Back in February, I turned 40. There’s something about milestone birthdays that make us reflective, right? The big 4-0 hit me harder than expected. I had all these feelings I was struggling to put into words.
As I engaged in some serious navel-gazing – and fantasizing about publishing 40 years of wisdom and experience into a bestselling self-help book – I was hit with an arresting realization: I’m still making a lot of mistakes. As a father, a husband, a designer, a car driver, a pizza eater, a talker, a creator, a friend, and, well, a human being, I’ve racked up a lot of mistakes in 40 years and there’s no end in sight.
Not all these mistakes are big ‘ol blunders (though I’ve had my fair share). I’m talking about the little obnoxious goof-ups that happen every day. You know, things like:
- Judging others
- Speaking without thinking
- Being clumsy
- Losing my temper
- Wasting time
- Putting myself first
Now, you may be thinking, “Andrew, everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
You’re right, of course. I’m not special, but I am someone who struggles with perfectionism. I’m super hard on myself when I mess up. And the thing that struck me during my birthday introspection was the sheer volume of these daily flubs – each one an uninvited interruption, a little nag getting in the way, a discordant note wrecking the music on my mental radio. The big conclusion? My songs were out of touch with reality. They needed to change. The change came in the form of the Three Words of Freedom: I make mistakes.
Or to put it another way, I’m 40 and I’m still making way more everyday mistakes than I previously thought 40-year-olds make. My old standard of perfectionism has not really worked for me, and it’s definitely making me a less loving human being. Accepting this reality and embracing the Three Words of Freedom has given me newfound freedom, lightness, and a sense of peace! When I don’t live up to my own expectations, I say them out loud and it breaks the spell of perfectionism. I’m no longer paralyzed or afraid to take action. I’m freed from shame. I can try new things, take risks and not stress over the outcome. I’m reminded I’m not perfect, and I don’t have to be.
The three words also opened my eyes to my relationships with other people. In fact, they spawned the Five Words of Grace (wip): Other people make mistakes too. That means I should demonstrate WAY MORE compassion and grace for others. But more than I should… I can. It’s ok. I give myself permission to not hold people to a standard I can’t even hold myself. Perfectionism is not to be expected in this life. It originates from another realm.
Final thoughts on the Three Words of Freedom:
- Use them frequently!
- Never use them as an excuse.
- We are usually not judged by our mistakes, we are judged by our response to them
That’s it – reflections from a 40-year-old mistaker-maker. Thanks for reading.
Have a great week,