Last year, I published a post on my birthday where I shared a birthday wish (actually a couple) for 2020. This year, I make it a tradition. 

There’s something magical about wishes. 

Wishing gives you the freedom to ask for anything, no matter how improbable. There are no rules when it comes to wishes. 

But that’s not all. 

A wish allows us a peek deep inside ourselves—to the place where we keep the dreams and ambitions we rarely talk about. It’s a whisper that reminds us what we truly want. 

We should all wish more. Especially given the crazy state of the world we live in. 

But, we should also talk about our wishes—out loud with other people. When we commit our wishes to words, they find power. They invite us to take the steps we can to make them come true. 

With that, I share with you my wish for the year ahead.

My Birthday Wish for 2021

Last year, my wish was that all people could find work that provides them both an adequate living wage and an experience that makes them feel like more, not less, each day. That wish remains not only unfulfilled but also further out of reach today than ever. 

But, I’m hopeful that the wake-up call provided by this pandemic will jar employers into doing a better job of caring for their people. In some ways, we’ve made progress, and in many, we’ve lost ground. 

My wish this year is also big and challenging, but this time it’s a call to action. My hope is that you share my wish and will join me on this journey.  

So, here it is: 

I wish that every person will find the courage to investigate their beliefs and be brave enough to abandon or replace those which don’t align with their values or intentions.  

When I was in college, I discovered the study of philosophy and fell in love with it. While I know that studying philosophy in college is joked about by many, those classes are among the most important learning experiences of my life. 

Philosophy teaches you how to think better. It forces you to confront things that our human nature encourages us to ignore.  

One of my favorite classes was Philosophy of Religion. It was taught in partnership by two of my favorite professors, one from the philosophy department and the other from religious studies. 

This class, while being one of my favorites, was also one of the most challenging. While the reading and coursework were important, my personal revelations during the course changed my life.  

Most significantly, I realized that my entire religious belief system was something I’d inherited. I’d never been offered a choice, nor had I ever thought deeply about what I believed. I’d been going to church for as long I had been alive. 

I didn’t choose this belief system. I’d absorbed it as part of my lived experience. As a result, I’d never considered how this inherited set of beliefs affected how I viewed and showed up in the world. 

Through philosophy, I learned how to interrogate my beliefs and see them more clearly. Upon doing that, I was able to make an intentional choice about what I believed and why. 

As I think back about it, I remember how hard it felt because so much of my identity was tied up in this religious belief system. I remember the tension of wondering, “what if I find out that I don’t really believe these things? If this part of who I am isn’t what I thought it was, who am I?”

It was scary as a 19-year-old. But, I was still early in my life. My identity wasn’t even close to being shaped. The stakes felt high to my younger self, but it was precisely the right time to ask the question. 

In the end, the fear was misplaced. I discovered that through an exploration of your most foundational beliefs, you learn what you truly believe and why. And when your beliefs have been thoroughly investigated, and you’ve intentionally chosen them, you achieve freedom. 

You are no longer fearful of putting your beliefs out on the table for discussion and challenge because you understand where they came from. And, you know that you are capable of change when warranted.

This class and this experience set me free. It was for me, in many ways, like taking the red pill from Morpheus and being unplugged from the Matrix. It confronted me with another important question that I hope we all ask more often:  

What other beliefs have I inherited that might be affecting how I see and show up in the world?

Given what we’ve experienced over the past twelve months, it feels more important now than ever before for all of us to step back and really challenge ourselves on what we believe. Few of us are happy with the state of the world. To fix it starts with each of us individually. 

I’ve had to dig in over the years to confront and replace beliefs and biases I didn’t even know I had. Growing up in a small town in Iowa when I did, I had virtually no diversity exposure. Everyone was white. Nearly everyone was Christian. Most households looked like a variant of the Leave to Beaver show.

I don’t say that to be critical. My family and community were loving and supportive, and encouraging in so many ways that I’m eternally grateful for. 

But as I started interrogating my belief systems, I couldn’t escape the reality that I had inherited racist, sexist, homophobic beliefs and biases—not because someone intentionally put them there, but by nature of the experiences I had (or didn’t have) growing up. 

It hurts today to write this about myself. It’s hard to confront these realities, to admit that I was and am flawed in such significant ways. I’d love to say that I’ve fixed all of these things, but it’s not that simple. It’s a lifelong journey and commitment. 

What I can tell you is that I constantly investigate my beliefs and how I’m showing up in the world. Today, I am clear on my values and my beliefs are chosen. And, I continue to be a work-in-progress. 

My wish is that you will join me in this exploration of what you believe and why. Over the past year, we’ve seen people do and say things in the name of political parties that are abhorrent and appalling. Hopefully, that’s challenged us to step back from the party wars and ask exactly what we believe and why. What’s really important? 

I’ve seen white people get incredibly defensive at the mere suggestion that they might be racist, have racist biases, or that they benefit from privilege. And while I understand that it hurts to be confronted with this label, instead of being defensive, we should dig into what we believe and why. If you are committed to being anti-racist, part of the journey involves confronting your racism. There’s no way around it.  

Acknowledging your own racism or sexism allows you to confront it and do something to replace it. Ignoring it changes nothing.  

The invitation in my wish is to find the courage to look inside and see what’s there. Yes, it can feel scary to investigate a belief you’ve held your entire life. But, if that belief isn’t aligned with your values or the impact you wish to have on the world, then by not investigating it, at the least, you’re allowing your identity to be hijacked and suffering the consequences of an inauthentic life. At worst, your unexamined beliefs may be having a negative impact on those around you. 

In our hyper-polarized world, we have an opportunity to step back and get clear about who we are and what we believe. When your feet are firmly planted on intentional beliefs and clear values, the tide of polarization and divisiveness can not sweep you away. 

Let’s make 2021 a year of discovery and rebirth.


Related Reading:

My Birthday Wish for 2020

Burnout and Putting Me Back Together Again

The #1 Management Imperative for 2021

Jason Lauritsen