Yesterday, I celebrated my 55th birthday amongst family and friends. Even the IRS considers this an important life milestone as it no longer penalizes early retirement withdrawals at my age. While I am not quite ready for retirement, this occasion feels appropriate to share 5 life lessons that have helped me in my personal life & during my nearly 3 decades as a public interest civil rights attorney.
- To be human includes making mistakes: Too many people are unnecessarily hard on themselves or others due to mistakes that they or others have made. Our system of justice is predicated on the premise that people make mistakes and justice is found by balancing the scales to address the ramifications of the mistake which was made. On a personal level, finding that space in one’s heart to acknowledge one’s mistakes and to forgive other’s mistakes is absolutely critical to avoid staying mired in misery and pain in order to move forward and make progress.
- It can always get better: It is easy to allow inertia to allow one to become apathetic and remain stuck in life as usual, despite its shortcomings. However, the trajectory of mankind involves constant progress. At times, what this means is finding inspiration from others to create the personal or systems change one seeks.
- It can always get worse: This lesson is important to maintain perspective in virtually every bad situation short of death. Once one realizes that any given situation could actually be worse, it then becomes necessary to maintain focus by keeping your eyes on the prize to obtain what one truly needs in order to make progress.
- Build community whenever possible: It is rarely possible to make personal or societal progress by yourself. Building community can be done with friends, family, neighbors, religious affiliates, co-workers and others. These communities sustain us in difficult times and help us make progress when we work together in concert.
- Be a life long learner: At 55, it has become abundantly clear how much I do not know. Learning from those around me allows me to continue to improve myself. Learning from the world at large allows me to continue to engage with others by improving the world through systems change.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.