foundations and agility

It is healthy to set ourselves some goals, make some resolutions or do whatever else we need to do to ensure that our path through 2011 is determined at least in part by our intentions. Perhaps due to the searing images of houses being washed away in the current floods, I’ve been thinking about the difference between foundations and the rest of the building.

It is typical in our annual visioning to think in terms of the ‘building’, by which I mean the visible outcomes of our living. Nothing wrong with this. If we don’t plan ahead we will drift with whatever the strongest current happens to be. “If you aim at nothing you hit it every time.”

Life seems increasingly uncertain. Natural disasters, personal loss, health … we’re fragile. At work, the stability of ongoing business, relational issues, economic conditions, the impact of the stuff in the previous sentence, all add up to fragility. For some time now, understandably, people who are interested in such things have been developing an understanding of ‘resilience’ and how we can navigate the fragility of life without being broken by the events of normal living.

So as I think about 2011, while there are plans, goals and strategic directions set, I am more focussed on the disciplines that will ensure the foundations are strong. I certainly hope that 2011 will not usher the same drama and trauma as 2010, but there are no guarantees while we choose to engage life as active members of society rather than abort into a reclusive lifestyle.

What are those things, that for me will give me the resilience to enable agility, mental, emotional and spiritual health amidst whatever 2011 offers? There are many ways you and I might think about such foundations, or fundamentals, but for me they include:

  1. Clarity re the ‘story’ that gives meaning to life. The start of the year offers you and I an opportunity to refresh our appreciation and related commitments to the mix of activities that express our engagement with what is good, pleasurable and meaningful. (By the way, I use those three words intentionally, borrowing from Clive Hamilton’s idea that people tend to pursue, consciously or unconsciously either the ‘good life’ (truth based), the ‘pleasurable life’ (satisfaction based) or the ‘meaningful life’ (contribution based).
  2. Refresh my commitment to the most significant relationships I have. Appreciate who the people are that form the community network of which I am a part. It is these people, including family, that are the ‘reinforcement in the foundations’ to crudely refer back to that metaphor.
  3. And then there is all the personal stuff: diet, exercise, reflection, recreation … all those personal disciplines that give strength, those basics that allow resilience when the ground shifts beneath us.

I am conscious of the pessimistic tone. I don’t apologise for it because my reflections from the events of 2010 continue to shape my view of life. But I’ve also lived long enough to know that the same principles apply to the positive opportunities that come along. If I am not strong on the basics, if my fundamentals are not rock solid, then my capacity to respond to new, stretching opportunities will be flakey.

So, if you’re wondering how to give some definition to the new year, I invite you to join me in refreshing or beginning a new commitment the threads that give strength in your life, so you are in the best condition to respond to the inevitable surprises; challenges and opportunities that 2011 has in store.