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My Little Guidebook to Serenity and Courage

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My Little Guidebook to Serenity and Courage

I have a little green-yellow notebook with the popular slogan written on its cover, ‘When Life Gives You Lemons …’. I picked it up at a yoga retreat. One day, before rushing to the airport to catch a flight to Europe for which I’d bought my ticket last minute, I threw it into my luggage, just in case.

At the airport I heard the announcement that my flight was going to be delayed by a couple of hours, and at that point, it was impossible to tell whether I’d be able to catch my connecting flight in the Emirates or not. Apart from having no idea when I would reach my destination, I wasn’t sure either what I would find when I got there. I was facing more uncertainty than I was used to handling.

It was late in the evening. The sun was setting behind Melbourne’s runway, an image which was strangely beautiful and alien at the same time. After I miraculously hunted down a vacant power point in the terminal to recharge my phone, I had some free time to myself.

All of a sudden, short stories started popping into my head – memories of unusual and sometimes awkward experiences, with no common theme to them apart from the fact that they made no logical sense.

In a ‘perfect’ world none of these events would have actually happened.

I remembered my notebook, and started to jot down these stories that just kept running through my head, one after the other …

… One time I attended a summer camp organised with the aim of helping students practise English, and the teacher I was allocated to, a jolly young man from Kenya who interpreted the curriculum rather loosely, taught us a few Swahili songs in class. I still remember one of them.

…  I also recalled the time when I got lost in Spain during a nature hike, and found myself in a deserted village with nothing but a perfectly operational beer tap right on the main street. Even though I didn’t drink from it, this quirky discovery lifted my spirits instantly.

… Then this other memory popped into my mind, when I was heading to the beach on a Malaysian island. A local man who I thought was offering me a lift to the beach in fact took me on a scenic motorcycle ride around the whole island, and then dropped me off at the exact spot where we started.

… For a brief moment I was taken back to that summer when I was commuting between the French and Flemish speaking parts of Belgium, and noticed that on that train even the conductors had no idea which language to speak when asking passengers to present their tickets. Having small talks with them in a jumbled-up language was actually quite entertaining.

… And then there was this recent story, when at the entrance of a concert venue I was informed that my ticket was invalid. Minutes later a lady appeared and gave me a spare ticket to a much better seat than the one I’d booked, and she also turned out to be a very nice and interesting person to get to know during this experience.

On that evening at the airport, when everything felt uncertain, a few dozen bizarre stories like these ran through my mind. Strangely, thinking about them and writing them down gave me a sense of certainty, and a sense of peace.

Although this collection of stories emerged from a testing situation that had nothing to do with business, these days I find good use for it in my work life. It reminds me that some things are outside our control, plans often fail, and that’s all OK. The future is unpredictable and full of surprises. So life – and business – certainly don’t follow a logically and rationally written guidebook.

In my personal, rather unusual guidebook, the list of stories is constantly growing with old memories and brand new ones. Some of them are slightly embarrassing, or even cringeworthy. Others are hard to believe, or outright funny. And all of them are very real.

Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed by uncertainty or by challenges that are ‘not supposed to happen’, I pick it up to give myself a reminder:

Often things and situations which are out of place are what make things move forward.

They can make any day more interesting and rich, and bring exciting new opportunities. They can help us learn about ourselves and our craft, and as a bonus, create memories that are a delight to look back on.

My strange little notebook gives me curiosity, courage, and contentment. It tells me that whichever way things turn out, life will most likely be fine, and perhaps even exciting.

Most importantly, it puts me in a state of mind where I perform better in what I do. Without being too attached to outcomes or worried about mistakes, I find it easier to express myself authentically, connect with people deeply, and come up with creative ideas and solutions to problems.

Do you also have your own little guidebook to help you find serenity in uncertain situations? If so, what is it like?

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  • Lerida
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    Hi Anetta, WOW ! this really resonates with me at the moment – I’ve just launched a new business – and NOTHING is going to my well, researched, thought out plan. :)… but then, some other amazing things have happened too ….I have started writing a “2 minute” journal when I can – 1 min on whats challenging me and the next minute on “when I’m by best, I…”…. it seems by doing this my subconscious starts working through the issues and it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad…. you are right that we need to embrace these “curve balls” rather than angst over them – you never know where they will lead you !

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