5 Lessons from Iceland 🏔
(you knew this was coming)
Hello dear sidetrack-er,
If you have been around here any period of time, you will know that I have been planning a trip to Iceland all my life. We were set to go at easter 2020, and you can probably finish the story without my help as to why we didn’t get to go. We rearranged for 2021 (forever the optimist) and once again didn’t make it. Rearranged again, for easter 2022, and we got third time lucky. I have about 1,200 photos which I promise not to bore you with, but there are a few life lessons from my long-awaited trip that I thought I might share with you.
Like so many things in life, a bit of anticipation, lead up and build up can make the actual event even better. Part of the enjoyment of anything in life is the expectation that leads up to it – I’m learning to see the waiting as part of the journey rather than something to just endure. The Icelandic people have their own proverb for this concept – kemur alt með kalda vatninu – which literally means ‘everything comes with the cold water’ but a paraphrase of this might be ‘good things come to those who wait’.
What are you waiting for, that will be even sweeter because of the delay?
Whilst I was away, I made a conscious decision to step away from the news. For ten days, I didn’t engage with the stuff of the real world – I chose not to keep up to speed with world events. On top of this, I stayed away from my emails, and the stuff of my everyday life, too. It was the first time I had effectively managed this for a very long time. Most holidays for me involve keeping one foot in my actual life. This time both of my feet were firmly planted elsewhere. This meant that I found my sense of hope and optimism returned, and my mind had the chance to imagine, dream and think more clearly. What do you need to unplug from so that you can reset your soul?
My holiday was incredible – I saw some of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. I climbed waterfalls, I drove a snowmobile, I hiked glaciers, marvelled at ice caves, bathed in natural lagoons. But even surrounded by peak natural beauty, I took my imperfect self along with me. And family were their imperfect selves, too. If you think (as I often do) that going away means leaving your life and your problems behind, well it doesn’t – because you will be there. Imperfect you comes along to even the most perfect of places. A crucial lesson I have learned this year is that unrealistic expectations of myself, and indeed, others leave me disappointed. This doesn’t mean settling for low expectations, but it does mean giving up on the idea of perfection. Where in your life do you have unrealistic expectations?
I think that I became aware whilst I was away that I had become a little cynical of late. I guess one too many stories of someone I looked up to being untrustworthy, one too many headlines about the state of the world, one too many interactions that left me feeling jaded. Being away, disengaging with the self-fulfilling depressing news cycle and every day dramas allowed me to re-engage with the reality that humankind is filled with incredible, everyday people trying to do the best that they can. Pay attention, and I promise you’ll see it all over the place. What good can you bring to the people around you? What good can you see if you take the time to look and appreciate it?
One of the best pieces of advice I was given a long time ago was to make space in my schedule for beautiful places. That doesn’t have to be a tropical island (or a Nordic one for that matter). Now the sights in Iceland took my breath away, but, one of my much easier-access favourite beautiful places is in fact Sutton Park and whilst it might not be sweeping bays and vistas it is so good for my soul. What do you find beautiful? How can you make time for it in your diary?
So, thank you Iceland – you are teaching me to enjoy the waiting, escape and return, let go of the idea of perfection, look for the good and make space for the beautiful.
P.S. Doors are closing to this term’s cohort of The Purpose Pursuit. We’ve streamlined the offer, listened to feedback, boosted the community and accountability and reduced the prices. Now is the time to take the plunge – good things also come to those who seek them out.
P.P.S I recently recorded a podcast my friend Nish Manek, the founder of the amazing Next Gen GP movement. You can catch up with our chat here.