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Beyond fooling around, this April…

April FoolsToday is 1 April.

To some it is April Fools’ Day – a day when people play pranks on each other and enjoy a few good laughs.

To others, though, it is an opportunity for sober reflection. It is a sign of the passage of time. It marks the end of the first quarter of the year and entry into the second quarter. It means instead of the 12 months we had to pursue our dreams on 1 January, we now have nine months left.  It is a wake-up call, a reminder that time is moving and, as Freddie Mercury sang, “time waits for nobody.”

Today, have fun while playing pranks on others, but take time to reflect on your goals and achievements.

What goals did you set for yourself this year? What do you hope to achieve? Do you have an action plan? How far have you gone in achieving those goals? Are you on track with your action plan?

If you have made some progress, well done, keep going. You still have another nine months, continue so use them wisely, just don’t relax or lose track.

On the other hand, if you have not made much progress, let today be one of reflection. Revisit your plans. If you are not making progress, look at where you have gone wrong. What is hindering you from fulfilling your dreams?

The range of possibilities is very broad. It could be that the goal was unrealistic in the first place, or the action plan is impractical, or one had not planned properly for the required resources.

Unrealistic goals

goal is a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve: a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.

It is always great to dream big. However, implementation is not always as easy. Bear that in mind as you pursue your goals because being overly ambitious can sometimes work against you. Perhaps you set unrealistic goals that cannot be achieved within the allocated time, or perhaps your goals are fine but you need to work on other factors. Relook at your goal and see how you can make it more practical and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals that you won’t even come close to achieving.

For example, assuming you decided to launch a new business but have not made much progress because you dreamt of having a huge fashion boutique in a prime location yet you  don’t have a client base and can’t find shop space. You may need to make adjust some aspects as you inch towards your ultimate goal. You can still run your business, but perhaps from a different location.

Assess your options and go for what works well for you. It is important to start moving, rather than wait until everything is in place, so start where you are and work with what you have to make your dream a reality.

Impractical action plan

Perhaps your goal is great but your action plan is impractical. An action plan is a detailed plan outlining actions needed to reach your goals.

A lady I know decided to start a business that required use of a truck all day, every day during the harvest season. What I did not know was that the whole plan was based on the use of my truck. When everything was in place she asked for my truck. As I was hiring it out to clients who were already scheduled, I could not release it to her. I asked her how long she intended to use it then calculated the charges accordingly but she was reluctant to pay me. She had planned to use the truck all day, every day for free throughout the duration of the project.  In all this, she had not considered that the truck was in itself a business that was bringing in income. Harvest time was also a peak season for me as farmers required transport to the market. By lending her the truck, I would miss out on income which I could not forego unless she was willing to compensate me at the same rate.  I was not her only inconvenience. Her entire plan rested on the free use of other people’s resources. Naturally, the plan crumbled because no one was willing to lend their assets over a long time while losing much-needed income.

My advice to her was simple. As much as you can, use your own means. Indeed people are willing to invest in projects with potential and help a friend in need. However, this has to be within reason. Very few people will forego their income to support a prolonged experiment with little promise success.

Inadequate resources

Resources, whether financial, material or human, are important in helping us to fulfill our goals. For a myriad of reasons, you may find yourself under resourced. Perhaps the economy is not performing as well as projected and inflation has eroded your financial base, or you overlooked some costs that cannot be covered by your contingency funds, or perhaps a personal crisis has forced you to rearrange your priorities, or one of your partners is not as honest as you assumed. Anything is possible.

I know a man who planned well for his business, prepared in advance, quit his job and started working for his own company. Unfortunately, he entered a partnership with someone who had not planned so well for his life and the consequences were disastrous. Although their business should have been thriving, they had to file for bankruptcy within months. My friend had not realized that his partner was not only heavily indebted, but also had bad spending habits that were of great cost to the business. In no time at all, whatever profits the business should have been enjoying were absorbed by the partner’s debts. The two parted ways and my friend, who had lost everything he invested in the business, had to start from scratch. It took him some years to recover, during which he had to make major adjustments to his lifestyle and rebuild his credibility to regain his clients. He has since recovered and is running a successful business concern, this time on his own.

Whatever financial situation you find yourself in is no excuse to abandon your goals and sit on your laurels. Make adjustments and keep moving.

Not conducting regular reviews

How can you be confident that you are making progress if you do not conduct regular reviews? It is important to frequently look at how far you have come, what is working well, what has gone wrong and how best to address challenges along the way. Some recommend quarterly reviews. The frequency is entirely up to you. If you have not been evaluating yourself regularly, let today be the starting point. The timing is appropriate as it marks the end of the first quarter of this year.

Also, set milestones. This will help you to see whether or not you are making progress. Remember, it takes a number of spoonfuls over time to fill a bowl.

As you inch towards achieving your goals, celebrate the successes and face the challenges head on.

Now, keep moving

Whatever happens, don’t be discouraged. You may have lost three months, but you still have another nine and can make use of them. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve once you set your mind to it.

Focus on your goals, adapt your action plan, build on the lessons learnt and keep moving. In some cases, your action plan may require a minor change like waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual so you can exercise, or adjusting your budget so you can invest in further studies, or dropping sodas from your diet so you can lose some weight. However, in other cases, major changes that affect the lives of other people might be required, such as a family relocation to another country. Whatever the case, remember that the human race has evaded extinction because of our ability to adapt to change. Make the necessary changes knowing that they may cause some discomfort, but will not kill you. Invest in your dreams and if you cannot afford it, there are also plenty of free online resources that can help you to set goals, develop an action plan etc.

This April Fools’ Day, don’t be the fool, make time for honest reflection and chart your course towards making the rest of this year more productive!

“The Talk” That Proves Racism Is Alive

Drifting Through My Open Mind

*This is a blogpost I wrote earlier this year. Sadly it bears repeating…

unknown, via Twitter

“The police in New York City
They chased a boy right through the park
And in a case of mistaken identity
The put a bullet through his heart
Heart breakers with your forty four, I wanna tear your world apart”

-The Rolling Stones, Heartbreaker

*This is a blogpost I wrote earlier this year. Sadly it bears repeating…

Do you worry about what others think of you? I know I do. I worry about it too much. My worries are there because I want people to like me. But imagine if simply being you made others uncomfortable. Imagine if walking around in your skin caused fear. What if upon seeing you a person’s eyes enlarged, they backed away, they avoided eye contact or even turned and walked the other way.

Last summer I read a post by Questlove…

View original post 1,613 more words

Crossing the racial divide

“Can I touch your hair?” The little girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes asked shyly, interrupting a conversation between myself and two other black girls. She, too, was accompanied by two othe…

Source: Crossing the racial divide

Crossing the racial divide

multi-racial children
As children we celebrated our diversity, untainted by prejudice.

“Can I touch your hair?”

The little girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes asked shyly, interrupting a conversation between myself and two other black girls. She, too, was accompanied by two other girls, both brunettes. Their giggles gave the impression that they had discussed this earlier and the little one had been designated the group’s spokesperson.

We were round about the same age hence we had been placed in the same dormitory. I was eight years old then. All of us were new comers at the school. I was arranging my toiletries on my dressing table while my two newly found friends sat on one bed.  We were chatting, trying to get acquainted while adapting to our new environment.

One of my new friends nodded her consent, uncertain about why anyone would want to touch her hair! She was spotting a short natural afro, while our other friend had cornrows and I was nearly bald shaven.

The blonde girl advanced, stretched her hand and ploughed her little fingers into the afro, then withdrew her hand, still giggling. My friend in turn asked if she could feel the blond hair, to which the little girl consented. Unable to contain our curiosity, the rest of the girls joined in.

Delighted squeals followed as the children felt the diverse texture of each other’s hair and analyzed their differences. The conversation continued as more questions followed.

“Do you bleed when you’re hurt?”

“Yes,” my other friend replied.

“What colour is your blood?” one of the white girls asked.

“Red,” I replied.

“Oh, mine too!”

The ice broke!

A seemingly stupid conversation, yet it was real. This was a conversation among children who had been separated by years of racial prejudice and bigotry, suddenly interacting for the first time in post-independent Zimbabwe. Having been born during apartheid, this was the first time we were openly interacting, thanks to a change in Government policy that ended racial segregation in schools and other institutions. Although the policy had been in place for some years, I had been recently transferred to the boarding school and like my counterparts, was interacting across the racial divide for the first time.

Away from the discrimination and bigotry that had separated our nation for decades, we explored and learnt about each other in the privacy of the dormitory. Curious about our differences, we exchanged a myriad of questions and learnt what we had in common.

The question about the colour of our blood was somewhat definitive as it brought to the fore the basic fact that despite our differences, we were all human beings. From then on, the way we related changed. A new respect was born.

The bell rang, indicating that it was time to go downstairs for supper and interrupting our magical moment of exploration as we rushed down to join the queue. The conversation shifted to the mundane things that children talk about, like favourite food and colour.

As in any normal society, relationships were born, friendships were forged and bonds were formed – some temporary and others long term – as people discovered what they had in common and learnt to accommodate each other’s differences.

That was the blissful world of childhood.

The following day, we went to school and interacted with more people from other races including Indians, Chinese and Japanese among many others.

Life became an adventure, a journey of discovery, learning about other cultures and living together despite our obvious physical differences. Once we got over the curiosity of our initial meeting, we became one happy community.

We lived blissfully in harmony until we stepped out of the safety of the school into the rest of the world. A world tainted by prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. A world characterized by bigotry. Not only did racial differences exist, but they were being constantly magnified and reinforced. There seemed to be an invisible hierarchy that automatically made some races more superior than others and we were all expected to fall in line and recognize that supposed superiority without question. Indeed, in this world, as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

It saddens me that most people perpetuate racial discrimination and are reluctant to change their views about people who are different from them, even when there is no compelling reason for their prejudice apart from a difference in appearance, culture and place of origin.

Efforts such as the proclamation of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on annually on 21 March[1] since 2001 have not brought about much change. While the objectives of this day are noble and it is a good initial step towards addressing a global problem, I believe it will take more than that to transform deep-seated mindsets.

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream[2] of equality and a country where people would

MLK
More than 50 years after Dr. King made his famous speech, his dream is yet to be realised.

“not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” His dream was for America, but mine is for the entire world. Regardless of our differences in the geographical boundaries, more than 50 years after he made his famous speech, that dream is still yet to be realized.

Although the expression of racism in my time is less brutal than it was in Dr. King’s time, it is still vicious in its subtlety, as it seeks ways to evade the legal frameworks and policies that have been introduced in efforts to curtail it.

I wish more people would cross the racial divide and come over to the world equality and respect, a world that celebrates rather than resents our differences; A world that appreciates rather than despises our diverse cultures; A world that recognizes that we all have something to offer, regardless of our appearance; Above all, a world that recognizes that we are all human beings with equal rights, regardless of the diversity of our pigmentation and hair texture.

I hope this dream comes true during my lifetime…

Photo credits: Children http://bit.ly/1Pn4JBE and Dr. King http://bit.ly/1RvvYBD

Related links:

[1] http://bit.ly/1Mjuyb8

[2] http://bit.ly/1o2nkgh

Victims or accomplices of African corruption?

Are we victims or accomplices of Africa’s burgeoning corruption? African economies are bleeding and corruption is endemic. The figures are staggering! More than US$1 trillion lost through corruptio…

Source: Victims or accomplices of African corruption?

Victims or accomplices of African corruption?

Are we victims or accomplices of Africa’s burgeoning corruption?

African economies are bleeding and corruption is endemic. The figures are staggering! More than US$1 trillion lost through corruption over decades, while about 75 million people in sub-Saharan Africa admitted to having paid a bribe in 2015.

Every corrupt act – no matter how insignificant or harmless – counts and contributes to the scourge, but how do we stem the culture?

Read more about recent encounters with Africa’s burgeoning corruption in everyday life.

It started off as an insignificant discussion.

“Your bag is overweight ma’am,’’ the attendant told me.

True, I had observed that it was overweight by 1 kilogram and I was willing to move stuff from that bag to another one that weighed less to reduce the weight. The new rule is that the bags should not exceed 23Kgs each. Mine was 24Kgs and I saw it because I was watching the scale. I asked him where I could rearrange my luggage as I could not see any free space in the crowded airport.

“Your bag is very overweight, it is 25Kg. You’ll have to do something because we’re doing you a favour,” he said. The “something” expected of me was obviously not repacking because my bags were quickly whisked away while he looked at me pointedly.

He didn’t extend his hand to receive anything from me so I figured he hadn’t meant that “something” was a bribe for letting the overweight bag through. “Phew!” I sighed with relief, thinking I had wiggled my way out of a corrupt act. I politely thanked him and happily completed the immigration processes, meanwhile mentally patting myself on the back for successfully evading paying a bribe.

I was still mentally congratulating myself and feeling proud of my minor accomplishment as I settled down in the departure lounge, when one of the employees in a different uniform approached me.

“Sister. I was sent to you by George*. I understand you have something for him,” he said. Unsure of how much he knew and what they could do to me, I hastily handed him the equivalent of US$1.50.

He gladly went his way, while I remained with a sour taste in my mouth. Was I a victim of corruption or an accomplice? The amount was nominal, but for me it was not about the money, rather it was about the principle. I felt violated. What would he have done if I had claimed not to have any money on me? Given that they had an effective internal follow up mechanism, which other airport staff were part of the syndicate.

I finally eased my conscience by telling myself that it was just a tip that he deserved for lifting my heavy luggage. After all, I would have paid someone the same amount for that service. However, the fact remains, the young man extracted money from me, against my will for a service he imposed on me and I felt powerless to do anything about it.

I asked myself many questions. How many people does he do this to on a daily basis and how much does he make? What happens to those who do not cooperate? Has anyone ever reported the matter to higher authorities and if so what action was taken?

I wondered how many of us cooperate against our will because we aren’t willing to put up a fight or make a scene. How many of us pay quietly because the amount required is inconsequential, not realizing that we are feeding a mammoth beast that is bleeding economies on this continent. In the final analysis, the tiny droplet feeds into a huge global picture.

While it is difficult to quantify how much Africa loses annually to corruption, estimated figures – which are probably on the conservative side – are staggering. According to past reports, Africa lost between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion in illicit financial flows between 1980 and 2009—roughly equal to the continent’s current gross domestic product, and surpassing money received from outside over the same period. See more on: http://bit.ly/18D8Efj

Clearly the culture of corruption is deeply entrenched and people try to earn what they can within their sphere of influence. On the other hand, we perpetuate corruption whenever we cooperate, regardless of whether we do so willingly or reluctantly.

I am not sure what I could or would have done differently faced with similar circumstances. So far I have successfully eluded paying bribes, no matter how small, although sometimes I have paid the bigger price for refusing to cooperate.

I was reminded of an incident not so long ago, when I was claiming a tax rebate at another African airport after shopping as if it was my last chance in a lifetime. I was expecting a decent of money back given what I had spent. When I got to the counter where calculations are done, I cheerfully greeted the lady behind the counter. As I waited for the calculations, we joked and engaged in friendly chatter, which her colleagues also joined in. I had taken an instant liking to her as she resembled my sister in law so I must have exuded an air of being comfortable around her since she looked like family. She seemed to take rather long to calculate the sum due to me. In fact, it appeared as though she was playing around with a piece of paper, much to my chagrin as my flight was already checking in.

She placed a note on the counter before me with a scribbled request to allow her to add more receipts to my claim so I could get a bigger cheque and split the cash with her. My total claim was worth a few hundred US dollars, but her deal was worth at least $10,000. A red flag immediately went up in my mind. I shook my head, with a deliberate stern expression on my face to indicate not only my refusal, but my disapproval too.

The atmosphere in the room immediately changed, as though someone had put the air conditioner on at very low temperature. The whole team in the room became very icy, which told me they were all in this together. All friendly banter and chatter ceased immediately.

My sister-in-law’s look alike sullenly handed me my approved receipts and the authorization form with the total amount. In my rush to get to the cheque written and cashed before catching my flight, I did not inspect the form until I was in the queue to collect my money.

Stunned! I realized that to punish me, my sister-in-law’s look alike had removed all the receipts worth huge amounts, and left the insignificant ones so I was queuing for a pittance, less than 10 per cent of what was due to me. I was incensed but looking at the time and the length of the queue, I just cashed what I had and moved on. I figured she would try to entice someone else with that deal, my receipts adding a few more hundreds to the total amount.

Unfortunately, I had combined receipts with a colleague’s as his claim on its own was not worth the process. When I shared my story with him, he sympathized and demanded the full amount of his claim. There were costs attached to the process and a commission charged for changing the currency to US$ but he refused to share any of the costs. His avarice would not let him compromise. So, in the final analysis, I lost to the lady and my colleague, but was glad that I had played my part against corruption no matter how small.

Looking at the two situations, I wondered what had changed. Why had I refused to participate in a huge deal but brushed aside a nominal amount? I guess the circumstances were different. The ladies at the airport didn’t have an accomplice waiting to stalk me on the other side. As a result, the fear factor was eliminated. The ladies were more civil and asked for permission, which the man at the other airport did not. I guess the corrupt elements in our society are becoming more daring and assertive.

Whatever the situation, the truth is we all abhor corruption, from a moral and financial perspective, yet we sometimes find ourselves caught up in situations that force us to be reluctant accomplices. We are all cognizant of its impact and know that every amount, no matter how small, contributes to the larger problem – like drops of water in the ocean.

Another report, estimates that nearly 75 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa paid a bribe in 2015 alone for reasons that varied from escaping punishment by the police or courts, to getting access to desperately needed basic services. Read more: http://bit.ly/1OsXlJG

While we may not always have the upper hand or succeed in resisting corruption, there is something we can do. We can each take a stand against corrupt practices and refuse to participate. We may not always succeed, but our efforts will be recognized – at least by ourselves for trying. As much as possible, we can play our part by refusing to participate – even if it sometimes costs us as in my second incident. We can also express our disapproval so that our moral standpoint is clear. As much as we can, we should report such incidents to the relevant authorities.

I am convinced that our collective efforts will one day pay off. Just as each corrupt act contributes to the trillions lost, the inverse is true – each refusal to participate also contributes towards discouraging perpetrators and serves as a reminder that there is a section of society that prefers to do things the right way. I imagine it also plays a part in preventing the loss of billions of dollars.

So let’s all play our part. Together we can make a difference!

*Name changed to protect his identity – and mine lest a member of his syndicate remembers!

Don’t African Presidents Have a Retirement Age?

Bob
President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Gabriel Mugabe just turned 92 years old and plans to run in the country’s next election.  Uganda’s 71 year old Yoweri Kaguta Museveni just won a controversial election. Both are old men who really ought to hand over to the baton to the next crop of leaders, yet they insist on clinging to power. 

In a continent where constitutions are changed and maximum terms of office are extended to accommodate sitting presidents, perhaps placing an age limit could help flush out leaders who have overstayed and outlived their relevance. 

The question of a retirement age for African leaders, first raised in the post below in 2008, still begs an answer. This is particularly so in a context where an electorate may suffer because the incumbent is blessed with longevity. 

What’s your take? Do you think setting a retirement age for presidents is the way to go for Africa?

Don’t African Presidents Have a Retirement Age? First published in 2008, coincidentally in February on: http://bit.ly/24l5RRL 

On 10 November 2008, we woke up to the sad news that Miriam Makeba, a.k.a Mama Africa, had died of a heart attack during a performing visit to the Naples in Italy. She was 76.

On sharing this sad news with a colleague, his insensitive response was “Why was she still singing at the age of 76?” My immediate retort was “(Robert) Mugabe still wants to govern the country at 84, and at least Makeba was entertaining people, not implementing policies that were causing suffering and pain – if anything, she had more of a right to maintain her job!”

That got me thinking about retirement. Apparently, Mama Africa had begun talking about retiring. Clearly, she had also scaled down her activities so we can safely say she was undergoing some transition towards retirement. Makeba left a legacy after an illustrious career.

On the other hand, I could not help but wonder if African presidents have an official retirement age. In most countries, the retirement age for civil servants is 65. I imagine the same applies to the private sector. This must be governed by the assumption that after a certain age, the human brain begins to deteriorate and general health plummets. Besides, people generally need to rest from all the years of toiling and enjoy the fruits of their labour in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by their grand children and loved ones. At least, that is the way life used to be – or so we were taught during our growing years.

Bearing in mind that national presidents are civil servants, surely, they should not be exempted from such rules – afterall, the stakes are higher! There is a vast difference between the retirement of an old man who is working in a small printing company and one who is running a government. Yet, what we see is the opposite – some old men have no desire to rest and still feel they have a lot to offer the nation – even if evidence on the ground testifies to the contrary. The list of African presidents who remained in power long after the acceptable retirement age and subsequently caused untold suffering is quite long. Examples abound, including Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda and the then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo)’s Mobutu Sese Seko. I thought it might be interesting to do a survey on the ages of sitting African presidents. But then again, even if an age limit was imposed, who would enforce it anyway?

I could not help but wonder, though. Why is it so difficult for people to let go? Is power that sweet? Why should the will of an individual prevail over that of a nation? Are some people more important than others?

True, George Orwell in his “Animal Farm,” did say “some animals are more equal than others,” but it would be comforting if that had just remained a mere sentence in a book of fiction. Sadly, that is the reality that characterises the politics in our beloved continent.

First published on Pulsewire in February 2009 on http://bit.ly/24l5RRL

 

Cyber voyeurism: The bane of our time!

Social media
Like everything else, social media has its pros and cons.

Technology has done it again! Normalized voyeurism and dignified it with sophisticated terms like “social media!”

Through networks like Facebook, Twitter etc, anyone can keep tabs on your life while you can also closely follow and monitor the lives of friends and foes alike. It is absolutely amazing how people you do not even talk to can know so much about your life through such media.

These networks are now the fad/hangout/coolest place to be for everyone who believes they are somebody or with it. They create bustling communities with all the trappings of real places. Not being on facebook is the cardinal sin and could seriously decrease one’s social ratings. Absence from this cyber hangout implies that one is out of touch with current realities, clueless about technology and their acquaintance therefore requires revision.

Like everything else, social media has its pros and cons. Today, I learnt of the death of a childhood friend through condolence messages on her facebook page. I must admit that had it not been for facebook, we would have lost contact and I never would have known about her sad passing away. Thanks to facebook, none of us had to mourn in isolation because we had a community we could lean on. This, I suppose, is one of the few benefits of social media. On the other hand, social media can be like a bad neighbourhood where evil lurks. Here, one finds all sorts of characters and negative associations.

There are the Joneses, who love to publicise the minutest details of their lives and flaunt their achievements, no matter how trivial. Naturally, this lot has no qualms with anyone spying on them. They lavish the attention decked on them and go all out to sustain it. Such people are so full of themselves that when they fart, they behave as if a new perfume has been created and try to publicise it as such to the whole network in the misguided hope that it will get around the world and earn them more attention.

Cyberspace has also become a refuge where the lonely find company. I suspect that some people live online, waiting for someone to log in so they can strike a conversation. Ever noticed how some people waylay you every time you log into facebook and bombard you with questions about your personal life? Thankfully, this is a virtual community and one can exit anytime.

Social media has also become a preoccupation for the idle. Some people are on Facebook 24/7 and the minute you log on they suddenly find reason to chat. It’s a bit like the neighborhood gossip who strategically sits where s/he can waylay passersby just to engage in conversation so s/he can authenticate the rumors s/he’s heard and pass them on with confidence.

When you log in and these people prompt you for a chat, you almost want to duck, literally, to avoid their attention because you know the conversation will be trivial and their sole purpose is to pry into your life. Of course don’t be surprised if tomorrow, they are cited as the source of information that is going round about your life, as if you spend your every waking moment with them.

Of course social media has also become a breeding ground for undue familiarity, a place where people can cross boundaries they would not ordinarily go near. For instance, a colleague prying into your private life and discussing the contents of your page with other people is rather invasive and totally unacceptable.

Sadly, for those of us who are shy, reserved and really like to keep our lives private, social media has torn down whatever protective walls we had constructed. Indeed one can apply the security settings, but the truth of the matter is, people can still access more information about you than you really wish to share. Comments about your photo albums and some of the postings you make from the least likely source, tell you who has been on your page and which areas they visited. Sometimes it leaves you wondering what on earth they were doing there, after all, you’re not even that close.

A friend of mine was shocked when she recently received an e-mail from a recruitment company telling her that someone was interested in employing her. The company provided a number of links, including her social networking sites, and asked her to confirm if she was the one. This was in spite of all the security features she had activated. That was when it dawned on us that there is no privacy in this world anymore.

I appreciate reconnecting with long lost friends and relatives. Those have been some happy moments on Facebook. On the other hand, however, it has also put people in touch with their nemesis, people they hoped they would never meet again. The high school bully who intimidated you suddenly wants to be your Facebook friend and behave as if you were always chums. The ex-boyfriend who broke your heart, the girl next door who was always your competition, the cute guy you had a crush on but whose attention you could never draw – you name it, they are all on Facebook spying on you while you do exactly the same and pretend you’re not interested in each other’s lives.

I am convinced I have even unwittingly interacted with human traffickers through these networks. I have met people who have perfected the art of looking at the profiles of individuals and weaving a tale about how they have met me in the past. They then try to arrange an appointment in a neighbouring country and I cannot help but wonder why they find it necessary to meet me on unfamiliar ground. Perhaps these familiar tales work on the gullible, but not on those of us whose brilliant memories stretch as far back as our first taste of breast milk.

Whether we like it or not, the moment we enter this virtual space, we open up our lives to scrutiny beyond the scope of our imagination. There is no guarantee of privacy and the walls we have constructed around ourselves become inconsequential. They offer but a psychological benefit. Anyone can invade our privacy anytime without even walking into the same room.

The thought is frightening, but such is the reality of the world we are living in. In this place of cyber voyeurism, there is no place to hide and no refuge from prying eyes. In fact, the private has become extremely public.

First published on World Pulse in October 2010. Seehttp://bit.ly/1RbMvHA http://bit.ly/1RbMvHA

5 things to do while in life’s parking lot!

parking lot 2Sometimes we feel as though life has put us in the parking lot. We want to move forward but are somehow immobilized. We know what we want, where we want to go and have some idea of how to get there but somehow things do not seem to be working out for us.

This is what I call being in life’s parking lot. At this point, the affected individual is like a car that is in good condition, fueled up and ready to go but is just parked.

Being in life’s parking lot happens to every one once in a while. The reasons for finding ourselves in the parking lot vary and could be a result of personal decisions or circumstances beyond our control.

We may also find that we are parked in one area of our lives, while making progress in other areas. For example, one could be doing well at home and socially while the career is at its lowest ebb, or one might excel at school and struggle at home.

It is important for us to realize that being in life’s parking lot is perfectly normal and happens even to the best of people. It is also important to use that time wisely, then get up and move on with our lives. Do not waste time witch-hunting and pointing fingers at who you think is to blame for your circumstances. Rather than sit around and mope, use that as time out to rethink about life, wait for the next opportunity, mull the next move or step back and strategize.

Here are some ideas of what to do while parked:

1. Think!

Reflect on the situation and how you got there in the first place, then look at ways to get out of the situation. For example, if you have made a wrong career choice, reflect on where you want to be and how best to get there. You may need to acquire new skills, learn what opportunities are available within your current set up and how best you can benefit from them. Think of what sacrifices you may have to make to get back on track, or get counselling from someone who is a good listener and clued up on human resources so you can make a wise decision.

Whatever happens,  remember that you can think your way out of the situation. However, do not rush into quick fix decisions otherwise you may find yourself in a similar or worse situation. Use your time in life’s parking lot to “THINK!”

2. Learn!

Every experience in life carries lessons. Reflect on what lessons you can learn from the experience and how best you can capitalize on that knowledge so you do not fall into the same trap again.

You may be the sort of person who is prone to making rash decisions without thinking through them and this may be an opportunity to learn patience. Or perhaps people could be overlooking you because you are not assertive, hence this could be your chance to learn to speak up. It could also be an opportunity to learn new skills that will take you to the next level in life. Whatever the situation, don’t waste it. Draw some lessons from it and you will emerge from the parking lot a better person.

3. Grow!

Growth is the natural order in life. If you are not growing then you must be shrinking. While in life’s parking lot, see how you can use that as an opportunity for growth.

I remember once working at a place where I was grossly under-utilized.  No matter how hard I tried to apply myself, somehow, I got no satisfaction. The job was very well-paying but extremely  boring. Also, this was at a time when our country’s economy was struggling so my options were limited. After a few interviews I realized that no organization was going to pay me as well as my employers were. I had to sit it out while looking for a better opportunity but I could not afford to be idle. I used that opportunity to enroll and study for my Masters’ degree.

After completing my studies I told the Human Resources manager about my newly acquired qualification and his response was:

“Congratulations! Although you know your current post does not require a Masters’ degree, the best we can do is just put a copy in your personnel file but as long as you are here, you won’t need it.”

That did not deter me though. A few years later, I found new job that paid me well, made full use of my skills and required my additional qualification. Needless to say, although I was initially bored, being in life’s parking lot gave me a chance to advance myself and prepared me for my next step and dream job.

4. Be patient

No matter how brief our time in the parking lot is, it can feel like forever. Be wary of making rash decisions just to get out of the parking lot. Be patient. Don’t just settle for any solution. Think about and wait for what is best for you. Going back to my previous example, although being parked gave me a chance to study, it took me two years to find my dream job.

5. Enjoy life!

When things are not working out in one area, it can easily seep into and spoil other aspects of our lives. Don’t let this happen. Find a hobby and do something that gives you pleasure. No need to stop living just because life has put you in the parking lot. Remember, whether it is your marriage or career or business that is suffering – life still goes on. A hobby will help you to cope with the stress of what is not working out in other areas of your life. Blog, write poetry, learn a craft, design clothes. Do something!

When a friend of mine found herself in a boring job, she decided to revive her passion in fashion.  She would work during the day and design clothes at night. Her passion soon became a source of income and opened the door to a new and exciting career!

Finally charge!

Whatever happens, do not remain in the parking lot. Learn what you have to and get out. Get back on your feet and charge forth. Armed with lessons learnt from time spent in the parking lot, I am sure you will be a better person who is better positioned to tackle life’s challenges and achieve your goals.

 

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