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As a young executive, I remember a CEO calling to let me know there was big mistake in something my team produced. He was pissed. I was embarrassed. I had two choices:

Option #1: Focus with a forensics-like mind to find out who is responsible for this mistake. Hold them accountable and spend as much time as necessary making sure I understand how they blew it and who else was involved so it never happens again. Can you relate? Seem reasonable? Are you nodding your head a little?

Option #2: See the failure to deliver a quality product as a painful experience on the path to excellence. Use the situation as a chance for everyone on the team to slow down and learn something, individually and collectively. Demonstrate how we adapt, grow and come back stronger when mistakes happen. Forgive yourself and everyone else involved.

Much to the dismay of my team, my f-word of choice wasn’t forgiveness.

Take a More Direct Path

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot about the immense power of forgiveness over the years. If you can’t get to forgiveness, start with curiosity when you’re tempted to point fingers in blame. Be willing to look for something new you can take away from the situation when things get messy. Get curious about how resilient this event *might* make you or your team. A friend of mine said to me this week, “Forgive quickly, completely and unconditionally.” I can’t think of a more direct path to happiness and growth as a person and as a leader.

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a big topic. Researching the subject for the last five years, I’m starting to think it might be one of the most important things we can do to feel happier, more energized, more fulfilled and more successful. Here are a few things I’ve observed, but share your comments below. What have you learned about forgiveness? 

  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean what happened is ok. It means not letting what happened determine my happiness now.
  • Forgiveness is an act of self-care. It involves letting go of anger that’s not good for my body, heart or mind.
  • Forgiveness is about shifting focus from things I don’t want to things I do.
  • Forgiveness is intelligent. It has something to teach me if I am willing to listen.
  • Forgiveness is about letting go of anything that is a distraction from loving my life.
  • If I’m looking through the eyes of my Inner Judge, forgiveness will feel like giving someone permission for bad behavior; Inner Wisdom sees the person did the best they were capable of doing at that time, and reminds me I am happier when I seek to understand rather than judge.

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