A couple of days ago I had an experience that got me thinking about the lessons in life. We have been programmed to think that every event in our lives has a lesson to be learned from, more precisely, a lesson to improve upon one’s life decisions, choices, approach… basically, a lesson to make things better the next time around.
Well, I challenge that today. I know not all life events carry a lesson to be learned because I know when I sit down and think about how I could have done something differently, I sometimes come empty handed. And it is not that I cannot fabricate more creative ways to approach something, it is just that my brain is not ready to fabricate anything different than what it concocted before. Is it that we need time to assimilate a situation before we can come up with a more effective way to go about doing, saying something? Or is it that sometimes our brain is confident our approach was the best one? Should every event in our lives be challenged? How fucking tiring that would be..
Let me tell you about what happened. It must have been 2 weeks ago that I setup a meeting with a group of very influential people. In the meeting, a group of my colleagues and me were going to present an important project. I had prepared extensively because I would be presenting the facts of the project as well as guiding the conversation with the purpose of obtaining approval of the project’s milestones and ultimate goal.
The meeting went really well in my view, even when the project itself was questioned and ultimately required substantial changes from its original form. From my perspective, my colleagues and I had obtain the feedback we required and had a clear path ahead of us of what we needed to do next.
As I headed back to my office, feeling proud of myself because I had handled the meeting successfully and the outcome had been very positive, someone that had participated in the meeting ask me how I felt about it. I told this person I felt great about it; important decisions had been made and I had what I needed to proceed. Immediately after I responded, this person asked me what lesson I had learned and what I would do differently next time. I don’t remember exactly the words that came out of my mouth, but it must have been something like ‘what lesson are you talking about?’ which was a true representation of my disbelief. I stood there for a good minute with a blank stare because I was confused and I also couldn’t think of anything that I would have done differently to make the outcome better. Yeah, sure, the project was not approved as is, it required significant changes, but I was prepared for that, in fact I expected it. In the end, we had reached an agreement that benefited me and my colleagues and in my mind, this was the result of my planning and handling of the meeting.
After I sat down at my desk, I struggled with two things: 1) the fact that this person would have asked me what lesson I had learned based on an assumption that a lesson must be learned, and 2) that I couldn’t come up with a lesson to be learned. Confusing? Aha.
You may not know this about me, but I tend to rummage. What I mean by this is that I can delve, sift, ferret through something in my mind for hours, or days even. So of course, I thought about this long enough until I found my answer (I mean, it’s been 2 weeks and I am writing a post about it!). My brain works in a very interesting way: the first cycle is always a little bit of angst; and this anger can be directed at the person that posed the questions, because how dare them ask something without understanding the context! or the anger can be directed at me, because perhaps I am not capable of assessing my life events appropriately; something must be wrong with my brain, my attitude even, that I can’t see what appears to be evident to others. The next cycle is giving myself time to assimilate the events of that meeting and evaluating, once the anger has left the building, if something speaks to me. It’s almost like retracing the steps and paying close attention if something says ‘here, this is where you fucked up.’ I still came out empty handed. In the end, I thought to myself, ‘am I too proud to see it?’ And when I answered this question, I understood: I am not proud now, I was proud then. I am riddled with doubt now, but I wasn’t then as I walked to my office feeling accomplished. And that is why I couldn’t fathom a lesson to be learned in that moment. There wasn’t a lesson to be learned, there was only a celebration of me.
How many times in your life do you feel incredibly proud of something you have accomplished? For me, very very few times. I can probably count them in one hand. It doesn’t mean I haven’t achieved things in my lifetime, it means I have not allowed myself to accept them as achievements. We forget and neglect to celebrate us when we have done good. Why?? I am my biggest critic; I am ready, bat and all, to beat the crap out of everything I do. But for once, and I am so proud of myself, I stood ground of something I inherently felt I had done great even after I subjected my feelings, my thoughts through my rummaging mind; I still came out the same way I had started.
Clearly I care about my self-improvement path, no doubt. But I should also care, equally, to feeding my ego when I feel great about myself and my brain and heart are saying ‘you did exceptionally’ because these opportunities are few and far in between. I will have more time than life to beat myself up for everything else my brain thinks I do unexceptionally and I will learn every lesson there is to be learned in those situations.
So, I will never subject myself or allow anyone to subject me to thinking a lesson must be learned in every event of my life, because as long as I am proud, inspired by me, there is no lesson to be learned other than to always remember to tell myself in that moment “YOU are remarkable, inspiring and fucking awesome.”
See you on the next one~
The Minimal Sisters