“Have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference”
I recently came across the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘. I must admit, I was skeptical at first when I came across this – as I regarded as this to be yet another book of shallow platitudes, but was impressed by how much insight and depth into human excellence it embodied.
This blog documents my journey and realisations as I embark on the application of these principles in life. For once in my life, I am taking that first courageous step towards changing what I can, the discovery and acceptance with serenity that which I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference in my quest to realise the perfection of my potential.
Once upon a time…
For as long as I can remember, I have always been an inquisitive thinker. This inquisitiveness earned me respect from adults as a child, and expectations that I would be extremely successful as an adult. Curiosity being a pre-requisite for greatness, no doubt – but after 34 years, I still feel that there is something inside of me that is dying to get out.
I have naturally been overly-cautious all my life, which has most probably spared me some of the feelings of regret. However, I feel I never learned to trust myself to commit to that first step towards a new unchartered territory – even when I was ready and it was the right time to do so. I only experienced the feeling of how I wish I took this step much earlier in life. I wished I had the ‘wisdom to know the difference‘ between a risk not worth taking vs. the paralysis induced by self-doubt.
I have always had most of my decisions made for me as a child. Independence was something you had once you became an adult. There was an inherent reliance instilled in me to turn to teachers, parents and adults around me – but never a plan of transition to take on more responsibility and trust myself with judgement.
Mistakes, I was told, wasn’t always reversible – so I grew up with a paranoia of making one.
And then, one day I discovered I was an adult
It was time to make decisions that I usually relied on guidance for. But this time it was different. I was asked questions like:
- ‘What do you want to be in life? Convince us that you are a smart, intelligent person’
- ‘What are your greatest strengths? weaknesses?’
- ‘Give me an example where you were faced with tough choices, and had to make a difficult decision’
And I did the only thing I knew how to do – I sought the advice of a trustworthy source. I read books on interview questions and answers, repeated someone else’s convictions and beliefs. I leaned on the common clichés and platitudes to generate a false air of confidence and momentum in my life that conveyed an intellectual maturity and conviction that never existed in substance.
But borrowed wisdom only takes a person so far. Sooner or later it gradually gets replaced with actual wisdom that comes from the lessons where the context and mis(application) become apparent. Such lessons in life are few and far between – depending on the person’s eagerness to learn and willingness to try new things. With maturity we get set in our ways, follow established patterns for the right or wrong reasons and rarely venture into the unknown. Thus the fundamental changes in our attitudes and behaviour rarely shift as we get older.
Even worse, we become our own stumbling blocks in our progress in life. We adopt personality traits and self-justifying rationalisations that form the convenient excuses for a safe-house we take shelter and refuge from that which we find terrifying to face. And over time, these traits and rationalisations form the bedrock upon which we live our lives.
Stephen Covey sums this up even more eloquently:
“[..] Borrowing strength builds weakness. It builds weakness in the borrower, because it reinforces dependence on external factors to get things done. It builds weakness in the person forced to acquiesce, stunting the development of independent thinking [..]
The moment I came across this passage I realised just how much meaning was condensed behind just two sentences.
And I’m tired of hiding in my safe-house. It’s time to do something about it – or accept a sentiment that is bound to resurface in future which begins with the words ‘If only I had [..]‘
Embracing the unknown
It is time I learned to accept that despite all the careful due-diligence one can do – you are bound to make mistakes. And when they happen – not to use the pain as a crutch to revert back to the comfort of the safe refuge that is waiting with the door wide open, but to accept the pain and frustration as a necessary step to learn from and mature as a person in the journey onto greater things.
‘If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too‘
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools’
I am not sure where this journey will take me – but this blog is one form of a reference to myself to reflect on my progress over time and serve as a point of reference. In this effort, if it benefits another person find their stride in their own journey – that itself would be a worthwhile outcome of this endeavour