Stumbling blocks

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Despite past disappointments and ultimate deceptions, 2023 should be viewed as a year of new beginnings, a year in which our plans to flourish can actually materialise.

And let’s not forget, it’s also the ‘Year of the Youth’—a declaration by the 56 Commonwealth leaders who vowed to tackle “the endemic challenges facing children and young people”.

So how do we ensure youth prosperity in 2023? Let’s talk about stumbling blocks.

Lori Jackson described a stumbling block as an “obstacle or impediment, which if we are not intentional, can trip us up or cause us to lose our footing. Life is full of these impediments,” she said, “and being aware can sometimes help us avoid them.”

A major hindrance to prosperity is the unquestionable belief that the best indicator for future performance is past performance. While some truth lies in this statement, we must understand the grave implications of unpleasant prophesies.

Predictions of past and current failure do not necessarily mean continued defeat in school, at home or other domains. I’m sure many of us heard about transformational stories of individuals who struggled academically, financially or even psychologically, but still became quite successful. They did not let their past restrict them, but there are others whose confidence sank so low that they succumbed to self-fulfilling prophecies.

For 2023, let’s be careful with predictions and if possible, avoid them completely. Encourage and be encouraged. Author Jon Gordon said you may ask rhetorically like Truett Cathy, founder of the American restaurant Chick-Fil-A, “How do you know if a man or woman needs encouragement?” Well, the criterion is very simple for Cathy: “If they are still breathing.”

Gordon asserted, “We all need encouragement and positive communicators encourage and inspire others to do more and become more than they ever thought possible…With so many people telling us we can’t succeed, we need to hear people telling us we can.”

However, youth must be mindful that the struggle against the self may also be a gigantic stumbling block. Failure to fight self-doubt, feed confidence, and seize opportunities will result in another year of malnourishment and misalignments.

“Wanting to be motivated and making a commitment in your mind to succeed is not enough,” according to Laureate International Universities, which insisted that we need willpower to battle temptations, distractions and other pitfalls.

It added that willpower is “the ability to put off what you want to do in this exact moment. It’s the exertion of control over you, by yourself” and a critical component if “we want to change the way we would otherwise think, feel or behave. We need willpower to follow rules and delay gratification.”

Sadly, research shows that only about 16 percent of people fulfil New Year resolutions. The Economic Times stated that the “majority give up within one to six weeks of starting”. Among the list of stumbling blocks were lack of accountability and lack of planning. Success for 2023 and beyond will require strategic planning, which entails setting goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) extended the criteria. Not only should you spell out the details of what you plan to achieve so you know when you reach your goals, and establish clear deadlines, but also ensure that your goals are future focused. That means they “should be geared toward improving current performance and spurring future growth.” HBR recommended that these goals should also be tailored to the individual, achievable but challenging, and documented but not forgotten.

It’s important to note here that prosperity eludes us many times because we want to make an immediate 360-degree transformation. Nothing is wrong with making incremental progress.

“Short-term gains for long-term impact are key,” said author Brian Zehr who associated long-term goals with usual stumbling blocks.

Equally important is the need to be teachable—a vital success element. Being teachable “allows for firm footing,” and as Zehr pointed out, “Nothing kills forward movement more than people who are arrogant”—stumbling blocks who fail to give credit and act as if they know it all.

So young people, this is your year—the ‘Year of the Youth’. Whether you’ve been deceived, raped or wrongfully accused, 2023 is an opportunity for redemption and overcoming stumbling blocks.

If you’re broke, it’s also a year to tap into other “currencies”. Invest more time in yourself, cut ties with those who add no value, and connect with people who can help you soar strategically. They might be individuals in your home who possess the wisdom that you lack, but you take for granted.

It’s your job to find the source. Remember Jeremiah 29:11 and align yourself for the manifestation of God’s “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

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