We all experience crucial moments in our lives, some of which we first see as failures, but in essence are new beginnings. Whether it be breakups, divorce, bankruptcy, jail or death. They usually trigger a sense of regret that can swell up and become overbearing to us. Leading us to ask questions of ourselves such as:
- What could I have changed?
- Why did I not see this earlier?
- Why didn’t I do it this way?
Caught up in the moment, we unconsciously trigger these ‘mindtraps’. Such unconstructive self-questioning prolongs our ability to move forward. It seems quite logical when we stand back and reflect. Subconsciously we are asking this one question ‘How can we change the past to make it better?’. The answer is to let it go and learn from it to begin anew.
This requires us to successfully pass through three gates to make ourselves stronger. These being:
The aim for this article is to help you with the realisation of where you are in this process and to provide insights on what it takes to move forward.
Despondence is a feeling of being trapped in isolation. This feeling that no one can possibly understand us and that there is something really wrong with us. Sometimes caused by our own thoughts or the environment we choose to surround ourselves with. It consists of shame, guilt, despair and above all else, blame.
Blame can be best described as ‘a way to discharge pain and discomfort’ – Dr. Brene Brown. Usually on ourselves, other times we may deflect the blame elsewhere. However, in the end, we place the most blame ourselves as ultimately we are only capable of controlling ourselves. When we feel that we have lost control of ourselves and our actions, we fall into a spiral of despair.
This spiral traps us, in our own minds, in the very event, and almost forcing ourselves to endure the pain and emotions involved with it. We feel compelled to have to look back to identify the moments that lead us to where we are now. We push ourselves to try to understand and re-enact the moments where we could have adverted this catastrophe. It carries us into a state of regret because we believe that we could have made a significant difference through a small action at any particular moment.
An example of this state of mind would be for instance in a relationship. I would have asked myself questions such as:
- Why did I push her away when I needed her the most?
- Why was I not more open and honest with her?
During this state I lacked clarity. I would focus more on what could have been had my actions been different. This would be an incessant loop in my mind with different scenarios and results, which would force me into a state of regret. Regret for how it turned out and punishment for myself for not doing it differently to, potentially, lead to a better result. A result I have fictitiously created for myself in my own mind. Happening so quickly that I conveniently have not been able recognise.
In order to break this we have to eventually come to the realisation that the regrets we feel need not be negative. They are but a chance for us to raise our own self-awareness. We should also accept, for ourselves, the understanding that we are always acting with the best intentions and abilities we can at any given moment. With this we can begin to accept that with “Every failure brings with it an equivalent seed of success” – Napoleon Hill.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
To reach acceptance is to be able to see the event for what it is, a milestone and triggering point. Accepting that past events are just that and knowing that we are acting with best intentions. There is no more dwelling on what could have been. No more incessant loops of the event in our minds with different endings. At times we may fall back into despair and despondence, but we are more conscious of it now and armed with the tools to get ourselves out of it. Through acceptance can we begin to look deeper past the initial regrets and identify real opportunities for the betterment of ourselves. When we go deeper into ourselves can we find a true understanding of why we are experiencing regret.
Such as in the situation of the relationship, as above, the underlying issue might not be why I pushed her away or was not open and honest with her. Rather because I was too focused on trying to make myself ‘look’ strong. I was not asking all that I needed from her because I perceived it to be weak and vulnerable to ask for it. I realised that on reflection I was actually displaying weakness through denial of the truth.
With this realisation we can make things better for ourselves by working on what we can control, ourselves. We can only then start to see the seeds of opportunity grow from the ravages of the fire that once consumed us. We learn from that disaster and carry those lessons on within ourselves to become better because we wanted to. Not because we want to prove to others or because we were told we should , but because we believe it to be the right thing for us. If we do it for others we must ask ourselves, will it really make us happy when we reflect back on it and all that is standing there is just ourselves? Once we determine the true purpose for change, we can lay the foundations for that new beginning.
Change must be driven through a desire to transform ourselves for the better. If not it will only lead to self-sabotage because the external results we may have expected to do not rise to those expectations or are more subdued. Change ourselves and the world will change around us to fit in with what we want to make of it.
Change is one of the most feared aspects of our lives. It is fear; of the unknown, of failure or of isolation. We ask ourselves questions such as:
- What if I fail?
- How do I know if this is the right thing for me?
- Am I willing to take the path to get to where I want to be?
However the real question we should be focusing on should be this. What will happen to me and my success if I keep thinking or doing what I am doing now?
“What gets you to where you are now is DIFFERENT to what gets you to where you want to be!!” - T Harv Eker.
In the example of the relationship it could be that I learned that I needed to become more open about my feelings, however different, unusual or embarrassing it may be. Most of all it is to accept that the reason for this change is not to go back and throw it in her face. I am better and she missed out. This will not make me happy because the reason for transforming was to prove it to others (her).
More simply it was this; if I did not change myself how could I see myself being successful in future relationships? With that in mind I decided to change for myself because I believed it was truly something that would make me a better and happier person.
New leases on life will only thrive if we have clear, specific plans and are committed to following through by taking action. One of the best ways to start is to find those that have been through the experience we have and come out the other side. Talk to them, learn from their experiences and challenges. This will also help in creating a network of supportive people that will help us in reaching and recognising that a new beginning is a gradual process.
Significant changes are built upon small successes that add up over time. So work small and remember to always acknowledge the small successes that come with them. Whether it be as small as just learning how to smile at strangers, taking the leap to talk to new people or to just think of one happy thought for that day.
What is important is to not be too focused on beating ourselves up when we fall back into old habits. Just dust ourselves off, straighten that shirt and get back on to where you were at. There will be hurdles, these are just tests put in front of us to see if the reason we want this new beginning is strong enough. If it is, then you will stop at nothing to obtain it.
The pathway to a new beginning is one fraught with much pain, emotion, sacrifice, and most of all, fear. There will be peaks and troughs as we pass through each gate. We start through the gate of despondence, placing blame on others as well as ourselves. Encountering regrets as we fall into the spiral of despair. Nevertheless once we can accept the events that have taken place for what they are can we start to break free of the spiral. By only going deeper can we find the real reasons and purpose for the new start to help it flourish. Finally we transform these thoughts into small actions that are the foundation for our change.
With the passing of each gate on this pathway to a new beginning we need to remind ourselves that they are an achievement in themselves because we are moving forward. Even when it does not feel like we are because the change is so gradual, or even when we fluctuate between the gates. Patience and persistence will help us make this new change permanent, in spite of the fears and hurdles.
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” - Steve Jobs.