Fall arrives, and for most of us, we start to make our plans for the future.  We develop new goals, and we look ahead to what could be, what might be, and what will be. 

I challenge you to turn this exercise on its head.

We are always taught to strive for more.  When I get frustrated thinking I am not achieving my goals fast enough, I have to remember our stories don’t only have a future; we also have a past.  It is equally important to look back and recognize how far you have come. 

Remember when you dreamed of being where you are now? 

About ten years ago, I decided to volunteer at an adult literacy centre in Toronto.  What I thought I would be doing was teaching new Canadians how to tackle sentences riddled with tricky grammar.  

That couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

My first day I sat down at a table with the woman I was assigned to, and we started to talk.  What happened over the next two hours transformed the way I measure success.  The first piece of paper she pulled out wasn’t a book or a newspaper; it was a passport application followed by a stack of mail.  

She wanted to apply for a passport for her newly born baby.  She wanted to know which boxed to fill out and what was relevant to the approval process. She then wanted me to go through her mail and help her understand the relevance of each piece and which notices she had to respond to.  By the end of our session, she was organized and felt accomplished.

What I learned was she not only needed to get a better grasp on the English language, she also needed to understand Canadian culture and how to navigate within it. Everything was new to her, and the language was only one small part.  

This was a real-life example of the “tip of the iceberg”. The people I was helping needed to understand the legal and political systems, the rules, the pitfalls and the joys and the rewards.  The language and how to communicate was simply the tip of the iceberg.   

What I learned from this experience was that it is not only important to look at the people who are ten steps ahead of us for inspiration and guidance.  It is equally important to look back and help those who are ten steps behind. This woman taught me and inspired me in more ways than she will never know. 

As you look forward to the fall and set your goals, remember to also celebrate how far you’ve come.  

We are exactly where we are supposed to be, and that deserves to be celebrated! 

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