“The days are long, but the years are short.” ~ Gretchen Rubin
The weather in Beirut is surprisingly mild for this time of the year, as I’m approaching the final days of 2017.
I’ve got my journal, and I’m facing an obscured sun and reflecting on the past 12 months. I’ve been doing this intentional practice for the past seven years now, and it has proved invaluable for me in clarifying what has worked, what hasn’t, and what has left an imprint on me each year.
I encourage everyone to take some time to look back on their year in this manner.
These are the 17 lessons that left a mark on me in 2017.
1. Doing things impromptu nourishes the soul, as it offers experience without the limit of expectations. In early February, I was in Dubai and decided at the last minute to jump on a short flight to visit my father in Beirut for a few days. Those hours with him have remained with me throughout the year.
2. Creativity is our core. When we create, we become part of the creative system at the core of the universe—and we become one with it. I can’t explain the joy and pride I felt when I received the hard copy of my first published book, The Shift. The rewards of creative practice inspire me to stick to it with dedication.
3. We have an innate need to connect to our fellow human beings. As my blog readership grows, so does my sense of connection to my community. Some of my best conversations this year were with my readers, whether over a drink, on the phone, or by email.
4. We are learning machines. We read. We watch TV, YouTube, and Netflix. We look at other people. We study our environment. We learn. Going back to college and pursuing an MFA in creative writing has proven to be one of the most satisfying endeavours I’ve undertaken in the last few years.
5. Letting go is powerful. Last September, I dropped my daughter off at college and faced an empty nest back home. Part of me wanted her to stay with me forever, but the other more objective part knew it was impossible. I needed to allow her to discover her wings and fly. That thought alone freed me; I can’t wait to see her all grown up and ready to enthrall the world with her art.
6. Through teaching, we learn much about ourselves. In one year of guiding various teams in my company through a self-help program called “Thinking into Results,” I learned more about my team and myself than I ever had doing the course alone.
7. Create a project or initiative at least every few years. These endeavors infiltrate our daily lives with hope. After creating and successfully closing the first edition of The Authenticity Project, I’m eager for next year’s better and grander second edition.
8. Our souls need to self-express. Intrinsically and universally, we are souls, and souls don’t communicate by the same means we humans do. There is no language they can use. For a soul to express itself, it needs a way to speak—to play freely. In giving a talk about self-expression last month, I can still recall how I felt my soul was truly out there. My pupils were dilated, and my energy levels reached a new high.
9. There is a stillness, and a sense of freedom, in the high seas. On a catamaran on the Mediterranean with the sun above me, I felt a deeply visceral sense of freedom. I want to feel it again. Sailing classes, here I come!
10. Comparison is the root of all anxiety. I read and re-read the Bhagavad Gita over a period of one month this year, and it taught me how detachment from results can lead us to love what we do without the need to compile and compare numbers. The Gita taught me to get into action. Do what you love. Go for your goals, while detaching from the results.
11. Daily rituals are the difference between a good life and a great life. Over the last year, I’ve developed six non-negotiable rituals (rising early, meditation, reading, journaling, writing, and exercising) that have been catalysts in my gradual self-discovery journey. They have helped me to fill myself with love and self-esteem so that I am able to give back to others.
12. Life is in the details. I discovered the power of using the “right” details in a writing class. Involvement of the senses—the specifics—hooks us into the story or learning experience. I’ve started to apply this powerful lesson to become more present and to connect more effectively to my senses.
13. Long-term planning is key. This year, I took a chance on the “10-Year Plan Exercise,” which truly shook up the way I looked at planning my life. In this written exercise, we free-write in abundant, colorful detail about how our (dream) life could look 10 years from now. The richness of the activity comes from its specificity. Doing this exercise helped me link the life I’m living to where I aspire to be in 10 years—and plan how to get there.
14. Read a book a week. Reading has not only made me a better person, but has also taught me to be more mindful and intentional about everything I do. It’s a sacred indulgence—time alone to be any place I choose and anyone I want. Reading has also opened my mind, exposing me to everything the world has to offer. It’s led me to understand things from multiple perspectives, dream up innovative concepts, and bring them into reality.
15. Marinate the mind. In order to change and adopt a new behaviour, we must reconstruct our subconscious mind. We must open new neural pathways that make action possible, supplying the subconscious mind with new software. For the past six years, I’ve immersed my mind in writing and personal growth. I’ve surrounded myself with writing teachers and literary friends, and joined online courses and forums. Hour after hour, day after day, my mind has become occupied by these pursuits.
16. Simplify. Why complicate our lives when we attain true inner peace and happiness by having less—not more? The spiritual journey is an inward one. On such a path, we remove the clutter and noise that surround us to finally hear the music that rises from our hearts.
17. We need to stop saying, “We must make the world a better place.” Whether it’s in self-help or coming out of Silicon Valley to justify a new tech invention, the sentence is wearing thin. We are not gods. We can’t change anything or anyone. We can only become the best version of ourselves and hope in that way to help the world becomes a better place.
Author: Mo Issa
Image: Instagram @elephantjournal
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton