Each year I make a New Year’s resolution to be my best at all times and in every situation, and each year that resolution is tested like you can’t believe, and I end up exhausted from the effort. But am I wiser for the effort? Often, I’m not so sure.
As a performance coach I endeavor to walk my talk and lead an honorable, honest life of integrity and wisdom. As a perfectionist I constantly monitor my behavior to see if I’m living up to my near impossible high standards. As a husband and father, friend and fellow human I am constantly reminded that even my best efforts are often misunderstood or missed entirely.
For the last 25 years I have kept a mental list of those I felt I had harmed in some way through hurtful words or deeds, misgivings, callous remarks, or ignorance. It’s a pretty hefty list and I’ve worn it like a hair shirt reminding me of the guilty feelings I chose to carry year after year.
So this year (2011) I decided to make a new resolution, I decided to let myself off the hook. I wrote down the list of the people who I felt I may have slighted in the past and I reviewed each one. In many cases I scratched them off, realizing that perhaps there was no harm or foul. In several cases I determined that while my actions may not have been up to snuff, what I received from them cancelled out any egregious behavior on my part. And in a very few cases I decided to reach out to the people I felt I had harmed in some way and apologize. In all of those cases I was met with reactions like “What? I don’t remember that” or “Shut up, I never took offense.” One of my closest friends told me simply “Of all the people I know, you could say anything you wanted to me and I know it was coming from a good place, you’re just not a jerk.”
That comment created a shift for me. All this time I was trying so hard not to be a jerk, I never actually considered that I never was one in the first place.
An unexpected byproduct resulted from this understanding… I began to take very good care of myself, learning and setting my own personal boundaries, releasing the need to take care of everyone’s feelings, not worrying every moment if what I was saying was offensive, or tactless. And as a result I realized that I didn’t have to resent others’ successes in life despite their less-than-perfect behavior. Resentment for me has been my kryptonite – a glowing green chain around my neck blocking my strength, limiting my power. No more. I’ve learned at 45 years old that life is one giant messy question mark, and we don’t have to have all the answers, or do the right things. It’s okay to not be perfect as long as you understand that being imperfect is actually… perfect.
Now, for 2012, I resolve to love my flaws and forgive all my past mistakes. Because after all it has been said that good judgment comes from experience... experience comes from poor judgment.
Here are 3 easy tips toward having the best year of your life:
1. Focus on what you’ve got. How often do you concentrate on what you’re not getting, not accomplishing, or losing out on, and miss the wonderfully positive things that surround you daily? Play your game, not someone else’s and you’ll be much happier on a day to day basis.
2. Follow the Yes’s. You have that plan in your head of what your life is supposed to look like, but often find yourself saying ‘this isn’t it.’ Let go of the plan and allow the opportunities before you to be your guide – follow them and they will lead you to new adventures and a new you.
3. Forgive. Start with yourself. I know for me personally the resentment I carry for my own reactions, thoughts, excuses, misgivings, missed steps, and misguided actions only serves to keep me in a place far from discovery and wonder. I don’t need to forgive anyone in my life because I am loved – what I need to do is forgive myself for not seeing that clearly.
You’ve got some time left before ringing in the new year. Why don’t climb up in the attic of your mind, or down to the basement of your heart, flip on the lights and toss out the old junk that’s taking up too much space, and gathering dust.
Now’s the time to do it. Next year is going to be your best yet.
-Know yourself, don’t NO yourself.