want to achieve and then work on it as they go along.

What was your intention this year?

Did you have any idea what you wanted to do and if not, is it not time you thought about why you didn’t and what you are going to do about it for the next period of your life?

A couple of years ago, I stood on the beach of Normandy with my family and tried to visualise the allied troops landing.

Ten thousand of them died on arrival. Imagine being trained as a soldier, getting on to a boat and sailing over the vast ocean to get rid of Hitler only to die before you begin to fight!

What were the dreams of those young American, British and Canadian soldiers?

Was it to simply make it through the war and get back home to a waiting sweetheart, was it to be a part of something noble and bigger than themselves?

How you frame your desire is quite important and, while it might not increase your chances of survival in a hail of gunfire on a crowded beach, it certainly allows you to have a better chance of bringing it to realisation.

Getting rich from selling diamonds is more risky than getting a loan to open a business.

The question for you, therefore is: what is your specific desire for next year?

The second question is: does your desire depend on the efforts of others?

To give a simple but very satisfying example, one Trevor Ncube tweeted last week that he had decided to reduce his emotional investment in Arsenal FC until further notice! Us Liverpool supporters, are of course blessed with thicker skins.

The point though remains: how much of your major goal depended or depends on the efforts of others?

How much of it can you shape, drive and control?

Sebastian Vettel, who recently emerged as the youngest ever winner of Formula 1, said on the day before the last race of the season:

“The best strategy is to drive like hell or something to that effect.”

It was a race that had four potential champions emerging on the day.

In the examples that follow, I use excerpts from the Telegraph as it runs us through Sebastian Vettel’s diary of his championship winning season.

Getting pole position is important in Formula 1.

It helps to make driving like hell much easier. How do you activate your inspirational alarm?

Vettel, who is German, talks about his inspiration after losing in Belgium and leaving the race wide open.

“After Belgium everyone wrote off my championship chances but I did not. In fact, I remember a Bundesliga match the day before. Mainz 05 were 3-0 down and came back to beat Wolfsburg 4-3.

Perhaps the championship could be like Mainz 05 in this game,” said Vettel.

You see, the thing with motivational speakers is, we try to find the different things that make champions tick.

Yet when we mention these things over and over again, for we essentially repeat the same message in different ways, the readers still roll their eyes as if to say, you really think I will think of Muhammed Ali doing rope-a-dope against George Foreman when I am almost down and out?

Our answer remains yes, it is precisely what we ask you to do.

Whether it is the greatest comeback in History in Instanbul (yep, Liverpool again) or the epic tale of the battle of the Somme and everything in between that you look to for inspiration, the point is you need something intrinsic as well as extrinsic to get your alarm bell ringing.

In the Korean Grand Prix, Vettel suffered engine failure ten laps from the finish and had to surrender first place. Here is what he recalls: “I really had momentum at this point, so to suffer an engine failure while running in first in such atrocious conditions . . . it felt like I was cursed. I would have been leading the championship with two races remaining, but instead I was fourth. I remember my dad was brilliant in the hotel afterwards, telling me to put it behind me.

“You cannot grasp what is not in your hands,” he said.

“You stayed calmer than everyone and you were controlling the race. You couldn’t have done any better.”

He was right and I felt better after our chat; still full of belief that we could turn it around. I am really proud of the way I handled that setback.”

This article is about reflection. What are the bitter and sweet lessons you learned this year?

Find a place where your spirit is still and you are at peace with yourself and the world, and write down the lessons you ought to take from the last eleven months of this year.

Remember, “If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always got.”

What are you going to do differently next year?

Albert Gumbo is a social commentator

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