Not long ago I had the privilege of taking my two children to Berlin, Germany, where I spent the majority of my teen years. We visited my old house and school and talked by the hour about what my life was like in those days, living as I did behind the Iron Curtain and in a huge international city like Berlin. We also looked at old photos and pondered the lives of my father and grandfather, both war heroes and stalwarts for freedom.

It was the trip of a lifetime. I’m grateful beyond words.

Yet something kept needling me as I thought about my teen years in Berlin. I sensed something had not been quite right with me during that time. Then, it came to me.

I realized that I had not lived that season with my feet firmly planted on the ground, fully engaged, fully experiencing all that time and place had to offer. Instead, I let my insecurities, my wounds, and my fears keep me from both being my best and from enjoying the best of what I might have experienced.

What is odd about this realization is that no one would have known it at the time. I played three sports a year, was involved in student government, traveled widely, dated a wonderful girl, and was, well, popular. I guess I could hardly ask for more.

Yet when I run my mind over that time, I can feel that earlier me holding myself in reserve, covering for my insecurities, and reeling from criticism. I lied. I performed. I was far from what I might have been. Mainly, I was only partially settled in and “owning it” because I let my deformities keep me from squeezing all I might have from that amazing time.

I’m grateful to report that I have not lived that way in all the seasons of my life since. Yet having done it once, and feeling it still, I am keenly aware of my potential to live that way again. All it would take is the right combination of hurt, loneliness, fear, and insecurity, and I could live again in a third of what any season of my life actually offered.

What I also know is that if I can envision myself living in that light and deformed way again, you can too. In fact, you might be living that way now.

If it is true, as I believe, that God orchestrates our days and that every season of our lives is ordained by Him, then it is also true that we should live fully in each of these seasons, “draining” all the meaning God intends. I did not do this during one critical season of my life and the incompletion of it radiates into my days still.

Take a good look at yourself. Ponder the seasons you’ve lived and the season you are in now. Get familiar with what it is about you that makes you live, in the words of one movie title, in the “unbearable lightness of being.” In other words, what makes you “phone it in,” live only partially engaged, and thus miss your best self and the best of the life you are called to live.

I’m committed to not letting my lesser nature keep me from the best of my life. Join me. And by the way, I’m willing to let that earlier Stephen off the hook. He was only fifteen or so. But, dang, how much more he could have been!

That’s it. Have a great weekend.


Interested in upping your leadership game? Stephen Mansfield and The Mansfield Group have specialized in helping organizations and leaders recover from destructive leadership crashes. Over the years, Stephen began to realize that there are common signs of impending crises that often go unnoticed. In his online course, “Ten Signs of a Leadership Crash,” he identifies the 10 common conditions that give rise to a leadership crash and explains how to develop a “safety net” to avoid such a disaster in your organization. Enroll today and use discount code Leading Thoughts for a special rate for you, my readers.