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Harmony Is Here

Dec 29, 2023


The last five days of December tend to be a strange time-warp where we don’t know what we should be doing at any given time, or why we should be doing it, and what we need to do tomorrow. Routines and schedules have been thrown away with reckless abandon, and our focus is fleeting. I have been interrupted by someone or something no less than 100 times while writing this piece.

Things can feel messy and disorganized, while a strong urge to plan and prioritize our entire life in one day takes over.

Six weeks ago, I wrote about Choosing Grace during this year-end season of stress, expectations, overwhelm, and pressure. I don’t know if anyone read it, or if it resulted in a mindset shift for anyone other than me. I don’t know if anyone went into December with the best of intentions but are ending the season in the same way we’ve ended others.

I do know, however, that people and teams, leaders and organizations, individuals and families can embark on a new journey in 2024 to find what I’ve found – harmony.

Nonprofit and fundraising professionals are still operating at anxiety-producing speeds as I write this today, with just a few days remaining in the calendar year. I have heard leaders and teams in recent weeks describe it as a type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Of course, I am not here to clinically diagnose anything, but I understand what they intend to mean.

For many, we feel as though we’ve been put through the wringer this year. Higher expectations with fewer resources, leadership and staff turnover at an all-time high, feelings of burnout or discontent, all coupled with the uncertainty of societal factors out of our control.

These feelings are compounded by the countdown that began weeks ago.

“New year, new you” resolutions abound. “The best year yet” has already been proclaimed. “Crushing our goals” in 2024 is a forgone conclusion. “Choosing greatness” is expected.

Those are heavy expectations we’ve already placed on people, organizations, teams, and things that haven’t even happened yet.

Why do we do this to ourselves and others every year? Has anyone stopped to think for a moment, what if the coming year isn’t all those things? What if it’s not what we’ve announced it to be prior to the clock striking midnight?

I vividly recall declaring 2023 “the year of me” around this time last year. Well, it certainly was the year of me, but not in the way I would have believed or chosen. My life shifted massively, three distinct times throughout the year, all due to circumstances out of my control. Things I never could have imagined happening to me.

An abundance of good came along with the bad, as it usually does during a period of 365 days. However, I can safely say it was the worst year I’ve had in the past 15 years. A perfect storm of leaving my professional blindside wide open for attack, a personal reckoning I didn’t want, and an ovarian cancer diagnosis bringing the emotional and physical fallout you might imagine.

The reality is, though, that my worst year is exponentially better than the journey many others on this earth have taken in the last 12 months. I did not face hunger or homelessness. I did not face war or loss of life. I did not face natural disaster or devastation.

While it’s counterproductive to compare our level of wellbeing to others, or to force a state of gratitude out of obligation as I wrote about in All The Things, it does help to frame a new state of mind on the days that seem impossible to navigate.

As the days draw closer to the start of a new year, I am relieved to turn the page on 2023, leaving those difficult days behind while taking the good that came from the past 12 months with me into 2024.

That said, I am compelled to resist the patterned urge to declare the coming 365 days as anything other than what they are – unknown. And for that I’m grateful.

In the hours and days as 2024 approaches, let’s decide to stop fast forwarding to the end of the movie.

Isn’t the joy found in the story? The learning and laughter that comes with unexpected moments, or the new discoveries and triumphs of a journey yet to be taken. We know there will be good times and bad, ups and downs, fun and frustration. We believe we will persevere to see another new year come around, especially if you agree with the idea that grit and surrender can and should coexist as I wrote about in Got Grit?.

Putting our faith in the unknown is difficult. Letting ourselves walk headfirst into a new world with no map is counterintuitive. But it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario. We can build new habits. We can move with intention. We can make progress.

As long as we know why we’re doing it.

Instead of launching a rigid strategic planning process for your team, organization, or family, consider identifying a strategic direction for 2024. The result may not be a typical plan-like document – or map – with hard goals quantified by strict metrics, described through tactical activities. It also won’t be accompanied by the competition, burnout, and feelings of defeat most strategic plans nurture.

A strategic direction yields a vision, described by hopes and dreams, intended achievements to celebrate along the path, and purpose-driven actions people are excited to take. It inspires initiative and commitment; it fosters engagement and community; it creates unity and generosity. It allows us to choose grace for ourselves and others.

It nurtures the joy in the story no matter the twists and turns or unexpected obstacles we encounter. It gives us freedom from expectations. Freedom from the things holding us back. Freedom to live our purpose. Freedom to be our best.

This is harmony. 

Your version of harmony won’t be mine, and my version won’t be yours, as I wrote about in Beautifully Boring. An organization and team operating harmoniously won’t look the same as another. Each will be authentic. Each will be an investment in ourselves and those around us. Each will be a beautiful manifestation of our purpose.

Let’s make 2024 our Year of Harmony.

Michael Macrae can help you easily navigate the steps to simplicity.

Start here with a free consultation.

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