Celebrating Spring Festival: Welcoming the Year of the Dragon

Janine Jakob
In Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes power, strength, and good fortune which makes us look forward to the Lunar New Year.
Janine Jakob

As Shanghai is getting ready to end the Year of the Rabbit and starting to welcome the Year of the Dragon, I find myself immersed in a city starting to slow down and becoming empty, as people are closing chapters, finishing their jobs, celebrating with colleagues, and getting ready to visit their families.

In Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes power, strength, and good fortune which makes me look forward to February. For me, a global citizen and entrepreneur based in Shanghai who has woven her life into the fabric of this dynamic city, the onset of the Dragon Year is not just a cultural celebration, but a beacon of new beginnings and aspirations. You are never too old or it is never too late to change something and become an even better version of yourself.

My research showed that the dragon, a mythical creature revered in Chinese astrology, embodies authority and ambition. It is historically linked to emperors. Therefore, the Year of the Dragon for me is about embracing bold decisions and daring to dream big. Why do we always keep ourselves small and within the boundaries of what seems easily achievable and possible, especially for us women? In this auspicious time, I am motivated to set my sights higher, inspired by the dragon's grandeur and Shanghai's natural vibrant energy. Shouldn't we all start to dream and think even bigger than what we are already now? The world is surrounded by lots of negative information, but why let us get stopped by it?

With the new year comes the tradition of setting goals and new year's resolutions. In the dragon year, this practice feels particularly potent. At the end of December, I had already taken the time to rationally write down SMART goals but also envision ambitious yet attainable objectives on a vision board about the dream life I want to really live. If we do not set goals, we cannot achieve them and cannot live our lives to the fullest, as self-discovery is the basis for knowing how we want our lives to be. Then we can make decisions and take action accordingly.

If you haven't noted down any short-term, medium-term, or long-term goals yet or created your dream board, I highly recommend you do so. Reflect on the following eight categories separately: wealth, health, career, personal growth, relationships, social life, contribution, and environment. It can be a beautiful yearly habit that you can pursue together with your friends or family members. Enjoy the process, and have fun creating those instead of expecting the result to be perfect. You can always add more goals and ideas at a later point. It is all about starting somewhere.

Our new goals for 2024 and beyond will be infused with the dragon's visionary spirit and balanced with a pragmatic approach. So being a coach and trainer myself, self-development is important for me. Therefore, just last week I took an online course and learned a new fascinating technique. I categorized my wishes and goals by asking myself three important questions:

1) What experiences do I want?

2) Who do I want to become and grow into?

3) How will I give back to the world and create meaning?

Not stopping my imagination yet as society always makes us believe to make everything achievable, I noted down new things way bigger than how I thought before. Why do we not embrace an entrepreneurial mindset of accepting failure and mistakes in order to achieve even bigger things? Embracing mistakes, companies like Google or Alibaba could not have changed the world with big innovations like Google Earth or Alipay if they hadn't failed many, many times. So the dragon gives us the energy and strength to be bold in 2024 and did not try out something completely different. Even if something fails, it brings us a large step further toward achieving our goals, and embracing the process of getting there can fuel our happiness and learning as well.

Celebrating Spring Festival: Welcoming the Year of the Dragon

Janine Jakob had Lunar New Year's Eve dinner with her Chinese family in 2019.

Celebrating Spring Festival: Welcoming the Year of the Dragon

Living in Shanghai, I relish the opportunity to engage with Chinese New Year customs. The Year of the Dragon offers unique experiences, from dragon dances to festive markets and eating the typical food on different days of the festival to welcome the new year full of happiness and wealth. Participating in these traditions deepens my connection to Shanghai's cultural heritage and strengthens my sense of belonging in this diverse community. Moreover, enjoying the calmness helps me connect with myself, as the drastic speed of Shanghai can easily let us disconnect from who we truly are and what we truly wish to live our lives.

As I navigate toward the Year of the Dragon, I am reminded to approach it with enthusiasm and an open heart. The challenges and opportunities it presents are unique, and my response to them will shape my experience. For me and my fellow residents in Shanghai, this year is an opportunity to renew ourselves, to embrace grand ambitions, and to create a path laden with success and personal fulfillment.

The Year of the Dragon invites us to soar to new heights, much like the mythical creature it represents. Let's together embrace our ambitious new goals immersing ourselves in the cultural vibrancy of Shanghai which is full of opportunities, and make this Year of the Dragon a period of memorable growth and prosperity.

(Janine Jakob from Germany is the founder of Full Potential Partners Shanghai.)

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