Just like compound interest for our mind and heart, the lessons we learn early in the new year will keep producing dividends month after month. Let’s look right now at 3 lessons that, if learned early in 2015, will spare you a lot of frustration this year.
In 2015, you will experience some necessary, legitimate and unavoidable suffering.
If you start right now embracing the inevitable disappointments, losses and reversals life throws at you, you will experience a lot more serenity the rest of the year. In his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Franciscan brother Richard Rohr notes:
Carl Jung said that so much unnecessary suffering comes into the world because people will not accept the “legitimate suffering” that comes from being human. In fact, he said neurotic behavior is usually the result of refusing that legitimate suffering!
We cannot protect ourselves from all unpleasantness, pain, loss and sorrow. We will not solve all our problems in 2015, but we can learn to profit from our suffering. Carl Jung, again: “The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved, only outgrown.”
Learning to befriend our problems, and learning how to hold on until they are transformed into something profitable, is a major lesson learned in therapy.
In 2015, you will not achieve perfection of any kind.
Accepting that “the perfect is the enemy of the good” will help keep you off the Wheel of Frustration this year. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”
A thought from Richard Rohr that helps me in my own chronic struggle with perfectionism is, “The steps to maturity are necessarily immature.” So right now I’m choosing to believe that:
- It’s okay to be right where I’m at, today.
- It’s okay to be good enough.
- It’s okay to be a work in progress.
As the bumper sticker says, “PBPGINFWMY” (“Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet!”).
In 2015, “If you spot it, you got it!”
This year it will be the traits and faults that irritate you the most in other people that you will most need to wrestle with yourself. Take note of what bugs you about others, and then ask yourself, “How does this same thing show up in my life?”
A classic piece of spiritual wisdom on this is, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of someone else’s eye.” Why waste an entire year focusing on the character defects of those around you when you can more profitably focus on cleaning your own side of the street?
So here are some suggestions for your 2015 to-do list:
- Accept necessary suffering and determine to grow through it.
- Embrace being “good enough.”
- Practice looking inside yourself when you’re tempted to focus on the faults of others.
If “present you” needs some encouragement to work on these things early in 2015, please write or call me. Your future self will thank you!