In reflecting on my three words for 2022, I found myself walking in the garden of my home of more than 20 years.
I was reminded of a defining personal experience some years ago regarding that house and its garden, and that memory first intruded and then captivated my thoughts and feelings. After making the decision to remain in Italy (perhaps the easiest decision ever in either my personal or professional lives), I began a search to find a house to call my home. As we approached a prospective house, all I first saw was yet another old, broken down, sad looking building defined by its shattered windows, shagging doors, and derelict exterior.
The grounds surrounding it were overwhelmed with bushes, shrubs, vines and weeds, weeds that were taller than me, a further testament to just how ill kept this place had been for so many years. As we struggled to make our way through that jungle of overgrowth and debris, I encountered a single yellow rose.
It was perfect in every way imaginable and stood out amongst the harshness of the vegetation that surrounded it. Its presence was so out of place, I recall it vividly to this day. I remember having a strong sense of empathy for that single yellow rose, as I thought about this beautiful, perfect flower living its entire life in such dire surroundings.
I imagined that same flower in a garden equal to its splendor. I imagined the woeful overgrowth that now surrounded it as having the same imagination, that same vision, that same feeling of hope and opportunity. As I raised my eyesight to encompass that dump of a house, I saw for the first time a home.
I saw that simple experience as a call to action, a message. I could feel the sadness and despair this house must have sensed in the condition in which it existed at the moment; I could see what it could be, what it very likely wanted to be, a gift of vision I had seen in my friends but rarely, if ever, in myself; and, I realized that it was not likely to happen unless I made the commitment to make it happen.
Empathy, Imagination, Action. My three words for 2022.
As we look forward to 2022, it is difficult, perhaps to be more accurate, impossible, to ignore the experiences that will forever define the past two years of our lives.
Many of us have lost loved ones, lost contact with many of our friends and colleagues, dramatically changed the way we lived and worked, lost important years in our growth and development, lost important opportunities to experience the world around us, endured the weight of loneliness and depression, or felt the helplessness of not being able to offer a needed helping hand to someone close but yet so far away.
Each of us has been affected in our own way. Many young people will enter a world very different from the one that defined the most important years in their personal development and growth. Many older people will struggle to regain the ability to trust many members of their own society, to manage emotional concerns that in many ways will cause them to question if not outright redefine the very culture in which they have lived the vast majority of their lives.
In the spirit of that single yellow rose, we need to turn our inner selves, our best selves, towards the many of us who suffered mightily in so many different ways over these past two years: Empathy.
We need to make use of the strength and versatility of our creative minds to envision how we might make a difference in their lives going forward and assist in pushing their 2022 to new heights of personal experience, development, and growth that might not otherwise be possible: Imagination.
And we need to turn those creative thoughts and feelings into meaningful, concerted events, activities and experiences, to make that important difference a reality: Action.
– Dr. Al H. Ringleb, founder and president of CIMBA and NeuroLeadership Lab