November 2021

I have just finished reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography, entitled “Becoming”. With her words still ringing in my ears, this month’s newsletter will touch on important aspects of life that are referred to in her book. I write not to offend or challenge anyone reading this, but simply to reflect!

My first observation would be that it is important to be aware of what informs your life, and how your past shapes/ shaped it. Michelle articulates this well. As I look at my upbringing in sunny South Africa, I am thankful for those who put imprints on me. My parents and siblings (3 out of 4 having passed on since I left the country); my teachers and many fellow students at Graeme College; and the individuals at medical school who showed me a better way of caring for human beings! What are the memories you hold onto? My message to you is clear – through the hard times of growing up you must have come into contact with people who influenced you in a significant way. Take a minute to remember how special these people were in your lives and give thanks for that. You are who you are often because some of these people pushed you in a certain direction…

My second observation would be to remind you of the places you have been, and how these have influenced you. Michelle uses words to enable us to see the holiday camps, the little room in her house, and the recreational parks near her house in Chicago. All of them were special in her preparation to be the wife of the US President. My words to you are that there are many places in your life that have informed and influenced your decisions and actions. Remember the holiday home, the fishing cabin, the boat that your family owned, or the different houses you lived in. Remember the special feelings that some of them instilled in you. Let those memories drive good, wholesome, happy thoughts.

My final observation relates to your acceptance of who you are. As a school student I constantly tried to live a life that wasn’t me. I tried to show how cool I was; how good an athlete I could be; and how diligent a student I could be! It was only as a university student where I recognized that I wasn’t many of those things (quite humbling), and that was okay. In acknowleding this I wasn’t rejecting my desire to reach my improvement goals, but I accepted that I wasn’t too bad a person after all.

I wonder how many of us live with the lie that says we aren’t good enough, and that we should try to be something/ someone we are not?! In my coaching role I frequently come across people who start by apologizing for who they are/ who they’re not. Its important you hear Michelle Obama (and me) tell you this – don’t settle for the dumbed down version of who you are. See your skills and passions, and celebrate them! Michelle doesn’t ignore her past as a kid in a low income neighbourhood in Chicago: she sees the beauty in how this formed her and is proud of it. I am thankful for the many positive attributes that God put in me, and am humbled by how He is able to use these when I am willing to be used. Whether or not you are religious, I want you to acknowledge to yourself the good things you represent; and how you can use them to make a difference to people around you. Have a good month,

Peter Craighead

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