Thursday, November 22, 2012

Second Chances

Second chances.  Have you gotten one lately?  We all secretly wish for them, don't we?  And occasionally, they do arrive.  But have you been busy preparing for your second chance in the interim?  If not, you'll likely repeat your mistakes rather than overcome them.  Be vigilant in your preparation because as you'll see from my experience, the years might pile up in between first.

Second chances in life can be few and far between.  When you get one, it's a unique opportunity for a new choice or behavior - different than the first chance where the choices made turned out to be missteps.  Meaningful second chance opportunities don't come around often.  By meaningful, I mean those few important times in your life that you'd like to have back again - to act differently - to choose differently.  Most often, we take the lessons learned from those original instances and apply them in other similar instances going forward but rarely, if ever, do we get a second chance at the exact instance.  Lately, my own life has experienced a series of meaningful second chances that completely took me by surprise.

As I've mentioned before, I don't live in the past.  I live quite contentedly in the present, totally at peace with my past missteps.  Some of those missteps were pivotal in my personal development despite the pain caused or endured.  Like many other people, I've bungled a few critical moments in life.  Some lessons I've learned, others I'm still learning, and undoubtedly, there are some I'm probably destined to never learn.  Such is life.  We do the best we can.  The key is to remain a willing pupil throughout.

Strangely, the second chances I was presented with were several decades old.  I accepted and resolved my particular missteps in those situations a long time ago.  I had no desire for an exact second chance on either front.  Getting an exact second chance is a scary test of if you've really learned anything.  If you fail it, it's a case of 1 step forward and 2 steps back.  Not fun.  In my own case, two second chances arrived nearly simultaneously, and my initial reaction was to avoid taking either test.  I quickly realized, however, that's a case of 1 step forward, 1 step back.  Stuck, not going anywhere.  I equated that with failure because actually taking the test offered a chance to progress.  My advice is to embrace the second chance for better or worse.

The first of my second chances was my 30 year high school reunion, that I initially sought to avoid.  I'm glad I didn't - 2 steps forward.  The other second chance, an exact carbon copy, was professional and dealt with matters over a decade old.  I'm confidently determined to make different choices because I faced my original failure and resolved it long ago, never expecting or desiring the second chance thrust upon me.  But I'm increasingly thankful about getting it nonetheless.  I suppose I'm about to find out if I've really learned anything.

My point today is that you never know when or in what form that second chance opportunity might occur in your life.  The two personal instances I shared stacked several decades in between first.  Probably a fortunate thing for me, because I'm fairly sure I'd fail the test if they had come sooner in my life.  I didn't realize it explicitly until afterwards, but I've been preparing for those second chance tests for several years, applying and re-learning the lessons of ill-fated choices and behaviors through the 7 Cornerstone principles of Discipline, Faith, Determination, Perseverance, Sacrifice, Patience, and Loyalty.  There is no secret formula for living - only useful guides for the grueling process of improving - so you can be better prepared for your second chances.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Past, Present, Future

I revisited my past this weekend when I attended my 30 year high school reunion.  If you read my last post, you know I was apprehensive about doing so, but it was something I felt compelled to do despite my misgivings.  The compulsion I felt was similar to when I ran for political office.  It was just something I needed to do for reasons I couldn't entirely explain even to myself.

I don't believe in examining the past unless it's simply to remind myself of a lesson already learned.  I'm not interested in dwelling on consequences of mistaken choices or actions that can't be undone.  It's pointless.  I find it's better to take the emotion out of the equation, learn the lesson, and then try to apply it going forward.  I try not to think about the future too much either.  If you let your thoughts get too far ahead of yourself, you'll develop an unhealthy habit of worry.

The solution is to live in the present.  Easier said than done, but very rewarding if you can pull it off with any consistency.  I entered the reunion hall unsure of what to expect but was determined to embrace the experience for better or worse.  No matter what, I wasn't going back to the past or who I was in high school.  I was going to be fully engaged in the present and be who I had become.  I gave zero thought to the future and what I might feel like if it went poorly.  In I went, still not knowing why I needed to be there.

When it was all over, I still wasn't entirely sure what I had accomplished but I knew I had had fun and enjoyed myself from beginning to end.  I never once went back to high school that night.  Whatever irrational remnant of high school memory that had subconsciously haunted me, had been erased.  I resolved something I still can't even identify.  Interestingly, one of my old friends remarked to me "you are always exactly where you're supposed to be" while we discussed our own personal ups and downs.  Though I had heard the phrase many times before, it took on greater clarity in that moment because I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  I was in the present - enjoying every minute of it.  In a million years, I would never have imagined a moment like that would ever occur at a high school reunion.