It is said that every 7 years we end a life cycle and begin a new one. There is a lot of mystique surrounding these 7 year cycles and I never really paid attention to it until this year. 2011 marked the end of a 7 year cycle in my life and it was indeed a very surprising year – a cornerstone on so many levels. It was a year full of emotion, self-discovery, transformation and growth.

If I were to sum it up, I’t say it was the year of endings, beginnings and small miracles. And now, as the end of the year is drawing near, I can’t help but think of all the things that I am grateful for. There are many, but here are my top 7 reasons to say thank you!

1. Mind Learners – a dream come true

A very important stage in my professional life ended this year. I decided to give up the safety of my corporate job and took a leap of faith, pursuing my dream of creating training and coaching programs with the brain in mind. And this led to the birth of Mind Learners – a dream come true.

To me, this is much more than a professional change or an entrepreneurial adventure – it is an essential part of a larger, deeper personal mission. Mind Learners is the gateway to fulfilling what I feel is my vocation – pointing out a doorway towards self-discovery for others, and becoming more of myself in the process.

2. Finding myself

This was the year when I reached a very important milestone in my own journey towards self-discovery. I finally realized what “self-actualization” means – it’s not about achieving something or becoming someone, but about rediscovering who you already are. I have come to believe that we all have in us the seeds of the best version of ourselves – we only need to look inside, face ourselves with all our inner lights and our shadows, accept ourselves for who we are and learn the hard lesson of authenticity.

I have done all that this year – faced my shadows, wondered at my inner light and accepted myself fully, for all that I am. As a result I feel a renewed sense of authenticity, freedom, empowerment and responsibility.

And for that, I am immensely grateful.

3. Family

We take on may roles in our lives, but our roles within the family probably shape most of who we become. I always cherished my family – being a daughter and a sister is part of my identity. I also felt, like many others perhaps, that family can be a source of pressure, just as it is a source of joy and love.

2011 brought me a renewed sense of wonder for the miracle that family can be. I rediscovered my family this year. I am in awe at the magic that makes it possible for people so different, each with their own paths in life, their own idiosyncrasies, their own peculiarities, their own dreams and fears, to be bonded by an invisible, yet steel-strong thread. That thread transforms them, when times are rough, from separate individualities into a close-knit single entity. And that makes family a wonder to be grateful for!

4. Friendship

This year has tested my friendships like few years before it. I have been reminded of how blessed I am to have a handful of true friends in my life. They stood by me through good and bad, I confided in them, I received wise advice from them. They are one of the greatest reasons of joy and gratitude in my life.

5. Living in the moment

I used to worry a lot. I used to ponder a lot about the past. This year I discovered the joy of living in the moment. I consciously decided not to pass up the opportunities for simply living an experience – be it a  lengthy discussion to someone I’ve just met or a surprise invitation to a concert – and there have been some truly wonderful experiences that have come my way in 2011.

This has had a direct impact on my old obsession with controlling things, making plans and setting objectives. I no longer feel that compulsion. Sometimes it’s good to let yourself be surprised. As a consequence, I have no resolutions for 2012 – I’m prepared to simply live and enjoy life.

6. Serendipity

The dictionary defines “serendipity” as = “happy coincidence”. I have been blessed to have a lot of these in my life over the past year. Most of these “happy coincidences” brought my way some amazing people – like-minded people, people who taught me valuable lessons, people who challenged me, people who surprised me, people who touched my mind and my heart.

Some of these people became my friends. All of them hold an important place in my heart, because each of them brought me something special, that I cherish and for which I am thankful – a word of advice, a learning experience, an emotion.

7. Feeling versus Thinking

It’s probably an odd thing to include on my list of things to be grateful for, but it’s one of the most important things that happened to me this year – I learned the real difference between “thinking” and “feeling”.

I used to “live in my head”, like many of us do. I valued reason beyond anything else. I even coined a term for the way I used to cherish my rational mind – “the hypertrophy of reason”. If that were a disease, I would have been a chronic patient, until not so long ago. This year I learned there is another type of intelligence – that of feeling.

I enter 2012 with a renewed respect for feeling, for intuition, for emotion. I finally understood that reason and feeling are not enemies – they are two sides to the same coin. Sadly, too many of us have a controversial relationship with our feelings – we either let ourselves by tyrannized by them, or we choose to ignore them and take refuge in the cold kingdom of reason.

I have come to believe there is a middle way. I choose to respect my feelings – even unpleasant ones. I am becoming friends with my feelings, I am learning to be present in them, to live through them, instead of running away from them. I wish for you the same.

These are 7 of the many things I am thankful for this year.

I could write pages around each of these topics, but that’s not the point. I just wanted to share with you my list and invite you to share yours. What are you grateful for this year?