Pieces of the Larger Puzzle

As the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting not on trends and predictions, as I initially planned, but on the unpredictable nature of life. The past two years, blending into a seemingly endless night, have taught me much about the fragility and resilience inherent in our human experience.

In our quest for professional accomplishments, we often draw a line between our personal and professional lives. But the truth is, they’re intertwined in ways we can’t ignore. Promotions, titles, and achievements are significant, but they’re just pieces of the larger puzzle that is life. When a lifequake shakes our world, the irrelevance of these professional milestones becomes starkly apparent.

So, this year-end, I encourage you to bring your whole selves to the table – the professional and the personal – and ask, “How am I really doing, and what has this year really taught me?”

My 2023 was heartbreaking

This year, the ongoing genocidal war in Ukraine and the loss of my dear friend and mentor Ulana Kopystiansky after year-long journey with cancer profoundly impacted me. These experiences have been a source of immense sorrow, reminding us of the strength and resilience we all possess, and highlighting the fragility of life, which we often do not fully grasp.

Here is what I have learned:

1. Staying true to your values might be challenging initially but pays off in the long term. A year ago, I decided to leave a secure, well-paying job with good benefits and an amazing team to be present for the people I love, to help Ukrainian displaced people worldwide with my knowledge, and to scale my business. Was it an easy decision? Absolutely not. But being clear on my values was incredibly helpful.

A year from that moment, from where I stand today, I feel nothing but peace and gratitude for letting my values guide my decisions at that time.

2. When life hits hard, only a few people will truly “read you”, and you might be surprised by who they are. These special people show up and walk beside you even when YOU don’t want to spend time with yourself.

As for the others, you need to directly ask for help and be okay with the fact that some might not care. It’s a reminder that people think less about you than you think about them. Most of your network sees you as a channel to access opportunities, and that’s okay if you understand and accept it. Don’t take it too close to your heart. Life proves that most relationships are transactional in the end. Your social media network does not equate to your “real net” that will catch you when you need it most. True relationships require significant time and effort investment. Invest and don’t expect high returns unless you’re ready to embrace your true, vulnerable self and not be afraid to appear unprofessional or incompetent or lose close people on your path.

3. You need to learn where and how to apply self-compassion in your life. While the term ‘Self-Compassion’ is relatively clear, understanding where and how exactly to be compassionate to yourself is often misinterpreted. You might need someone to hold space for you or even point out where you most need self-compassion. It took me a while to realize that I was “kind to myself in a way that did not serve me well” My self-compassion needed to focus on the abundance of time in my life, which I had always considered scarce. Learning how to become friends with time and how to expand it for your benefit and health was the most rewarding personal experience of this year.

My Guiding Word of the Year 2023: Pause.

Despite some rough moments, I think I have achieved my goal. I paused.

This simple, mindful goal-setting technique has proven effective for me over the past decade. Aligning every situation and task on your yearly development path with your guiding word of the year, helps you keep focused on one priority that matters most. It’s effective and resultative. Try it in 2024 – choose your word.

What was easy: Holding monthly reflection hours and keeping myself and my community accountable.

What was difficult: Slowing down in general. When you’re accustomed to a fast-paced life, taking the time to stop and smell the roses can feel like a waste. You move with inertia. It has been very rewarding when I look back.

Music: Ghosts Again and the new album by Depeche Mode has been on repeat.

Books: I’ve read a lot this year. In line with my reflections, two particularly good reads this year were “The Life is in the Transitions” and “Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art.” Highly recommend.

Travel: I curiously explored Huesca in Spain and undertook a silent pilgrimage – a truly reflective and healing experience I recommend to everyone immersed in the North American culture of chasing the stars.

Art: Through Kijiji (you won’t believe it) I let a new person into my life who helped me to save a collection by Ukrainian artists here in Canada. Considering that our heritage is being destroyed daily, this project feels incredibly emotional and significant to me.

So, yes, there were many puzzles in addition to ones that are exclusively profession-related but not less connected to who I am and why I do what I do.

Life is diverse and deserves to be seen as such. Let’s not forget about this.

No one knows what 2024 will bring. You might lose a lot, and you might gain not less. If you are resilient, adaptable, and kind, you should be alright – that’s my prediction.

And whether you believe it or not, you likely have more options than you think.

Take care of yourself and never stop learning.