A Note To MY Children…
By Stephen Doherty
“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.” –C.S. Lewis
I hardly think the distinction is mine alone, but it seems to me that life’s most important lessons have come courtesy of its hardest and most painful moments. As a dad, I’m often conflicted between trying to help my children avoid some of my worst missteps while knowing that sometimes the harder the lesson, the greater the value. Few things are harder than watching your children stumble and fall when you could have prevented it. It’s made easier knowing that there is no better teacher than life itself.
The only thing worse is providing them safety nets that cripple their development and leave them less prepared for life’s inevitable challenges. This blog is my ongoing contribution of thoughts, ideas, and discussions that my kids can use as navigation points in their own respective journeys. That so many other people see fit to read and comment is an added bonus that warms my heart. These three life-lessons are by-products of my own trials and tribulations (and survival) and having to learn them all the hard way. But learn them I did and as the C.S. Lewis quote makes clear, any of us can “Start where we are and change the ending.”
Nothing is as empowering as being solely accountable for your own life’s actions, decisions, and outcomes. We will all fall short of expectations; our own and the people around us. The challenge is not only to accept responsibility for our choices and outcomes-but to also recognize that by doing so, you disable anyone’s ability to exert unearned power over your life. The minute you blame anyone or anything for your bad choices and judgment-you relinquish your power and ability to learn and prosper from your mistakes.
As Freud once said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.
The most consistent threat to a wonderful life is procrastination. Les Brown once said, “The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”
I have discovered that action, any action, is often all that is needed to shake off the cobwebs of inertia and sloth. Why? Because action always begets action. A thing in motion tends to stay in motion. Momentum is the key to success and that begins with a simple, and often tiny, step. DO something! Anything!
Creating Good Habits
This seems so simple as to not warrant mention yet most of our failures stem from a lack of consistent adherence to good choices. Most of our lives would change overnight with the improvement of just a half dozen habits in the areas of diet, exercise, time-management, and career self-improvement pursuits. Aristotle famously said, “We are what we repeatedly do! Excellence, therefore, is not an act-but a habit!” A common thread in most successful people is a disciplined regiment around a solid framework of good habits. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
I coined a phrase in a speech many years ago that, “The greatest moments of our lives are rarely filmed in our comfort zones!” As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to believe that a huge component of happiness and self confidence comes from engaging and surviving life’s harshest moments and hardest obstacles. The simple fact is that we’re built for the struggle-not ease and comfort. I no longer welcome strife into my life, but should it arrive unannounced-I smile and greet my old friend with a handshake…and a baseball bat!
“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will-his personal responsibility.” –Albert Einstein