A Clean Slate

December 20, 2020


In a touching insight, Andy Andrews wrote, “I scour my heart clean in preparation for the New Year by forgiving those I need to forgive. And I always include that person who often seems to disappoint me the most… myself.”

 

Have you done something that you are still castigating yourself for? Maybe other people have long forgotten that incident. But not you. That deed still stings as if you have done it five minutes ago.

 

Regret is basically the refusal to forgive oneself. It stems from having a perfectionistic vision for oneself, a life where we make no dumb mistakes, lousy choices or wrong turns. When cold reality reveals how flawed and foolish we really are, we refuse to grant ourselves emotional amnesty. Rather, we flog ourselves with castigating self-talk such as “How could I have been so stupid?” “I should have done or known better!” “What will people think of me now?”

 

I must admit I am the type who loves beating myself up. As I make a quick mental survey of the past year, what pops up are more of what I did wrong rather than what I did right. That speaks of how bonded I have become with regrets, as if existence cannot be imagined in any other way.

 

If regret is the refusal to forgive oneself, Christmas heralds the basis for forgiveness. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

 

Even the sins which we burden ourselves with – the clutter in our hearts, the buyer’s remorse, the high road not taken – Jesus came to forgive.

 

The Son of God has made His long-awaited debut as a helpless babe. A God so indescribably kind has reached down to a humanity so desperately conflicted. We deem ourselves undeserving of emotional pardon.

 

We fear that self-exoneration violates some cosmic justice. We assume that we must somehow atone for those acts that we regret. But Jesus’ birth overrules our myopic concepts of self-worth. The infant will increase in stature and wisdom, live the regret-free life we long to live and satisfy that justice on the Cross.

 

Bethlehem foreshadows Calvary. We are immensely grateful that God forgives us so that we can forgive ourselves. It takes courage. It takes love. It takes Christmas.

 

We have all the right to exchange our regrets with rejoicing. I gaze beyond December 25 with fresh hope, renewed commitment and yes, a lighter spirit. Let us adore Him Who was born Christ the King!

 

May you and your loved ones have a blessed Yuletide season.

​Photo credit: www.govloop.com

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How could a tender shoot burst out of solid concrete? It actually didn’t. But if we find ourselves in a difficult situation, it teaches us three valuable lessons.

 

First, bloom where we are planted.
Can you imagine the shoot moaning, “How I wish I were planted in a lush field instead”? Of course, it can’t do that. But it still kept on growing. It had to. That’s how botany works.
If you can improve your situation, then by all means do so. But if you can’t for now, then the best response is to accept your circumstances and keep on growing. Decide never to curl up and die. Instead, strive to make the best of what is happening to you. That’s how life works.
Here’s how.

 

Second, grow through the cracks.
A closer look shows that the concrete block had some fissures packed with dirt. Somehow a seed found its way into the dirt and germinated. Drawn to the sunlight, the shoot eventually peeked out of the crack and pushed its leaves outward.

 

You may be in a hard place, but there may be cracks of opportunity. Look for those cracks, then dig in and start growing. For example, your boss made a passing mention about a chronic problem in the organization. Begin tinkering with the solution. Or you see a possible improvement in the business process. While it may be a sliver of change, the benefits may accrue handsomely over time. Who knows where that small start will lead you to?

 

Third, the harder the place, the more beautiful the sight.
The photo is real. I was making my rounds at work when the shoot stopped me in my tracks. It seemed to be in an act of defiance: even on a piece of rock, I will flourish! The message took my breath away.

 

I know someone who had a falling out with his boss. So the boss dumped him in Corporate Siberia. For two shameful years, he was stuck to his desk with nothing much to do. His peers felt sorry for him whenever they passed by. Yet he did not whine, play politics, and most of all, resign.

 

But whatever ad hoc tasks he was given, he gave them his very best. He got the last laugh, however, when that boss retired. The new boss liked his attitude and gave him new assignments. Like the shoot, his career blossomed. He reaped the respect and admiration of his colleagues.

 

Conclusion. Look at the photo again and see yourself in the shoot. Success is more about who you are rather than where you are. Bloom where you are.

​Grow through the cracks of opportunity. And look forward to become a sight to behold.

 

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Remember Frozen? Time was when people were belting Let It Go, be it off-key videoke or professional cover. But I would disagree with Queen Elsa. There are things we really can’t let go.

 

Take our past, for instance. Motivational speakers and counselors would tell us to “let go” of what we don’t like about our personal histories.


Has someone hurt us? Let it go.
Are we regretting over a certain career choice? Let it go.
Did we lose our shirt because the pandemic ruined our business? Let it go.

 

But we really cannot let them go, because our present flows from our past. We are where we are now due to a complex flux of choice and circumstances. We cannot escape cause and effect. Unless we have a time machine and start over, the past won’t let us go.

We still wince from the hurt.
We’re still unhappy at work.
We’re still broke.

 

So what do we do? Let me suggest three steps.

    1. Make peace with your yesterday.

 

Since we can’t let go of our past, we will have to live with our past. The real question is how? With blessing or bitterness? With gratitude or grumbling? With redemption or regret?

 

In my book Regret No More, I teach that we make a peace pact with ourselves. Think of it as being at war with guilt, anxiety, or sorrow. The irony is that we raise these enemies within ourselves, for example, the inner critic. We declare a cessation of hostilities. We may even write down a literal treaty, if we want to.

 

The next time we sense the enemy creeping back, we hold up the treaty and tell the negative emotion “Hold it right there. This says you will stop.” Then imagine the enemy, shamed, slinking away.

    1. Become a better person today.

 

We are not the same people we were five, ten, or twenty years ago. That’s because life continues to shape our personalities, perceptions and priorities. Ideally, we grow in love and wisdom as the years roll by. Yes, that includes the past.

Therefore, leverage the past for your maturity.
Did the hurt deepen your empathy?
Has the career mistake revealed what you really want in life?
Will the failed business train you how to bounce back?

 

There are priceless lessons that can be learned only through the college of hard knocks. Don’t waste the tuition.

    1. Create an exciting tomorrow.

 

We cannot change what happened before. But we can decide what happens next. So take the best pieces of your past and match them with the opportunities of the present.

 

The hurt can open doors to unparalleled service.
The career mistake may be a detour that leads you to your true calling.
The failed venture will remind you that purpose is more important than profit.

 

It is not really true that January 1st is New Year’s Day. Every morning heralds the next 365 days of your life. As we would do with the literal January 1st, be brimming with hope.

 

Dream again. Dream big. Take the calculated risk. Explore the untrodden path. Forge strong relationships. In so doing, you have made the past your friend.

 

You really cannot let it go. But you have successfully lived with it.

God bless you.

This article was first published on LinkedIn in two parts. Connect with me for the latest articles.

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Want to discover an insight about happiness that will only cost you forty pesos?

 

Don’t worry. Half of that amount will go back to you. No, I won’t be getting the other half.

 

Here’s the thing: Spend twenty pesos to buy your favorite ice cream and eat it. Feels heavenly, right? Especially if it’s chocolate.

 

Now get another twenty pesos. Only this time, use it for an act of kindness to a total stranger. For example, when you see a street kid selling sampaguita flowers, buy all his stock. Then let him keep the flowers so he can sell them to someone else.

 

Guess which one will put a wider smile on your face?

 

That’s right.

 

The insight is that happiness is a by-product.

 

Chase happiness itself and it will elude you. Do something meaningful for others and happiness will embrace you.

 

Are you groaning (again) at the prospect of going to work? Is your job something you are enduring rather than enjoying? Perhaps your mantra is “If only I have the right job, I will be happy.”

 

This is the paradox of job happiness.

 

Don’t expect your job to make you happy. Rather, do your job to give value to others and happiness will follow.

 

Focus on excellence and satisfaction will well up within you.

 

Go an extra mile for your boss or client and his delight will be yours as well.

 

Learn skills beyond your job description and you will unleash the thrill of exploration.

 

Today, survey your workplace with a fresh pair of eyes. There is a gold mine of joy waiting for you. You just need to know where to dig. Emotional treasures will soon yield themselves to you.

 

This article was first published onLinkedIn. Connect with me for the latest articles.

We’d love for you to leave a comment and share this post to encourage others. Thank you.

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Want to discover an insight about happiness that will only cost you forty pesos?

 

Don’t worry. Half of that amount will go back to yourself. No, I won’t be getting the other half.
Here’s the thing: Spend twenty pesos to buy your favorite ice cream and eat it. Feels heavenly, right? Especially if it’s chocolate. (Sounds familiar?)

 

Now get another twenty pesos. Only this time, use it for an act of kindness to a total stranger. For example, when you see a street kid selling sampaguita flowers, buy all his stock. And let him keep the flowers so he can sell them to someone else.

 

Guess which one will put a wider smile on your face?

 

That’s right. The insight is that happiness is a by-product. Chase happiness itself and it will elude you. Do something meaningful for others and happiness will embrace you.

 

This is the paradox of happiness. Don’t expect your career, your possessions, or your relationships to make you happy. Rather, give value to others and happiness will follow. Focus on excellence and satisfaction will well up within you. Go an extra mile for others and their delight will be yours as well. Learn skills beyond your current level and you will unleash the thrill of exploration.

 

Today, survey your situation with a fresh pair of eyes. There is a gold mine of joy waiting for you. You just need to know where to dig and emotional treasures will soon yield themselves to you.

 

Have a great weekend ahead!

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

We’d love for you to leave a comment and share this post to encourage others. Thank you.

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