There are some folks I know who are just naturally perceptive – my wife is one of those. She’s like a MacGyver or an Amazing Kreskin; her instincts seem to always be on the mark and she’s quick on her feet. She can take in this and that and come up with a plausible argument, great comeback, or develop a process on the spot; no fail. Me, I usually have to rattle the marble around in the can for a while before I can formulate a position.

But a new year is always a good time to take stock and rededicate ourselves to doing better. This past week, I happened to run across something that made me think; I guess you could call it an adage. It went something like this: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

It got me to thinking about how often we all get caught up in the race for something more, something bigger and better. Meanwhile, the thing that’s most important, the most fulfilling, the most meaningful, and what should be a priority, is right there in our hands already – children, a spouse, an elderly relative or friend, a person who looks up to you.

This is a lesson I think we all viscerally know and understand, but often it’s the turn of a phrase that provides the cold slap that forces us to stop and take inventory. And the turning of a new year is always a good time to rededicate ourselves to such important pursuits.

The other day, I was dressing in the gym after working out. There was a young man near me – he looked like he was in his late 20s or early 30s – who was approached by another young man who said: “Aren’t you so and so? We were in high school together.”

After getting reacquainted, the second guy says: “You were a heck of a runner in high school; did you run in college?”

The first man responded that he had competed in college but quit early in his college career. The second guy sounded incredulous and said: “But you were so good; did you get hurt?”

With a confident tone of acceptance tinged with a bit of regret, the man shrugged and said: “No, I just developed an attitude.”

I found his honesty really refreshing. This guy had obviously had a bright athletic gift that, for one reason or another, he’d squandered. But he didn’t blame it on anyone else. He’d accepted it as part of growing up; a decision that must have seemed right at that time. I’m sure he regretted it in hindsight, but he’d forgiven himself, seemingly learned from it and moved on.

Many of us spend our lifetimes living in the past, kicking ourselves over past decisions. Truth is we all made those decisions with the tools and the experience we had going for us at the time. That is life; it’s how we learn.

Much is said about the virtue of forgiving others, but I think the same level of virtue exists in forgiving ourselves, if we use those experiences to better understand ourselves and dedicate ourselves to doing better.

Best of luck for a great 2009.