New Years brings with it an almost meditative state in a desire to reflect and ponder life's journey. This year's turbulence has many questioning their spiritual path and considering new goals that would add to a greater sense of fulfillment. It would be hard to imagine that this past year has not expanded our awareness and helped us discover valuable insights about ourselves, our businesses and the relationships we value. One thing that I have learned is that you don't need to have all the answers today. Every new success begins by exploring your thoughts and feelings and thinking more about your dreams for the future. By embracing this process of personal discovery and enjoying each step of the journey, life becomes richer and fear diminishes.
Growth and change are constants in life. What's not is how we choose to deal with them. This year, with job loss, net worth loss, housing loss, and business loss, how we immerse ourselves in the process of our personal evolution becomes critically important. We often feel the need to rush through the phases of growth in order to get somewhere else. Most people this year, in one way or another, were given the opportunity to understand more about their purpose and create more meaning in their daily experiences. People are spending less money but spending more time together; people are losing their jobs but finding their life's purpose, finding out that the journey itself holds more value than the outcome. When we put our fears aside to embrace the joy of this personal discovery and take our time through the growth, everything becomes easier. If we realize that every step of our journey is awakening and readying us for the bigger outcome then we can actually move more intelligently toward our goal. All the joy is lost when we choose to tie our expectations to a specific outcome instead of to the process of life and its lessons. If we expect a certain result from a relationship, house, job, vacation, boss, or coworker and the actual results look different, there is no room to grow through the experience and not be disappointed by what came.
In looking back over my life, knowing what I know now, I find it difficult to understand how I made the mistakes I did. Once we learn new information, it is nearly impossible to be the same as before we learned that information. Whether looking back at parents who spanked their kids, doctors telling us smoking aided digestion or kids riding bikes without helmets, we now wonder how we could have thought those were good ideas. Our pasts are full of so called mistakes we can't believe we made. We did things in the past that we would never do now, and this is precisely because we have information now that we didn't have or weren't able to access.
Even though our past sometimes reads like a list of what not to do, it is exactly as it should be. We learn from living and having experiences. It is from these past actions that we garnered the information that now guides us to live differently. Without touching the hot stove, not listening to our clients, not watching the bottom line, not shifting markets — or whatever your particular lesson was — we would not have gained the wisdom we now have.
In order to live more peacefully with the past and in the future, Maya Angelou says, "now that I know better, I do better". No one wakes up asking, "how can I screw up today?" Likewise, we need to gently take the lessons that we have learned this past year and do our best, with the perspective of the present and benefit of the doubt. The greater good is served most effectively by not dwelling on the mistakes of the past but by focusing our energy and knowledge into our present journey. It is only here and only in this moment that we create tomorrow and make a difference today.
We must realize that tomorrow's gifts come from today's lessons, and it is only the journey that will bring us there.
You could be leaving 2009 with your fingers crossed, hoping that nothing else "bad" happens ... or you could be leaving 2009 sweating and panting and feeling like it was a great run. The attitude is up to you ... your experience is up to your attitude. I am grateful for the lessons of 2009 and for the possibilities of 2010.