As 2016 draws to a close, I am grateful that I can look back on a year that was often overwhelming and exhausting with a sense of clarity. I can see when I said ‘yes’ too often, when my efforts to attain perfection were misplaced, when I could have jettisoned activities without guilt, and – most importantly – how I will fill my life with in the new year.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such a sense of calm or joy in anticipation of a new year.
This feeling is certainly influenced by a Building Bridges planning session with co-conspirators Irfadha Muzammil and Amalini de Sayrah this morning, and the monster spring (winter?) cleaning session I undertook in anticipation of my impending move to Stanford for the first half of 2017, but that’s not all it is.
Over the past two years, I’ve regularly set aside time to reflect on myself – my values, strengths, quirks, passions, projects, and half-baked ideas; my past, present, and future. I certainly wouldn’t have done such a thorough job alone; I was guided through a year’s worth of resources through Leading Change, the course that forms part of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award.
In 2015, as a highly commended runner-up in the first cohort, I completed the course assignments while growing increasingly interested in the challenges that our fabulous course director Frances Brown was grappling with: in particular, how do you effectively use an online course to engage 100+ young leaders from across the Commonwealth, who all have varying skills, interests, projects, and internet speeds?
As she turned heavy web content into accessible PDFs for the 2016 cohort, I responded to her call to volunteer to copy-edit some of the modules and enjoyed it thoroughly. My involvement in shaping course content deepened in 2016: I was in the unusual position of having been named an Award Winner this year, so I cheerily took the course again, while signing on to undertake a raft of course-related projects.
This year, I’ve worked on significant content and copy-edits for Leading Change, gathered and compiled feedback on the modules from other QYLs, delivered recommendations for future module delivery, served as guinea pig on an experimental mini-course on Commonwealth citizenship, and created a set of comprehensive overviews to accompany the fresh set of PDFs.
I think I’ve always somehow wanted to be an educator, but I’d never seen my passion for curriculum design so clearly before (despite it being in front of my nose – this is, after all, precisely what I do with Building Bridges!). I’ve rarely felt so fulfilled, perhaps because this might be the first time I’ve felt empowered to learn from a text while critiquing and transforming it. (I’ve also found a mentor in the incomparable Hazel White, who never fails to look at my workshop plans and make useful recommendations for not entirely exhausting those I work with.)
In the spirit of continued meditation on Leading Change course content and on myself, I will be creating twelve challenges, and will share them at the start of each month. I’ll pull what I consider to be “greatest hits” from Leading Change into thematic monthly posts, as well as a number of other incredible resources I’ve been privy to this year: the Hive Global Leaders programme, the Forbes 30U30 Summit and Amit Sood’s work in particular, and two courses on leading creative teams and on connected learning.
These challenges will revolve around topics such as reviewing my strengths, values and personal journey, managing myself and my team, employing human-centred design to improve community solutions, being mentored and mentoring others, dealing with conflict, taking time out, and effective goal-setting for the future.
While I’m creating this as a means to guide myself, I hope that anyone looking for a monthly dose of soul-searching and clarity (that isn’t too overwhelming) can find it here. My goal is that this will serve as a compact, accelerated version of Leading Change – I’ve loved everything I’ve learned and I’ve longed to share in a comprehensive way, but never had the space before. I’m looking forward to doing it now.
If you’d like to join in, just leave a comment – journeys are always more fun when taken together.