10 lessons to learn from 2009
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Welcome to 2010. I hope it’s shaping up to be a good one for you.
I’m over a quarter into my time in Botswana, so now seems a good point to look back at some of the things I’ve learnt (or re-learnt) on my journey towards life as an EEP. Here are some things 2009 taught me not to do…
1. Don’t ask “why?”
Ask “Why not?”
I wouldn’t have got very far if I’d asked myself why I should leave my safe job to volunteer overseas for a year. So ask yourself, Why shouldn’t I stop doing the ordinary and do something extraordinary? Why shouldn’t I be the one to get the ball rolling? Why shouldn’t I be the one to find the solution?
2. Don’t just dip your toe in
Throw your whole self in. Be brave.
I could have opted for a 3- or 6-week placement. I wouldn’t have had the time to see the wider context in which I’m working, to get to know the people and culture I wanted to learn about. 12 months was the longest I could do on this program, which is sensible financially, but I think even that is too short. If you’re going to do something, do it. Really do it.
3. Don’t think too much
Too often our heads get in the way of where our hearts want to go.
I’ve lost count of the number of times people have told me I’m taking a risk by doing x, y or z. If I’d stopped and thought through all the bad things that might happen each time, I would probably never have done any of them. But they’re nearly all the best decisions I’ve ever made.
4. Don’t presume to know yourself
Accept that other people see you differently.
We all know they can see our weaknesses, but they can also see our strengths. Strengths you might not recognise, or might be afraid to recognise. Deal with it. If they’re prepared to trust you, you should.
5. Don’t look too long at the past – or the future
Be in the here and now.
Feel what you’re feeling, look at what you’re facing. If it’s not be the greatest place to be you stand a better chance of changing it if you know what it really looks like (not what you think or feel it looks like!). If it is the greatest place to be, why would you want to be anywhere else?
6. Don’t give up
Circumstances can and do conspire.
I have a list as long as my arm of events that could have stopped me being here, posting on my blog about my time in Botswana. Some people just love setting up hoops and stamping on dreams. Jump through the hoops when you have to – don’t let them stamp on your dreams.
7. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
Sometimes… just sometimes… you’re wrong.
You chose the wrong date, the wrong method, the wrong project, whatever. Recognize it. Accept it. Fix it. Move on.
8. Don’t forget to ask for help
It’s ok to need help.
It’s ok to ask for help for you or for someone you know. You never know who will have the answer. Often there’s a solution closer than you think. And when you let someone help you, you give them a way to give you something. Don’t underestimate the value of that.
9. Don’t think you have to do it all on your own
If it’s resting on you, it’s ok to take charge of how the burden is handled.
Delegation is not just something your boss does. It’s not restricted to the workplace. You can, and should use it too. Don’t forget lesson 8.
Of course, 2009 wasn’t all about the ‘don’ts’… Number 10 is nothing new, but sometimes reinforcing knowledge is just as important as learning something new.
10. Carpe Diem