Despite enthusiastic new year well-wishing, January can be a grind. Outside it’s mostly grey and damp, the air cold (but raging with Omicron it seems), while inside we face the challenge of executing (or formulating) a coherent plan for the twelve months ahead.

Typically, we seek momentum from reassessment and recalibration. Starting this, stopping that, more of, less of, people to see (or not!), places to visit, fresh goals and resolutions. All very sound and strategic but potentially also a bit left-brain. Does Dry January nourish the soul? I tried it once, and soldiered through, but found the overnight transition from New Year to No Beer just too brutal.

It strikes me that many of the objectives we set ourselves at around this time can similarly lack sufficient emotional sensitivity to be realistic and therefore effective.

Especially now, with the world the way it is, we need to be kinder to ourselves, responsible and purposeful, of course, but also reasonable. Surely what we crave is inspiration rather than simply perspiration?!

Reading the tributes to actor Sidney Poitier, who died on 6th January after a long and pioneering life, certainly inspired me as I think about navigating 2022.

I have to declare an interest here too. In the Heat of the Night (1967), in which Poitier starred, has been my favourite film for as long as I can remember.

Yes, Sidney was tall, athletic, and devastatingly handsome (rarely a disadvantage) but, born in 1927, he also entered the movie business when people of colour on the Hollywood studio lots were generally kitchen workers and janitors.

Poitier shattered the stereotype and became one of the top box-office draws of the 1960s, the first black performer to win the Oscar for Best Actor. More craft awards followed, reflecting his singular talent, along with recognition of his wider societal contributions, especially in helping alter America’s perceptions on race.

For example, in 2009, Barack Obama conferred upon Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s joint highest civilian honour.

Throughout his career, Sidney Poitier shone both as an artist and as a human being. His influence has been described as immeasurable. Here’s what I think we can learn from his life to inspire us in ours:

  • Dignity – Sidney never lost it, maintaining his style and grace however seemingly insurmountable the odds
  • Dreams – as Poitier said, to fellow actor Viola Davis, “if your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough”
  • Determination – dreams don’t just come true. Sidney realised his through resilience and resourcefulness

RIP Sidney Poitier KBE. Mister Tibbs forever.