Those three magic conciliatory words that follow from an apology.
“I forgive you.”
Maybe not those exact words, but it’s the gist of what we’re saying. “It’s OK. We’ll move on from this.”
The challenge is that in many cases, forgiveness often isn’t.
Instead, forgiveness is a veiled form of attack.
“I’m the better person. I’m going to take the high road here and let you off the hook. But I will never forget how you wronged me. And I want to be sure you never forget it as well.”
Of course, we would never say those words. We often don’t even consciously think those words. But we certainly mean them.
Forgiveness is the deceptively detrimental tonic that tricks me into feeling better about myself.
How can forgiveness be harmful?
Early in my career, conventional wisdom held that the way to achieve great things was to first set what are known as BHAGs.
Big Hairy Audacious Goals
The bigger the goal, the more you would challenge yourself to achieve the goal – so the theory went.
And while there is nothing inherently wrong in setting BHAGs, the reason most people don’t achieve them is not because they are too big, but rather because they are too prominent.
Have you ever set a BHAG for yourself? Perhaps losing a certain amount of weight. Or gaining a certain amount of money? Or becoming proficient at a musical instrument or sport?
If so, then the moment you set the goal – and for every instant until you achieve the goal – you are failing. In fact, at most times you are so far from your goal that you are failing miserably.
Our ego wants instant gratification. And when we don’t have it – and realize just how far off we are – a sense of disappointment and frustration inevitably set in.
The problem with making the goal the goal is that we judge ourselves based on our proximity – or lack thereof – toward its realization. “This is too hard. I’ll never get there. Is it really worth it?”
However, there is another way of achieving growth that leads to far greater success and a much deeper sense of contentment.
Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the process.
What is the process?
A business executive at IBM had a plan that he thought would help the company increase sales. Nearly all of his colleagues told him it was not a good idea.
Nonetheless, the man persisted and implemented his plan.
It turned out to be a huge failure. It cost IBM over $10 million – and that was in the 1950s. That’s about the equivalent of losing $100,000,000 today. One hundred million dollars!
Needless to say, the executive was summoned to meet with IBM’s founder & chairman, Tom Watson.
With a racing heart and trembling hands, the man walked into Watson’s office – fully expecting to be terminated.
With a quivering voice he asked Mr. Watson, “How soon would you like me out of the company?”
Tom Watson’s response not only epitomes exceptional leadership, but gives us a hint into the value of profiting from failure.
Have you ever struggled with motivating yourself to complete (or even get started with) an initiative that you know could be extremely beneficial for you?
You know what you need to do, you have all the resources to progress, and you even feel passionate about wanting to make it happen. Yet for some reason you hold yourself back.
Perhaps it’s inertia. Perhaps there’s some underlying fear.
How can you break through?
By becoming a loser.
Yes, a loser.
Before I explain this provocative approach to growth, let me share some research into human psychology that drives much of our behavior.
Hard to imagine, right? Today is simply a continuation of yesterday, and tomorrow won’t be too much different.
It all flows together: the past is all there in our memory, some of the moments we remember, others have either faded away or been sufficiently repressed. And the future holds our dreams and fears in pristine purity.
Each day we create more past, reinforce or make alterations to our future thoughts, and simply go about our lives in such a continuum.
The past unfolds into the present moment, quickly becoming a memory as we contemplate our future. A steady stream of past into future, past into future.
Until we die.
But that’s not how it really works.