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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Words of wisdom for life, not just a January resolution

Instead of coming up with New Year's Eve resolutions that are bound to fail, perhaps it’s now time to reflect on the life lessons learned from the past 12 months

It's the time of year for self-reflection but too often, we set goals without proper forethought. Getty Images
It's the time of year for self-reflection but too often, we set goals without proper forethought. Getty Images

My grandmother is not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Holding court in her hotel room during her current visit to Abu Dhabi, she cast doubt on the wisdom of setting “thoughtless goals”.

New Year’s resolutions are all flowers and no roots, she tells me. “In Islam, as you know, there is this concept that all actions are done by intentions, right? That means, to get that intention then you probably realised or learnt something. I think, instead of looking for a goal, we should ask ourselves what we want to learn first.”

Perhaps she has a point and gets me thinking, what if we are approaching resolutions the wrong way? Is the reason that more than 80 per cent of people fail to keep them because there’s a lack of reflection prior to setting them?

My chat with granny was a few days before the New Year began, a time when my days were split between the newsroom and my other role as the self-appointed family entertainment coordinator, which meant there wasn’t much time to engage in a meaningful survey of the year that was. So I resorted to consulting with my contacts book, and made some calls to people whose lives provide lessons we can all learn from.

First up was Seong-Jin Cho, the brilliant South Korean pianist set to make his debut in the capital as part of Abu Dhabi Classics on February. A child prodigy, the 23-year-old South Korean announced himself to the world in 2015 after winning the Chopin International Piano Competition in Poland.

The somewhat frenetic nature of touring as a concert pianist means that personal quality time is fragmented. There is no holiday season in the classical music world, which likely prompted his intention to “be more open” this year.

“It is about finding a sense of peace,” he tells me from his new abode in Berlin.

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“I want to be more aware and open to meeting new people and learning from them,” he says. “I also want to make sure I spend time with friends and family as that is important when it comes to what I do. I know it sounds basic, but for me these [goals] are important.”

For Richard Mbuenge, each turn of the calendar year takes on a special resonance because he’s here to see it. Before becoming a taxi driver in the capital, Mbuenge was on the front line in Iraq with the Ugandan Army in former United States’ president George W Bush’s “coalition of the willing”.

“You know what surprised me brother?” he asks me. “I thought that after I came back from Iraq that life would get easier. But when I came back home, I realised that I wasn’t getting the same money as I was in Iraq. To feed my family I had to leave them again and come here.”

While not bitter about it Mbuenge says it is a confirmation of the age-old lesson that life is about overcoming challenges.

So what does happens when you reach the end of the road? That’s the sphere of work another of my contacts, Dee – who requested her full name be withheld – operates in.

A mobile nurse in the northern Emirates, her clients are often the elderly who are spending their final days at home surrounded by family.

“I am trained medically, I look for vital signs, that knowledge protects me when the job gets emotionally difficult,” she says.

Dee describes the recent death of an Emirati patient that resulted in a nugget of wisdom she hopes to hold on to for the rest of her life.

“We all called her Mama. She stopped breathing one night and I couldn’t revive her,” she recalls. “I was invited to attend the wake at the house the following day. Normally I don’t do these things as I don’t want to be a reminder to the family of the ones they lost. But they insisted. I was emotional because you never want to lose anyone on the job.

“This wonderful Emirati family treated me like I was part of the family. They were totally at peace and they showed me the true meaning of acceptance. It’s something we can all use in our lives.”