Live Forward. Look Back to Honor and See What You Could Do Better…

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Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

–Soren Kierkegaard, 19th Century Danish philosopher

The plan: Lisa would restart our WLS blogging with a reflective post on her learning truths from the last year. (It was wonderful!) I would follow with my own reflections in a week or two.

Instead:  I did a lot of other things. I marched with 20,000 advocates on a sunny day in St. Petersburg for women’s rights and other unity principles; played host for long-weekend visits from three groups of dear friends and family; cooked experimentally; biked; went to the gym; cleaned house…each week (brutal); and kayaked with mermaids and manatees.

No surprise then that January blew by, a fully lived month. The lovely memories will sustain me for a long time.

I had also drafted most of my blog post right after Lisa’s blog post. But I couldn’t finish it. Now I realize that my inner voice was saying “Are you kidding? You want to resume WLS blogging with this post?”  So, I procrastinated by doing other easier, fun things instead. Today I said “enough” to the internal nagging. Here is my story looking back at 2016 and ahead to 2017.

1. It’s good that the opportunities keep changing

Paid freelance work slowed for me last year. The upside was that I had more time to volunteer. I stayed close as an advisory member to Encore Tampa Bay, participated in the Zonta Pinellas Club—a professional and business women’s empowerment organization, and linked to organizations serving youth in Florida. I also canvassed extensively for my candidates in the summer and Fall.

The meaningful, short-term projects nourished and motivated me. I allied with organizational leaders at all levels from board members to emerging professional staff to other skilled volunteers to realize desired outcomes. Along the way, I used my skills in consulting, communicating, photography, writing, editing, interviewing, leading and coordinating group activities online, researching issues, and developing evaluative tools, etc. I was in the performance zone but with personal After Action Reviews (AARs), I kept improving my skillset.

This year, as new opportunities emerge, I will continue to:

2. Say yes to learning pop-ups

For instance, one small project I did pro bono last year was coordinating the final phase of selecting a new CEO for a small nonprofit. I did not immediately say yes but after the Board Chair defined the critical path for me, I wanted to help.

The Board Chair and I outlined a largely logistical scope of work for me to complete. The project was expected to take up to 5 hours a week over 4 weeks. However, the work quickly expanded in time and depth. Soon the “coordination of effort” grew to include developing new tools, coaching, showing others how to use internet technologies, and ensuring confidentiality of applicants yet being transparent in my communications with applicants about the selection process. In the absence of an HR person, I also checked references of the final candidate.

My background and skills enabled me to see what needed to be done, then figure out whether I or someone else would do it. The organization benefited as leaders were guided and supported at-a-distance to select an excellent CEO. I made new friends and learned about succession planning and CEO recruitment for a very small nonprofit. I was also reminded of  scope creep (how projects are often bigger than projected) and the need to negotiate and communicate frequently to complete high-priority work at a distance.

Saying “yes” to volunteering allowed me to learn and connect to nice people and good causes. I will continue to evaluate projects–paid and pro bono–for their learning potential before I accept the challenge.

Last year, I also learned (again) that the internet supports and distracts me from my work, and people and activities that matter to me. I wish to get past the lures of the internet sirens (again) to:

3. Use the Internet MORE Purposefully in 2017

My smartphone doesn’t seduce me but my laptop does. Even though I know better because Lisa and I have written about

One of 12 cartoons on Procrastination by Angela Liaio in Mashable

infotention here and here, if I don’t have firm external deadlines to drive me, I can lose my focus and spend aimless hours on the internet. The comic on the right is from a series of 12 cartoons on procrastination by Angela Liao in Mashable that captured my situation all too often in 2016.

I also agree with this assessment in Forbes: “Perhaps it’s time for us to start using technology more responsibly; not as a pacifier, but as a way to actually better ourselves” (and our work!). Smartphones are great but we sell ourselves short with reflexive turns to the internet. When we let the internet control us, we do not talk as much with people we care about. We do not allow our brains to rest and rewire. We do not exercise to keep our bodies and brains strong. We make it harder for ourselves to get the full value of being together or sharing the same experience.

The negative impact of a tight digital tether is enormous. Digital Detox offers us rationale below to look up, and out, instead of down at a screen all the time.

by disconnecting from our devices we reconnect with:

ourselves
each other
our communities
and the world around us

…becoming more present, authentic, compassionate and understanding.

I would like to be all of these things. Therefore, I will use Pomodoro and other mindfulness techniques to stay focused when I work and turn off the computer and lights when I’m not.

To summarize, I hope to live closely with those I care about and achieve personal and professional goals important to me.  I want to:

  • Maintain my good health and relationships with family and friends, and be open to opportunities to build new friendships
  • Assess with Lisa how to refocus WLS to assist nonprofits in their important work
  • Grow my skillset in supporting and guiding volunteers via the internet and visually presenting data and people’s stories

I will calendar target completion dates and review milestones to phase my journey and chart my progress. I will distinguish between the learning and performing zones that Eduardo Briceno explains in his very good TED talk (11 minutes) below.

Sam Berns

Finally, I will try to manifest the life philosophy that 17-year-old Sam Berns spoke about in his TEDxMidAtlantic presentation (12 minutes) in 2013. Sam suffered from an extremely rare genetic disease, progeria, that radically accelerates premature aging. Tragically, he died only a couple months after his TEDTalk My Philosophy for a Happy Life. His enlightened guidance endures.

Sam Bern’s philosophy of life works for me

I send everyone wishes for fulfillment and good health throughout 2017 and beyond.

* * * * *

Resources used for this blog:

Soren Kierkegaard, quotation, Brainy Quotes website, 19th century, http://bit.ly/2kpuiNY

Women’s March on Washington website, Unity Principles pdf, January 2017, https://www.womensmarch.com/principles/

Eduardo Briceno, How to get better at the things you care about video, TED, November 2016, http://bit.ly/2liofg7

Angela Liao, Field Guide to Procrastinators comics, Mashable, September 2013,  http://on.mash.to/2lips6U

Ed Hall, America’s Smartphone Addiction Is Now An Epidemic, Forbes Tech/#AllThingsMobile page, January 2017, http://bit.ly/2kpAh5G

Digital Detox.org, About page, http://digitaldetox.org/about/

Sam Berns, My Philosophy for a Happy Life video, TED, December 2013, http://bit.ly/2kL7Ksa

Photo from artist cocoparisienne at Pixabay

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