Years ago, I launched a project that generated some interesting attention. It was called My 52 Mistakes, and it outlined what I believed were the worst 52 mistakes I’d made in my life. Even when I read these today, they all still ring true – these were the most serious missteps I took that led me on painful detours away from happiness, fulfillment and success. And they resonated with lots of other folks too.
While I use the word “mistakes,” I actually don’t believe in mistakes. I believe that if we can learn from our missteps, then we can make tremendous gains, and they are often blessings in disguise. If we commit to drawing on the powerful wisdom we’ve achieved from these momentary errors in judgment, behavior and thinking, then we’ll thrive.
How do we make the most of these missteps or detours so they help us thrive and don’t have to be repeated?
We all have life lessons to learn, but many of us miss these lessons (I sure did, years ago). Sadly, we often learn the wrong things, and internalize damaging, negative messages instead of positive, uplifting ones – messages that make us feel inferior, incapable, and unworthy. We don’t see what we should see. Instead, we end up feeling like losers or hapless victims of fate and circumstance. And when we feel like this, it’s very hard to move off the painful detour and get going in the right direction again.
The best way to turn this around is to learn the positive, empowering lessons that your life is trying to teach you – not lessons about how you blew it and how you’re a failure. The lessons that are essential to learn are about how you’re extremely talented, capable and worthy, and you deserve what you long for, but you’ve just been pointing in the wrong direction.
Here are the top 5 lessons I believe people need to be learning from what’s happening in their lives, but aren’t:
I’ve been so surprised lately at how intensely we humans focus only on what’s at the tip of our nose, what’s happening this very moment (especially if it’s bad), and forget all the good that we’ve achieved and created. So if you’re in a toxic job with a toxic boss, don’t let that be all you see. You’re better than what your boss thinks of you this very moment. You’re more than the paltry raise you just got, or the promotion you were just passed over for. Take some time to get off the hamster wheel, and take a thorough inventory of everything you’re fantastic at and everything you’ve created and achieved in your life. If you don’t focus on the good and the great, you’ll forget what you’re capable of. (Take my free Career Path Self- Assessment to remember who you really are and what you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of.)
2. Just because you failed terribly at one dream, doesn’t mean you’ll repeat that failure with the next.
I realized in working with thousands of people on their careers, that somehow we think that if we failed miserably at one important project or dream, we’ll inevitably fail at all our dreams and visions. Again this is the wrong lesson. Failure, as we all know, is a part of life and we learn much more from failure than from success. But if we all know this, why do we act as if we’re terrible losers, and won’t ever amount to anything, or achieve any dream we have? Remember that your failures are exactly what pave the way for your fantastic successes. Learn to love your failures.
Confidence is essential in life if you want to keep moving forward and reaching higher. But people ask me, “Kathy, how do I get confidence when I don’t having any?” They’re learning a mistaken lesson that you need confidence in order to achieve what you want. That’s a faulty way of looking at it.
You get confidence by moving through your fears, by taking action, even while your knees are clanging together with a deafening din. You gain confidence by getting in the arena – by risking, trying, stretching. That’s the only way confidence comes.
I remember, during my internship training as a therapist, after I’d conducted my very first session as a therapist with a severely depressed patient (in front of a whole panel of educators and colleagues critiquing me) saying to myself – “If I can get through that without throwing up or passing out, I can do anything.” My confidence level went up one hundredfold that day.
Confidence comes from doing, so get out there and starting doing what you’re most scared of doing.
4. How you feel and think about your work and your endeavors will powerfully shape what happens.
The more I test out new practices and strategies aimed at helping people build tremendous success, and the more heartfelt success I achieve in my own business, the more I realize this: how we think and feel about what we’re doing will dramatically shape the outcomes we get.
In other words, if you’re trying to build a successful business but your work exhausts and depresses you, then you’re not going to succeed. If you’re building a consulting practice, but are deathly afraid of business development and hate it, then you won’t succeed. Finally, if you’re in a helping profession but resent helping others, you’re not going to succeed or be happy in your work.
Take a very close look at your thoughts because they drive the outcomes you’re getting. You’ll be amazed at the degree to which what’s in front of you in life is directly related to what you’re thinking.
Then, actively revise your thoughts and/or change what you’re doing in some significant way so you can feel happier, and more positive and excited about what you’re engaged in.
5. The one best way to tell if you need a change in life is if you’re unhappy and unfulfilled.
Finally, I know so many people who are miserable in their lives and work, but don’t see that as a sign that anything needs to change. They’re skeptical, angry, resentful, confused – but they don’t realize that those emotions mean they have to make a change. They stay stuck forever in inertia.
They make a million excuses for staying where they are (I need the money, I won’t succeed in my dream, a mission-driven career isn’t for me, I’m too old, I’m too young, I didn’t finish school, I was raised poor, etc.).
There’s one key question that you need to ask in order to determine if you need a change in your life. That question is: “Am I happy with the person I’m becoming and am I fulfilled by my life as a whole?”
If not, it’s time to do something. Here’s more about how to learn the specific lessons your life is trying to teach you:
What’s the ONE biggest lesson your life has taught you, so far?
(For a happier, more rewarding career, take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge today.)