I have been a bit ambivalent about ‘Christmas Letters’. They seem to have caught on and now I get a few dozen long ones each year. I appreciate the time that goes into writing them and I am glad to get some sense of what is happening in the lives of far-away friends. However, I must confess I’m a ‘scanner’ and that I don’t give them the time or reflection they deserve.
In some ways, Christmas letters remind me of all my failed intentions to stay in touch with people during the year. They also give me way more information than I want, often about grandkids and other relatives whom I don’t even know. Seems that the older I get, the more I am scanning for tidbits on the people I know and the obits of common friends. So it goes.
- We have a choice about how we relate to everything—other people and our circumstances, to ourselves and even to time. Exercising that choice, however, requires we have a relationship with something ‘outside’ our egocentric and self-referential worldview—a higher power.
- When we are responsible for our relationship with ‘reality’, we are empowered to help others achieve breakthroughs in their lives. The essence of coaching is helping others achieve the impossible, to manifest their dreams. The hard part is remembering that they are totally okay the way they are and don’t need our help.
- That while it may be naïve to think we can make a difference, it is the only way we can justify committing to those things that matter most to us and engage in the conversations that can shift and align our collective commitments to have the world work for all of us.
- Intentionality doesn’t have so much to do with the present as it does with our relationship with time and with the present. When we are clear that it is our relationship with the future that determines the present, then we can relax and realize that we are already living our intention. As Ben Franklin said, “We live our lives backwards, but we learn our lives forward.” (I finally really got this in 2007.)
- Love is the essence of leadership, and maybe everything else also. Love is letting life be the way it is and letting others be the way they are. Love is surrender and commitment to the possibilities of life itself.
- I have learned to appreciate these words from the Talmud which I keep on my desktop as a daily reminder.
- Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
- Finally, I have learned to listen to my children and their friends. I have grown in my realization that whatever our generation has learned and has to contribute is of little value unless younger generations can listen and learn from us. And they won’t do that unless and until we listen to them first. Creating the future is a team sport.
I invite you to add your ‘learnings’ to this list as well by sending in a comment.
My vision that we can be happier, that we can have our value to others increase, and that we can become more creative and empowered as we age has definitely proven to be the case in my life. It has been one of my busiest years so far—and perhaps the best year yet. My interest in Eldering has given birth to the Eldering Institute, this blog, a CD and book called Retiring Right, an “Eldering Manifesto” and lots of satisfying work with government and corporate clients in Europe, Asia and South and North America.
All this has been possible because of many wonderful relationships. I am especially grateful for my partnership with Shae in Canada, without whose support I wouldn’t be half as productive, and my partnership with Annie in Buenos Aires, whose work has allowed us to continue to expand in Latin America. And I am profoundly grateful for Darlene’s constancy and love and support for whatever I am doing. In addition, I am blessed with many close and intimate friendships—you all know who you are.
I am ending 2007 by receiving my first Social Security check. I never really thought I would live this long, but here is the official acknowledgement in my hand. Now I realize that the past 65 years have just been preparation for the next 30 or so—and my intention is to have them be even more extraordinary, fulfilling and satisfying than everything that has gone before.
May your 2008 be filled with happiness, health, fulfillment, satisfaction and opportunities to be valued!
PS. OK…so it’s not so easy to write a short Christmas letter. Guess I get to try again next year!