In 2016 I chose three words to focus on during the year, following a suggestion by Chris Brogan, and I repeated this in 2017, 2018 and then 2019, when I chose: responsible – source – alive. How did I do in 2019?
- Responsible – I believe outsourcing personal responsibility to government, large technology companies and other organisations is one of the biggest dangers we face, because it allows them to shape and control our lives totally. There is no brake on these organisations where individuals cede responsibility. I continue to make my own way where I can by shouldering responsibility and must continue this at all times.
- Source – Another tough challenge when there is so much pressure from giant global manufacturers, retailers, technology companies and similar organisations to accept what they offer and not necessarily what we want. Wherever possible, I try to find what I want, according to my own requirements, sourcing local goods and services from local suppliers.
- Alive – It is so easy to be seduced by different forms of media, especially when using these for work, and passively to accept that the illusion of reality created by the online world. I have switched more of my time back to the real world and, again, will continue working on this.
This brings me to my words for the year ahead:
vital – work – jigsaw
Why have I chosen these three words for 2020?
More than ever I am aware of the real world – the world beyond devices, networks and the rich illusion of empty nothingness that seduces us and drains our energy. I am aware of the raw energy of cold, damp and wind, of heat and dry, even of time passing slowly when apparently nothing happens. All too often we are deceived into ignoring life, with all its harshness, upsets and struggles alongside exhilaration, magic and breath-taking beauty. I don’t reject the tools technology offers us, but I will be putting them back in the toolbox at the end of the working day in preference for vitality.
Five years of grief have taught me that what brings me joy is work: doing things. In 2019, I have co-founded a business magazine, co-organised a successful business exhibition, researched and written a dissertation to complete my History MA, started reading history for pleasure, returned to writing and performing in theatre, and completed my first sculpture project – all only possible through work. At the moment, there is a widespread focus on mental health and, I believe, a misguided emphasis on encouraging people to talk about their problems. This simplistic approach might work for some, but I believe it is has the deep flaws of tunnel vision: the last thing I wanted to do was talk. Every person’s struggle is different and the key is for each of them to discover what will open their door back into life. Helping them to find their unique key is a complex and exhausting task which has to be recognised and supported. Work, getting on with things, has turned me round from not wanting to get out of bed in the morning to being possibly more productive and successful than I have ever been. Being invited to a reception at the House of Lords in recognition of our magazine was the icing on the cake this year – I could not have imagined this even a year ago. I also work on leisure projects for enjoyment and these have helped me rediscover the benefits and importance of the opposite of work: doing nothing to relax and refresh. Each complements and feeds the other. Life is cruelly tough and, for me, work has recovered my hope and optimism in a world where many have lost sight of both.
Many of us are unconventional, yet are pressed by the suffocating identity politics of our authoritarian culture to identify with tribes that are then pitted against each other in aggression. I don’t belong. This has been a challenge all my life and for a long time I tried to belong before eventually recognising that I don’t. At the same time, I realise I do belong. I understand that while some of us may not be capable of belonging to a club, gang, society, organisation or other group in a community, we do, as individuals, have our own place in this world. While we may feel alone and separate, there is always a place in the universe where we fit snugly, even though it doesn’t always seem obvious. We may not inhabit the networks of social groups in our communities, but we nevertheless have a place, even though it is not easily defined. Every one of us is a piece in the greater jigsaw and without us the picture remains incomplete. In the coming year and beyond I will rejoice in my place in the jigsaw.
Starting now . . .
This year the struggle to define my words has been a bigger challenge than in any other year. Do I mean what I say? I think I do and I will find out as I progress through 2020.
Do you have a direction you have set for yourself in the year ahead?
Good luck with what you believe and want to achieve, and may you have a wonderful New Year.