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What I Learned in 2011

Last week, I posted on Facebook that 2011, while being a very exciting year on one side, was also a fairly rough year for me in other ways. I noted that I was “ready for 2012”! Many of you responded that you agreed–you too had a rough 2011 and were ready for a new beginning. This got me to thinking about human nature and what I learned in 2011, and of course, when that happens, it’s blog time! :)

“Learn to fail or fail to learn” –Tal Ben Shahar

First up: We are all victims in our own way.

This is a toughie, because most times it is unconscious on our part. For example, when most people think about “victims” in the traditional sense, they either think of a victim of a crime or someone who takes hand outs. For you, you might be the type of person who takes control in your work and career–you might not understand people who don’t take responsibility for themselves, whether it’s to find a job or take care of their finances (especially with all of the Occupy Wall Street stuff going on). It is easy to judge others when we ourselves have a distinct sense of responsibility in this regard.

But in what other ways might we be victims?

Perhaps we feel like the world is out to get us in other, less recognizable ways. Perhaps things are happening “to us” and we are just the victim of bad luck or a mean person or this awful traffic or an unfair boss or an unsupportive spouse or fat on my thighs that just won’t budge or kids whose leftover food I have to eat because it’s there or this flight being delayed. If we really look inside, objectively, we can see that we play up the victim role all the time, with things as small as a delayed flight. Does a flight being late suck? Absolutely, but what can we really do about it?  We can stomp our feet, get pissed, stress out and all that…but doesn’t that just make us feel worse?

I have said it before, and have done it myself a million times: we can go around assembling our group of people around us who agree with us that we were “done wrong” and it’s all bad, but ultimately, no matter how many “relaters” you gather by your side, the fact remains, your flight is delayed. Of course it always feels nice to get sympathy and to gather people around who agree with you–I do it all the time :) but ultimately the situation is the same with or without the pity party. And the more I kick and scream and push back, the less empowered I become to do something about it because I am caught up in what “should have” been, rather than “what is.”

I think one of the more difficult lessons I learned this year, in a very real sense, is that life is not always fair and people do not always do what we would like for them to do. In fact, 100% of the time people do exactly what they do, and we have very little say over it, yet our inner victim will try to control it or have an expectation for it. And that hurts and is confusing: “WHY would he/she DO that!!!? I just don’t get it!!”–we all say this at some point, and the ultimate reason he or she did that is because that is what he/she does.

Along those same lines, I learned that resiliency is a real gift (and skill!) and something I didn’t know that I needed until all of a sudden I did. I am sure many of you can relate to needing and wanting to be perfect, to uphold some sort of “expectation of perfection.” I sure did. And still do at times. When I was little, like many children, I was praised when I did well and was chastised when I messed up. Thus, I learned early on that failure is not acceptable. For people who feel, like I used to, that the only permissible route to your destination is a smooth, straight line with no messing up (see pic below), it can be very disappointing, and frankly terrifying, to learn that life does not work that way and we absolutely cannot predict what will happen in the future. Things outside of our control will always come up…unplanned obstacles, mistakes, road blocks, illness, injury, unfairness and just plain old other people’s agendas.

And though I still don’t feel comfortable with obstacles coming up (it’s never fun!), I can now see them as lessons. I can also see them as tools that I can use, if I so choose, to get better and grow me further. I used to see “unplanned” things that came up as simply unacceptable and a reflection of me as a failure [and I still sometimes d0]. I used to get so upset and “victimized” by things not going to plan that I literally could not take it. I would have a how-could-this-happen-to-me melt-down.

Many of the JillFit blogs on 2011 have focused on this idea of resiliency–that failing is actually succeeding. Every fall presents a unique opportunity to get back up, learn and get better. Without the mess-ups, falls and failures we cannot possibly expect to know how to get back up, grow and become more successful, whether that’s in your career, your relationships, your family life, etc. Without the downs, there are no break-through ups. Tal Ben-Shahar, in his book “Being Happy” sums it up nicely: “While failure does not guarantee success, the absence of failure will almost always guarantee the absence of success.”

Do I have it all figured out? Not even close. Is eating healthy 100% of the time a breeze for me? No way (I don’t anyway). Do I have the best relationships? Nope. Do I have the perfect family life? Not a chance. BUT, what I do have, is an open-mind and the realization that things are going to happen, good and bad, and ultimately I can either kick and scream and be a victim about them in order to try to control the uncontrollable OR I can pull up my boot straps and dive in, ready for the lesson awaiting me in the silver lining.

2011 may have been a “down” year for many of us, but in a much more powerful way, it’s an opportunity, it presents a choice. Every second, we get to choose our response to the world around us. We can choose to be pissed, stressed out and “why me?” all over the place OR we can choose to go inside, learn & grow. More than anything this year, I learned that whenever I look outside myself for answers or security, I can never fully get it. I now know it is all up to me. Which is very good news! :)

Happy 2012! Thank you for sharing your 2011 with me! Love, Jill oxox

Related: You are the teacher you have been waiting for

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