As I rapidly approach the 52nd anniversary of my birth, I can’t help but take a look in the rear view mirror at where I’ve been. Not so much just for the sake of nostalgia, but more importantly, to reflect on how I got to where I am today. This little stroll down memory lane brings to mind both good times and bad, failures and successes, and a lot of life lessons learned along the way. While I’ve managed to accumulate a few skills and a modest helping of wisdom, I have really only become an “expert” in one arena: I have mastered the art of starting over!
That may sound impressive at first, but I assure you its nothing to boast about. It would be akin to a boxer bragging about be able to take a punch. Sure, that’s a great quality to have if you’re a prize fighter, but you have to get the crap beat out of you (and remain standing) in order to prove it! I’ve taken some brutal hits in life, and found myself flat on my back on several occasions. Though there were times I wanted to stay down and avoid getting hit again, I’ve always managed to pull myself up and answer the bell for the next round. And somehow, miraculously, I’m still standing!
I suppose if I have anything of value to add to the lives of others, aside from an extensive list of “here’s what not to do”, it would be how I’ve avoided getting knocked down again for quite some time now. It has been nearly 20 years since my last “starting over,” and even though I’m still learning and growing, hopefully I can offer some hope and helpful insight for those who might still be reeling from life’s most recent combination of jabs, hooks, and upper cuts!
One of the most valuable realizations I’ve come to (the last time I came to!) was that every time I faced yet another crisis or catastrophe in life, my immediate response was to blame something or somebody for my misfortune. And there never seemed to be a shortage of suspects with whom I could assign fault: ex-wives, parents, bosses, bad luck, the IRS, the economy, Obama, the list goes on and on! It would be like Sonny Liston blaming Muhammad Ali for knocking him out! “If only he wouldn’t have hit me so many times!” Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?
As long as our past or our present is someone else’s fault, then our future will always be someone else’s responsibility.
Eventually, I ended up completely alone and everything was still a train wreck. Someone had to pay, but there was nobody but me to point the finger at. Although this was closer to the truth than I had been before, I was still far from finding the solution. The bottom line is that blame doesn’t accomplish anything at all. Knowing whose fault it is changes nothing. I’ve found that blaming others leads only to anger, resentment and bitterness. Blaming myself results only in guilt, shame and regret.
The momentum of the battle finally shifted in my favor when I assumed responsibility for my own life. Even though I may have been wronged by others in the past, I had to face the truth that my life was a result of my thinking, my beliefs and perceptions, my choices and decisions, my actions and reactions. Somewhere I heard the old saying “if it is to be, then it is up to me.” Please do not misunderstand me here! I in no way am crediting complete self reliance as the secret to whatever success I’ve found in life. I have sought out, and continue to seek out, support, guidance and wisdom from God, family, friends, and trusted mentors. But ultimately the choice is mine alone. Ali may have been “the greatest of all time,” but he had great people in his corner as well!
Some final thoughts to consider: Just throwing in the towel and quitting the blame game was, in and of itself, not enough. I still had a lot of emotional residue to clear up. Resentment, guilt, and regret continued to affect my thinking and my relationships. It was only through learning how to forgive, and just as importantly, how to be forgiven, that I found the freedom, strength and ability to pursue the life I always longed for. (But that’s an entire blog topic all of its own!)
Until then, remember: This is your life and your responsibility. Get some great people in your corner, keep your gloves up, and keep fighting until the bell rings! You’re the Greatest You of All Time!