LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. –
Confucius said that our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Everyone has made mistakes and bad decisions that resulted in difficult consequences. Regardless of whether or not something was intentional or whether it was truly out of our control, Confucius made a good point. We can learn from the past, but why let it define us?
At eighteen years old, it was hard for anybody to tell me that I wasn't perfect. I simply did not understand the concept of being "imperfect." I had the unrealistic expectation that everyone should judge me based on my intentions rather than my actions. I'm sure everyone at some point in their lives has thought the same thing -- the "yes, I was late but I didn't mean to be" rationalization. It wasn't until I hit "rock bottom" to realize that until I accepted the past and learned from it, I wasn't going to get out of it.
I'm certainly not a life coach. In fact, I'm probably the furthest thing from it. I can tell you that within the past twenty years I've managed to make enough mistakes and bad decisions to last a lifetime. Call me crazy, but in many ways I'm thankful. In the times that I felt like there was no way out, no possibility for redemption or where giving up seemed easier, I learned some valuable lessons.
First, we're all going to make mistakes. I started this morning by locking my keys in my room. Then I decided that merely locking my key in my room wasn't good enough, so I locked it in my car. Then I threw my breakfast on the ground out of sheer frustration. The first two were mistakes, while the third was just a poorly thought out decision. What were the consequences? I still had no house key, no car key and I was now cold and hungry. Remember, a fed Airman is a happy Airman.
It is the realization that I'm going to make mistakes that allows me to take pressure off of myself. When I was trying to be perfect, I messed up more and created more stress in my life. It was when I accepted I wasn't perfect, but knew I would give 100 percent every day, that things would get better. We always need to "fight the good fight."
The second lesson I learned was that if I wasn't going to be judging myself based on my failures, I couldn't judge people based on theirs. Like I mentioned, I've managed to screw up enough to last a lifetime and thus, have the ability to now look at other people's mistakes and say, "Oh, yeah, I've done something like that before," and not judge them solely based upon a mistake or poor decision.
If you want to succeed, do not judge yourself on all the times you have failed. However, this also means you can't judge everyone else on their failures. At eighteen, I thought I was perfect. At twenty, I've grown by understanding the opposite. It is realizing people are imperfect by nature that allows me to have better expectations of myself and others.
We've all made mistakes, but true success lies in picking yourself up. Perhaps what doesn't kill you does indeed make you stronger. For every failure, there's a lesson. For every triumph, there's a lesson. Getting up isn't the hard part, it's learning how to not fall back down the same way again that is difficult. When we don't try, we don't know if we would have failed. More importantly, however, it is when we don't try we also never find out if we would have succeeded.