One of the best parts of getting older is the freedom found in letting go of habits that used to hedge me in because of what I thought other people expected of me, only to discover that many of these expectations either aren't real or don't matter. Becoming unfettered from these has given me confidence, decisiveness and a clearer path to my purpose of living a life of meaning and significance. Let's challenge one another to bring out the proverbial wrecking ball and bid adieu to those things that hold us back. Here are some of mine:
1. Believing perfectionism is a worthwhile pursuit.
Perfectionism is about approval, not improvement. Nearly everything we do to gain approval becomes destructive -- to ourselves and our relationships. If a challenge or opportunity comes up and my goal is perfection, it is appealing to quickly self-select out of the process or relationship to avoid the revelation of my imperfection. But when I stop pursuing perfection, a whole world opens. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, humans are not at all hemmed in by their current skills and aptitude -- we just think we are. The sooner we believe this, the sooner we can do the things we've always wanted to and grow into the person we've always wanted to be -- imperfect, yes, but courageously growing.
2. Projecting that everything is "fine" all the time.
We are socially conditioned to project a vibe that all is well... perpetually. And while there is absolutely a place for social decorum and knowing what level of vulnerability is appropriate and when, human bonds come from being honest with ourselves and others. That is especially true about our mistakes and failures. If we promulgate a culture that believes that the failure of a business, a mishap in the family or the state of one's emotional health makes someone a failure, what hope do we have of reaching triumphant victories only achieved through the unique wisdom that comes from attempts gone awry and the people who are with us along the way?
3. Thinking that I have no choice but to be busy with all these responsibilities in front of me.
I used to think, I have no time for myself. Then I realized every moment in every day presents a choice -- a choice directed by what I believe about myself and what I value. And every choice I make costs something. I need to weigh the cost, decide if I want to pay it and then proceed with the payment, freely knowing it was a choice I made. This includes time with family, work and myself. Balance is a myth. Choice is reality.
4. There is no time to reflect, meditate or pray.
Quiet reflection can seem like an indulgence that will put us behind. But in a frenzied world, time in deep thought can be the very best thing we do -- both for ourselves and for the sake of others. Introspective solitude has a unique way of clearing our heads and getting us realigned with our purpose. Once on a purposeful path, efficiency and effectiveness increases for me at least threefold.
5. Treating my husband like a roommate rather than a lover.
With kids, work, social responsibility, aging parents, household chores, financial management and the endless banalities of everyday life, we can get so enveloped by the day's to-dos that the idea of romance seems like something for a scheduled "date night" (if those make the schedule at all). When we turn off the TV earlier, find ways to tease and laugh at ourselves a bit more, replace one to-do list item a day with a romantic gesture, then I quickly remember I'm married to a lover.
6. Believing gentleness and grace lack strength.
I have seen so many women try to assert their power and presence through words and actions that try to convey "strength" and "resolve," but lack kindness. This backfires in an instant, making others feel undervalued. The strongest people I know have spirits of inexplicable gentleness, a willingness to walk beside people in trial, the humbleness to apologize and an eagerness to give second chances (and third, fourth, fifth and beyond). As an achiever, it can be easy to see the all-so-important "task" as the Holy Grail. It's not. Rather, it is people. It is through growth and transformation and selflessly giving to others that our lives are joyful, fulfilling and significant. And that is when we are seen as by others as having strength.
These are a few of my "learnings." What are yours?