Nga mihi o te tau hou 2019 ki a Koutou katoa. Happy New Year everyone. May your 2019 be happy, healthy and prosperous and the best one yet! Even better than 2018.

Every year I have a phrase or word for that particular year and I try to outwork that phrase or word during that particular year.

For example my word for 2018 was "freedom". As the year unfolded in 2018 I realised that freedom meant many things for me both professionally and personally.

For example as a global inspirational speaker and leader I learnt that just because I had always done things a certain way, I did not have to continue doing that.

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I was more innovative in 2018 and when something was not broken, I chose to fix it and make it better.

I gave myself the freedom to do that and make incremental improvements in many areas.

I also learnt to prioritise things better according to my values and beliefs and said no to things I had automatically said yes to in previous years.

I found real freedom doing that as I discovered when I said no to something then better opportunities arose that suited my values and life purpose better. 2018 was more productive and purposeful from that perspective alone.

My word for 2019 is "grateful". It is closely linked with words like thankful and appreciative and is strongly shaped by an event that occurred at the end of 2018.

My father called a family meeting because he had heard from the hospital in Palmerston North that my sister would not make it through the night due to ill health.

It was already 8pm when we met. As the eldest brother I cleared my schedule and my wife, daughter and I left as soon as we could to be with her.

My father and others followed in another car but were unable to get away immediately.

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The last 20 minutes I spent with my beautiful, dying sister Angela Ngaraima Bidois were among the most grateful 20 minutes of my life.

Her eyes lit up when she recognised her big brother had come to see her.

Although she could not speak due to the oxygen mask she spoke with her eyes and hands as she squeezed mine.

What would you do if you had 20 minutes left with one of your loved ones?

We told her we loved her many times and she squeezed our hands each time. I prayed with her and guided her on her way, asking her to say hello to our mum and our other sister when we knew her time here was ending.

I watched as peace came over her and she drew her last breath. She found freedom from pain and passed just as my father and other whānau members walked in the door. She had waited for them.

That experience with my sister taught me to be more grateful for the many blessings in my life.

There are many things and people I have taken for granted in the past that I will acknowledge moving forward.

We all have things and people to be grateful for. We also have opportunities to help people on their journey, whether it is for 20 minutes, 20 days or 20 years.

Kia kaha, be strong, kia maia, be brave and may you find many more things and people to be grateful for in 2019.