Paradigms & Perspectives.

We live our lives in patterns. 

Where we live, where we shop, how we exercise, how we brush our teeth, how we socialize, how we do everything. 

You know when you have been married for a long time (30 years in my case!) and you arrive at the hotel and you choose the same side of the bed as at home. 

That is patterning. 

So much of it is unconscious. Neuroscience has shown us that 96% of our patterning is unconscious, spontaneous and instinctive. That means that only 4% of our actions are conscious and strategic. 

The rest is just life happening through us, the treadmill of predetermined and learned patterning. 

Travel often disrupts these patterns. A short local road trip or hotel stay doesn’t disrupt our patterns much. 

It is a short intervention where we still get to play out our patterns in neutral territory, a no man’s (or people’s) territory. 

But a longer trip to a foreign country disrupts your patterning. It forces you to reflect on your physical and emotional patterning, the “safe” world you have created to survive and thrive in your predetermined rituals. 

I recently returned from a 6 week trip to Australia to see our daughter who now lives there.

We travelled to 5 different states and stayed in both rural and urban settings. From cabins in the wilderness, deep in the rainforests, to the urban sprawl of the Gold Coast area. It was an eye-opener in many respects. I had been to Australia before, but only for brief visits for family weddings. This time, we stayed with Australians in different environments and different settings for a more prolonged period. It allowed us to experience other patterns and other lifestyles and other cultures.

There were many, many positives to our deeper exposure to Australian society. It is a high-functioning society, more egalitarian, and with an unemployment rate of only 3.7% compared to South Africa’s staggering 35.6% of unemployment.

In Australia, all traders are revered and appreciated. There is much to be learned from the Australian model of industry emphasis and the role of technical colleges and internships.

But this is where it gets interesting. The sun is brutal. It is illegal for children to attend school without hats. Daily sunscreen is not optional, it’s obligatory. Even just walking to the shops nearby. I found that out myself the hard way.

Starting a new business is not easy, it is fraught with red tape and training requirements. The cost of any assistance on projects, both practical and administrative, is prohibitive, as is the cost of housing.

I came back to South Africa with a fresh perspective.

Yes, corruption is endemic sadly in our infrastructure and halting trickling delivery. The feeding trough of Eskom is indicative of many other government vehicles and entities.

The new mayor of the Johannesburg Municipality – Thapelo Ahmad, recently cited the number of hours the traffic department personnel actually works due to the shift system adopted. It was both illuminating and shocking.

Yes, the potholes are punishing.

Yes, the power is paralyzing.

Yes, water issues are challenging.

We recently returned from a short trip to Natal where some of the municipalities have not had water for 3 months or more. Sometimes South Africa feels like the proverbial slow boiling frog, constantly adjusting to the ever-increasing heat of a boiling collapse. And yet, I returned to this country with great gratitude for this:

The temperate weather in Johannesburg.

The bubbly multi-cultural melting pot of diversity and warmth.

The people.

Our languages and their fascinating cultures.

The ease with which entrepreneurship is born and the communities wishing to nourish and nurture these initiatives. We are a nation of entrepreneurship.

The beauty of our vast and varied land, from the pristine beauty of the Cape beaches to the corridor of wildlife that snakes across the tapestry of our magnificent landscapes.

Our medical and banking facilities, which remain in many cases world-class.

But above all, I returned to give thanks to the great staff, who support and surround me, who are so grateful for the gift of employment.

Family

Space

The incredible circle of friendships I have been gifted with – a different form of family.

I came home being grateful for all of this. I recently listened to a podcast by global visionary Barbie Layton, in which she spoke about living in “extreme gratitude” daily.

We always knew we were living in a third-world country. Sometimes it was just masked by the veneer of privilege we so enjoyed when everything was apparently “working”.

Pessimists always look for what is wrong. Optimists often hope for the best but remain unprepared for challenges. But Realists adjust their sails to the prevailing winds or the windless dead calm before the storm!

This is the country where I can really make a difference. As an entrepreneur of 30 years, 100 families rely on me and our leadership team. As an entrepreneur, this is where I can truly make a difference.

And so this year 2023, I choose to live in extreme gratitude despite the challenges and the relentless curve balls that threaten to knock us off our no longer predictable and predetermined paths.

Amidst these challenging times and in this challenged land, I know unequivocally that I live in a third-world country. But it is that realism that makes me surround myself with difference makers, difference doers, and realists determined to be both a voice of change and a voice of hope!

That is how I consciously choose to call this beautiful land I live in “home”.

Alison Weihe

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