This was the case in my life a few years back when a friend of mine, Jen, altered my perspective. I don’t think that her intent was to change my perspective. At the time, she was simply being a good friend. The result however, has been life-changing.
At the time, I had recently founded the Building Hope Society. The original project was to build a two- classroom addition onto the existing Enkare Ngiro School in Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya. The project had been complete in January of that year and Jim and I had been invited to go to Kenya to attend the Grand Opening of the classrooms. As per usual, Jim’s initial response was ‘yes’, whereas I took longer to mull over all of the information. I really wanted to go. And I was also nervous. However, I did know how important this was and that it really was a once in a lifetime chance so I said yes. And then I immediately got cold feet. (Have I introduced you to my saboteur? – He used to be alive and quite active!) I talked to Jim about the many good reasons why we should not go. It was very expensive, we could use that same money toward either some new part of the project or toward something for our own family, I had an elderly, unwell godmother who I was hesitant to leave, I would have to miss some work, we could get sick... My, oh my, I had many very good reasons to stay home. So we changed our minds, sent our regrets and carried on.
Several weeks later I had an uneasy feeling that I had just missed out on an important opportunity. This is where Jen comes in. I worked with Jen and I told her how I was feeling. Jen had been to Africa and had experienced many of the same feelings. She listened very thoughtfully, she understood my reasons both for and against going and she did not once try to sway my thinking. I really appreciated her that day. The following morning when I arrived at work, upon my desk sat a beautiful photo album; on the front cover, Jen had inserted a lovely photo of an acacia tree (the classic African tree). I was pretty sure that Jen had left it there based on our conversation from previous day. I also assumed that she had filled it with beautiful pictures of her trip to Africa with the double intent of both reassuring me that it would be safe to go and giving me a little nudge in that direction.
I could not have been more wrong. When I opened the book, it was a completely empty photo album except for one hand written recipe card that Jen had inserted in one of the spots for a picture. Here is what she had written:
No matter which memories you choose to fill the pages of this book, never, ever doubt the impact you’ve made and continue to make on this world...
“Leap and the net will appear.”
What struck me square in the face were the words, “which memories you choose to fill the pages of this book”. Jen had given me a perspective that I had never considered. It is the perspective that we each have one life to live (one photo album to fill) and we have absolute choice over what we choose to fill our lives with (each photo). If I wanted to have a picture of me in Africa in my book, then I needed to go to Africa. It was my choice. The truth was that I did not so much want a picture of me in Africa in my book of life, as I did want a picture of me being brave. My decision became very, very easy. Jim and I arrived in Africa in April of that year.
That photo album sits on the book shelf in my office. It remains empty of pictures and yet it is full. It is full of possibility and choice. I bring it to every workshop I facilitate and I share this story. I use this photo album idea in my daily life to make decisions. The question that I ask myself now is, “Do you want a picture of this in your photo album?” It serves me well as I make decisions about not only what I want to do but also who I want to be.
Which memories do you choose to fill the pages of your life’s photo album this week? Choose well!