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The Force That Moves Us Forward


Since my son came into our lives, we made it a tradition to visit my grandmother between Christmas and New Year. She lives in a small town in Bavaria called Gunzenhausen, the kind of quiet and neat place where people enjoy their routines and love it when nothing changes. Streets look the same, shops look the same, restaurants offer the same menus year after year. The hotel where we stay has been using the same napkins for breakfast for the last ten years. Life is slow in Gunzenhausen. But it's perfect for someone who never knew what slow was, for more than 60 years.


My favorite thing when I visit my grandma is to spend time with her in the kitchen, helping her cook or wash the dishes and listen to all her stories and memories from the past. At 86, I notice that she gets more emotional as she recalls certain life moments. I am not sure if the reason why the strong emotions come to surface is the event itself, or rather the haunting thought that she might not have the chance to tell that story again.


One evening after dinner, my grandma brought a large yellow binder and placed it on the kitchen table. "Here are all my family documents. From the church," she said. "You can see my family tree for five generations." Her father was born in 1901, her mother in 1902, both from Saxon families living in Ghimbav (Weidenbach) near Brasov, Romania. Her mother had her when she was 35, two years before World War II started and their lives would change forever. Her parents separated when she was very young and in 1945 when the war was over, her father was deported to Russia. When my grandma was 10 she lost her mother because of an untreated pneumonia, so she ended up being raised by an aunt. They were so poor that she could not afford going to high school, so she had to drop school and start working at age 15. She met my grandfather when she was 18. They both loved to dance. She thought her life would finally change for the better. But more hardships came along. She got married and had my mom when she was just 20 years old. Because my grandfather was an army officer, they had to move from place to place with a small child, until they finally settled in Tg-Mures. Life continued to be hard during communism when there was never enough of anything: never enough money, never enough food, only stress, struggle for survival and never ending work. She must have been blessed with some Jedi blood, otherwise I cannot explain where that inner force came from. An inner force so strong that despite all the hardship, it always propelled her forward, like an invisible rocket. 



Maybe we all have such a inner force, but for some of us it's still dormant. We just need a good enough reason to activate it. We need a purpose and a mission outside our immediate needs and interests. For my grandmother, that purpose was her family. She wanted us to have a better life than she had. When she talks about me and Sam, her eyes radiate with pride and happiness at the thought that it was all worth it.

Fulfillment must be such a great feeling. When you can simply say, "I have enough" and "I am enough". No more tension in your muscles, no clenched jaws, just a smile and a feeling of lightness.

This is the feeling I want to have next year and the year after that and the year after that. A feeling I ended up calling "calm clarity". But let me tell you how I got to it.



Last month I was writing about my experience with using a visual board and how it helped me create an every day accountability mirror. If you haven't read the article yet, you can check it out here. At that time, my plan was to spend the month of December setting my goals for 2024 and creating a new visual board poster. But then something else happened. I joined an online  workshop organized by Anne Ditmeyer and called Mapping Your Own Path, that I had on my "someday maybe" list for a long time. Anne lives in Paris and she is a blogger, creative coach and facilitator. I've been following her for many years, so I thought it was great timing to join this workshop at the end of the year. I had no idea what to expect, but I was prepared to stay open, have fun and leave my perfectionism at the door. The goal was that at the end of the 2 hours, we should have defined our driving force in 2024 and have a rough map of the things we wanted to do, feel and see along the way.



I will leave here a list of short reflection exercises that helped me create the final map, and that you can also use if you want to find your own driving force to guide you in 2024.


1. Feel good joy map 

You draw yourself in the middle of the page and then start drawing a mind map with the following prompts: times when I was happiest (as a kid and as an adult); how my body reacts when I feel joy; "things" that bring me pleasure; what lights me up; what brings me energy/ makes me feel alive; how I recharge.


2. Define your 2024 guiding force 

You will not find the right word from the first exercise but it will help you clarify what's important for you at this moment in your life. Each year, we go through different life stages and have different challenges, so it makes sense to rethink our focus. Your guiding force can be a word, a phrase, a theme, a symbol or a mantra to support you in the year ahead. Try not to think in terms of achievements, doing or status levels, but more about how you want to feel and who you want to be. What areas in your life do you want to grow? What do you want to let go of? What do you want to learn or deepen? What may feel like a stretch but still exciting? You can see some examples from Anne's past maps here


3. Explore your guiding force on a banana map

This was a fun exercise where we just added keywords and small drawings related to our guiding force, on a banana. It was like a mind map on a banana and it helped unlock our right, creative brain. At first I was paralyzed by the thought that I cannot draw, but then I just started to doodle until something clicked.


4. Draw your map forward, starting from your guiding force

This is a process so don't expect to have a map from your first try. I had 3 different versions and I kept drawing in the evening after dinner, when I was in a more relaxed state. Initially I wanted to build it out of LEGO, as I didn't trust my drawing abilities, but I persevered and tried again and it worked. 


This was the first version:


And this was the final one:


So instead of the visual board with pictures that guided me last year, I will use this roadmap in 2024, to remind me of what is most important and how I want to feel. A sense of calm clarity, a state of relaxed productivity and a good balance between focus and letting go. I am aware that stress is sometimes good and helps us grow and move forward, but if I can avoid it, while still doing what is best for me long term, I'll have that, thank you!


I hope you will also find your guiding force in 2024 and I want to thank you with all my heart for being here and reading my blog and newsletters. My Jedi grandma and I wish you a Happy New Year!



If you feel like you need more clarity in your life, but you're not sure where to start, schedule a Free Change Strategy discovery session, by sending me an email at heysparkingdrive@gmail.com or in the Contact form. We will assess together your objective and discuss different possible strategies to achieve your goals.


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