So this week I was rather abruptly forced to consider my past in a way that made me incredibly uncomfortable. I have not always been as good a human as I currently am; self improvement is now a big part of my drive every day but there have been periods of my life where stagnation would be the most accurate way to describe my status.
In the course of taking what I thought was a positive adult step – trying to gain more control over my financial and professional life I was told I had an outstanding debt of $3.5K. It was, as you can imagine, rather a rude shock – made all the more embarrassing for being told to me in the first instance in a public arena. Long story cut short here – it was debt incurred by a partner, who I no longer have contact with, on a joint service, I negotiated it down to a more reasonable figure and paid the balance.
The learning point out of all this came for me when I was reflecting on the initial shock and incredulity with which I had viewed the revelation. It had seemed wildly unfair and completely ridiculous that I was being ‘punished’ for trying to take positive steps in my life. Which is rather a juvenile way of conceiving of things really. The reality that I had to accept was that I had failed to take due care of my household affairs in the past and I was paying the piper in the present.
It was a bitter pill to swallow – and then I remembered Randy Pausch. This was a wall, not put here to stop me improving my life – but rather to force me to prove how badly I wanted if self improvement were easy; everyone would be doing it. So I grit my teeth an confronted the unsettling reality that despite not being directly responsible I had still failed and that I needed to overcome that failure and use it as a lesson. The two questions I asked myself here I learned from Brian Tracy – What did I do well? and What would I change next time?
So what did I do well? – I had been a good partner, helped provide for the household. What am I changing next time? – nothing new just adding fuel to my financial management fire
I think that by combining those two thinkers one reaches the perfect place to overcome past mistakes. The mistake itself can be recontextualized as merely a test of drive – which the current self is always up to the task of undertaking. Following this the ‘hot wash up’ question make sure that we really draw out the critical learning points.
The control we have over our experience of reality is one of the most powerful gifts we are ever given. Allowing external agencies to take that power away from us is all too easy to do and far too great a cost for anything. The trick is that we can take it back any time we want. By choosing to remain in control of the way we perceive and interact with the world we are choosing to be responsible for our emotional well being.
The key thing here really is about context and shifting perspectives. It is very easy to let the world seem far more frightening and imposing than it really is. Particularly when we find ourselves on the back foot in a new situation. However the world isn’t out to get us – it isn’t trying to do us favors either mind you. The world is largely indifferent to any of our struggles of woes and in that indifference we are free to make the best people we can out of ourselves. By allowing ourselves to see the opportunities for change and improvement rather than punishments imposed by an unfeeling world we really can get to a point where there is no wall we cannot scale.