Looking at my newsfeed I think it’s pretty safe to say that most people I know can’t wait for 2016 to be over. 2016 was the year we lost Bowie, elected Trump, and allowed Aleppo. The world it seems, has gone mad.
To make matters worse, as soon as I started thinking about writing this piece, I went online briefly and read that George Michael, and with him it seems like the music itself, died. Not going to lie, the frustration mounted and I doubted whether to continue.
Being the silver linings enthusiast that I am though, I couldn’t just accept the idea that 2016 was just the worst year ever. In my mind, nothing is ever really ‘the worst’. To think so means you’re lacking in either perspective or imagination…
So, after some serious thought I’d like to share with you three reasons, other than all the positive stuff that happened this year (yes, there were positive things) why I’m actually happy that 2016 happened. With them, my aim is to offer you a different perspective and hopefully give you some hope for the future.
Reason #1: Energy. (This one is a bit technical but bear with me) In physics, the law of energetic conservation states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another.
In essence, life can be boiled down to a continuous and cyclical exchange of energy between already existing particles. For this exchange to be possible there are two types of energetic reactions: anabolic and catabolic.
Anabolic reactions build larger compounds and molecules from smaller ones. To do this, they consume energy. Catabolic reactions, on the other hand, break down molecules and release energy by breaking down complex molecules to simpler compounds.
Simply put, what anabolic reactions create and grow, catabolic ones disassemble and destroy.
Worth noting? If the law of energetic conservation holds true, then it is the energy released during catabolic reactions that enables anabolic ones to happen because they require energy. Without one we cannot have the other.
For example, by now we know that for your body to function correctly it must be in a constant state of cellular regeneration. This means that cells have to be perpetually dying to create room for new ones to fill their place. If they don’t, mutations or conditions like cancer often develop. The end result? Death and destruction at a higher level (organs, organ systems, bodies).
Because we usually associate growth as being good and death as being bad, it’s easy to fall into the trap of unfairly judging anabolic energy as positive/desirable and catabolic energy as negative/undesirable. Understanding the science behind it helps us realize that it’s wrong to do so.
So what would happen if we looked at today’s current events under this lens? What if all the crap that happened this year is simply a much needed catabolic reaction to create space for new growth? What if our current way of living, spending, and being has simply run its course? Could it be possible that it’s time to create room for a new way? Our belief systems change as our values do. If anything, what’s happening right now is a great excuse to take a look at what those values are and if we need to re-evaluate their importance.
After all, we co-created this mess we’re in whether we want to admit it or not. The silver lining? That takes me to my second point:
Reason #2: Distance. We live in an era where boredom rarely exists. We have access to entertainment 24/7 through our many devices and are constantly bombarded with information packaged cleverly to feed our growing information addiction. We compulsively use our phones to fill our time because being bored is not an option when you can escape your reality and step into the lives of others through the simple click of a button.
Needless to say, our ability to reflect has been compromised by our constant pursuit of external stimuli. By constantly focusing outwardly, we have largely ignored our own internal GPS.
But hey, this isn’t a sermon on how we allowed Putin or Rupert Murdoch and his media buddies to collectively screw us. Our brains are, after all, a muscle. It just so happens that to our detriment, the information most easily accessible happens to be stuff that is highly entertaining but not very useful.
We have in essence been going to the entertainment gym for the last 15 years and because of it, we didn’t realize just how bad things have been progressively getting in our country and the world around us.
Because of this perfectly normal human tendency to follow the path of least resistance, personal growth tends to be cyclical in nature as well and the cycle usually looks a bit like this: We’re happy —> it hits the fan —> we take a step back and try to make sense of what happened —> as we gather our thoughts we realize a couple of important things that inform our choices in the future—> we make different choices —> we move on with a new level of self-awareness and grow from the experience —> we’re happy again. If we’re doing it right, as we get older, we also get better at making some of that sweet proverbial lemonade.
As a coach it’s not by coincidence that most of my clients come to me after having some sort of a crisis or when they find themselves at an important crossroads in their lives usually caused by external factors—the relationship, the job, the accident, the death in the family. You see, when things are good we rarely take the time to reflect on why that is. Why would we? We’re too busy smelling the roses and enjoying the ride!
2016 was the moment we were rudely awakened, forced to think, and get some distance. We’re now awake and aware. There’s no turning back. We simply cannot become unconscious of what we learned this year and that’s a good thing. That leads me to my third and final point…
Reason #3: Clarity. It’s very hard to solve a problem you haven’t defined. 2016 leaves us with a pretty clear to do list for 2017. Black Lives Matter, Brock Turner, Trump, Aleppo and Standing Rock among others forced us to look in the mirror for the first time in a long time and to realize we have some serious issues to work out as a nation. 2016 gave us the map. What we do with it now, is up to us now so I propose that we take a coaching approach to 2017.
It’s time to begin that process of reflection, healing, and purpose-driven action that will enable us to move forward with a renewed sense of hope and unparalleled vigor. It’s time to stop pointing fingers and assume the responsibility that we all have in this. And hey, if this didn't inspire you enough, just keep in mind we still have Betty White. ;)
**(I picked I've Got To Go On Without You by Shirley Brown because she sings about moving on better than most and I've been on a soul and blues binge for a week now. Enjoy!)**