It’s been a funny old month. Twice I have been up for awards and both came as a complete surprise. Although it is an honour to receive such accolade, being recognised for my work has never been in my game plan.
At its start I was honoured, along with Robin Pascoe, to receive an award at the Families in Global Transition conference in Houston, for the work we have done for expatriate spouses, primarily for the books we have written, the presentations we have made and the way we have both travelled the world sharing what we know to help others to grow, connecting and assisting people along the way.
After we had been presented with our Trailblazer awards, real glass trophies with engraving on and everything, Sandy Thomas, FIGT’s outgoing president asked everyone in the room to stand if their lives had been touched by Robin or myself. We watched in awe as the majority of the audience, hundreds of people, got onto their feet. Robin and I exchanged a glance. Had we really done that? I guess we had. Receiving that award was both an honour and a surprise. Not once during our 20 or so years out there doing what we do had we stopped to measure the impact of our work. It was a special moment and one that will remain with me for many years. This was my ‘you win some’ moment.
But last week, just three weeks later, I was up for another award. Unbeknown to me, several of my students and friends had nominated me for Expatica’s first Expat of the Year award in the Netherlands. It came as a complete surprise when I heard that I had reached the final five and had been invited to the glorious 13th century university of Nyenrode, to attend the awards ceremony, when the winner would be announced. Again, it was unexpected and an honour to be in this position. Just being nominated was something to be proud of.
As I walked down the avenue of trees fringed by a carpet of purple crocuses and white snowdrops towards the beautiful red-shuttered coach house my heart was in my mouth from a mixture of hope and anticipation. I had received many good luck wishes from all over the world and most had insisted that I was the obvious choice. My expectations had been raised. I sat there with palms sweating as they made the announcement. And though I had not expected this award, nor did I truly think I deserved it, I didn’t win and my disappointment was crushing. This was my ‘you lose some’ moment.
The month that began with a bang went out with a whimper. My moment of glory from my Trailblazer ‘Oscar’ eclipsed for a while by my failure to be crowned Expat of the Year. I was perplexed and left wondering why I had been affected by losing an award that I had known deep down I would not win anyway. I’d won one award that month. Winning a second would have been downright greedy, right?
A month on I remain delighted with the memory of that crowd of upstanding conference delegates standing before me at FIGT. My disappointment at not being Expat of the Year is fading fast. As I look back on a month that was bookended by award ceremonies I am left reflecting on what the awards have taught me. I think it is something to do with goals and game plans and nothing to do with success or failure.
We are often told to set our goals, visualise them and then strive for them with all our might. And I am a firm believer in taking small steps towards these goals. Receiving these two awards had not been my goals. They had never been in my game plan. I had not been able to control them or work towards them. Or had I?
I think back to the joyful day when I had unpacked my first box of ‘French Tarts’, the first book I ever wrote, back in 1985. To this day that feeling has never been surpassed. Here was something I had achieved, all on my own. It had been my goal and I was delighted by it. ‘Chuffed to bits’, as I would say. I’m still ‘chuffed to bits’ when my books come out, when my articles are published, at the end of a good workshop or keynote speech and at the sight of a standing ovation.
As you know, ‘sharing what I know to help others to grow’ has been my life purpose for a number of years. This was and continues to be my own goal. And, seeing a crowd of smiling people on their feet at FIGT, it seems, I am achieving that goal. This is why the FIGT award mattered.
So, in conclusion, at the end of this rollercoaster month, I leave you with the thought that there is little reward in pinning your hopes on goals that are left to fate. When you lose them, the disappointment can be devastating. I urge you then, to pursue goals that are your own, that you plan yourself and then, when you do reach those moments of glory, that glory is well-deserved and long lasting.
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