Anyone else remember Cliffs Notes from high school or college? Or study guides where all information you really needed to know was condensed into one place. That way, you really didn’t have to read the whole book or study everything in a particular subject – all you really had to do was to know the condensed version.
I recently had a conversation with my son because he was disappointed in a test score. His frustration was that there was information on the test that wasn’t on the study guide. It wasn’t fair he kept saying, because he didn't know all the questions in advance. We talked about how study guides and Cliffs Notes were great tools but that they didn’t cover everything. There were no guarantees that the test wouldn’t include material not in the notes. My poor son who values predictability (and good grades) was not happy with our discussion since I really didn’t give him the sympathy he was hoping for.
This discussion got me to thinking – life is kind of like that. We usually have a blueprint for our lives, some idea or maybe some goals in mind, maybe even a strategy to reach them. Then, something comes up that wasn’t part of the plan. It’s not that life isn’t fair – it’s just that we just have an abbreviated version of what we think is to be. We don’t know every factor, every potential outcome, every turn our journey might take. If we embrace that we don’t have all the information – all we have is the Cliffs Notes - it helps when we make a mistake or have to change paths. We can acknowledge that our mistakes are not always personal shortcomings but a lack of information.
I know for me, I’ve had a number of times in my life when I thought I had all the info I needed only later to find out I had made a wrong choice, chosen the wrong direction, invested in the wrong person, etc. I think by remembering I made the best choice I could at the time with the info I was provided, has given me the confidence to keeping moving forward. So remember – we’re just working with the Cliff Notes, the study guide, not the whole picture. We don’t have all the information so we have to give ourselves some grace when we make a mistake….including my son for not studying as well as he could have J.