“So this is Christmas… and what have you done?” –John Lennon

Here we are in the holiday season, approaching the end of one calendar year and the dawn of a new one. However, just because something is ending, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s truly complete.  Surely you’ve experienced something being finished, maybe a project or a certain relationship, about which there still remains something unresolved for you. I know I have.

I’m inviting you to look with me and see if that’s the case with this year- and if it is, to clean the slate and give yourself the opportunity to create 2012 from a blank canvas.

First let’s clarify actually what could be potentially incomplete. See, everything you’ve already done (and not done) is already complete. It’s over. It happened how it happened, and it is now complete. The world is as the world is… always, already and forever. I know, it’s a little “Zen”, but we can at least agree on it, right? What is, is and what isn’t, isn’t. So, consider that the only place where things can possibly be incomplete is our relationship to those things, and specifically in our language.

In other words, it isn’t anything that did or didn’t actually happen that’s unresolved, but rather my story about those things: my wishes, hopes, intentions, beliefs, assumptions, “should”s, etc. The issue isn’t with “the world”, it’s with “our world”. The trouble is, most of us confuse those two most of the time, and sometimes don’t even know we’re doing it!

When I was 7 or 8, my parents got into a big argument late at night on Christmas Eve that ended with my mom leaving the house and them being separated from then on. I heard much of the fight, despite my best efforts not to, before finally falling asleep. For years afterward, what happened on that one cold night in my childhood seemed to have an immeasurable impact on my life- but did it really? Was it what happened or how it occurred to me (how I perceived and interpreted it) that had the impact?

See, I realized much later that during and after that event, I made some crucial judgments about the situation, my parents, the holidays, myself and life in general. I mean things like:

  • “There’s something wrong here”
  • “He/she doesn’t love me”
  • “I’m a disappointment”
  • “The holidays suck”
  • “This isn’t how ______ should be”
  • And so on.

In that moment of stress, and in related moments that followed, I interpreted what was happening and, instantaneously and unconsciously, collapsed together my interpretation with my memory of the event itself. The fact that my parents split meant that I was a disappointment- it just did! And of course, so did the fact that Melissa Boldt wouldn’t be my girlfriend in 3rd grade, that I came in 2nd in a Spelling Bee in middle school, and that I got kicked out of the Art Institute for not showing up to class. Going forward, what had already happened and other unconnected circumstances that would happen later became evidence for what I, understandably but erroneously, had decided as an upset 7-year-old.

It became the classic “self-fulfilling prophecy”. In having added a story, a meaning, such as “I’m a disappointment” to those events, I then automatically went about reinforcing that assumption with my behavior; my feelings, thoughts, actions and results were exactly what you might think they’d be for someone who viewed himself as a disappointment, and inevitably produced more and more corroborative evidence for that story, which shaped my actions, which then reinforced the story, and on and on it went in a vicious cycle…

When I later saw that all my persistent suffering, upset, ineffectiveness and overall resignation was not actually due to what had happened, but rather was created and maintained out of confusing reality with my story about reality, I was free.

Years of struggle, bitterness and loneliness seemed to melt away in a moment. The way I saw myself, my family, the holidays, my life- hell, life itself- dramatically shifted in just a moment of illumination. The past was complete, the present was vibrant, and the future was bright. As my view shifted, my actions and experience naturally shifted as well, and my results, relationships and quality of life dramatically increased.

I got that my actions and therefore my results, are always consistent with the story, or context, that I have around what’s happening. AND I got that, in a very real way, I am the author of that story. And now that I had seen the old story for what it is, I was free to wipe it clean and create a new one from my newly clean page.

The only thing in between you and having the experience of being complete- with the year, your work, your relationships, whatever- is your story about it. See, whatever happened, happened. Whatever didn’t, didn’t. Same with whatever you accomplished, or committed to but failed to do, or said or thought but didn’t say… The rest of it (the “should”s, “can’t”s, justifications, judgments, explanations, opinions, etc.) is all a story.

And probably a familiar one.

See it for what it is and set it aside, so you can actually get present to all that happened in the last 12 months, as it actually happened. I invite you to acknowledge your year, and even your entire past, for what it actually already is: complete.

From there, you’re free to create what the New Year, and indeed each new moment, will be about.

Will you approach and interact with the family of your old, self-perpetuating story, or will you accept and acknowledge your relatives as they actually are, right now, and have your interactions with them be guided by your commitment to having a loving, working family? Will you make resolutions that you hope nobody remembers because it seems “already written” that you’ll break them soon enough, or will you consciously give your word to choices and actions that are consistent with your true values, knowing that you are the author of your life?

I invite you to close the book on your old story and write a new one, one that lights you up, turns you on and calls you powerfully into action toward fulfilling on your highest commitments.

If you’re interested in casting some light on your own blind spots, and making possible unthinkable transformations in effectiveness, results and quality of life, drop me a line below or at paul@alsleadership.com.

In closing, thank you for the extraordinary gift of your attention and time, and for all that you provide and create. YOU are the miracle. Be well, be complete and have a Happy Holiday!

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