Last night I slept hard and deep, perhaps for the first time in a very long while. My mind was calm, my heart still, my body surrendering to the comfort of my soft, downy pillows and blanket. I was centered and filled with peace.
The irony is that the peace did not follow a perfect day. It did not come on the heels of outwardly defined success – landing a big deal, a big job, or perfect trappings. Instead, from at least one perspective, it came in the wake of a still-uncertain future, limited resources, and the temporary defeat and setback of an important civic effort I have put my full heart, soul, mind and personal resources into for well over a year, despite the seemingly endless stream of obstacles placed in the way. The old saying, “two steps forward, one step back” has felt more akin to “one step forward, five steps back,” testing my patience, resolve and commitment at every step along the way.
The truth is that no one likes to fail. Not privately, and certainly not publicly. People want to know their efforts count for something and have not been in vain. They want to feel purposeful, trusted, validated and respected – certain fuel for ongoing motivation, even if there is respectful disagreement on the best path forward. There are countless others who want the victory…the proverbial brass ring, yet are seldom willing to put their livelihood, reputation, credibility, ego, and heart on the line to win. They want the result without the effort; the reward without the risk. Perhaps it’s because victory has come too easy in the past; perhaps it’s because fear and ego overshadow working collaboratively from a spirit of service; perhaps it’s simply because it’s easier to settle for the known than the risk of the unknown.
And yet the peaceful slumber came nonetheless.
It came because there is a tremendous amount of strength and personal resiliency that comes from staying the course, regardless of outcome. It came because there’s a degree of self-respect that cannot be won or bought at any price, but rather, is born out of honest effort, a courageous heart, and the certain knowledge that you’ve done your very best. It came because at a certain point, when you’re willing to give up the approval of others, you find out just what you’re made of and you no longer walk in fear.
Not so surprisingly, the peaceful slumber came from other lessons, too.
It came from the certain knowledge that life is about how we live and lead and love – not what we have to show-off at the end of the day, whether in the form of professional achievement or personal gain. For who really cares? And if that is all others care about, then what does that say about who we are and those we’ve chosen to journey with?
A life well-lived is a reward unto itself, and many times, the real gifts of life come in the form of simple, yet abundant blessings – the gift of family and time spent with our children, loyal colleagues and friends, friendly neighbors, and the kindness of strangers. They come in those opportunities to serve others above ourselves, deep and abiding love for and from another, and a heady dose of laughter, grace and acceptance – of the things we can and cannot change or control, and of the limitations of our own humanity.
Have you ever thought of what you may have won through losing? How have struggles, stressors and setbacks served to shape your character and outlook? What lessons have you learned on your own life journey?