We can learn from our past . . . but don't get caught in the trap of being held captive by it. We all have situations that we may consider "regrets” where we may say, "Wow! In hindsight, I sure wish I hadn't done that!". But, in the end, these were opportunities to learn. It is often said that we grow more through our failures than our successes.
I remember a time early in my career when I took a job with a manufacturing company as a Human Resource Supervisor. It was a role that included several areas of Human Resources that I had not had previous experience leading. While this is not necessarily a problem – we all need those opportunities to stretch ourselves and learn something new – I entered the situation with the wrong attitude. I was arrogant, self-assured, and did not take the time to “listen and learn” from experts who were there to help me be successful. After approximately three months in the position, I began to realize the missteps I had made. Relationships with co-workers were strained because I had not placed the appropriate value on them early on. Stress was high as I was attempting to deliver results in areas that I had presented that I had experience, but in reality was learning as I went. After almost a year and a half, I resigned from this role to accept a new position with a healthcare company. The pain of that experience was a key learning in my career and one which haunted me for years following as I found myself being reminded of the “failure”, instead of focusing on learning from the experience for future success, deciding instead to chastise myself for my actions.
So, to break free from the chains of this past "failure", I found required I do three things.
1. Accept the Situation as a Learning Opportunity. Every situation we face is an opportunity to learn. I needed to reflect on what I did, what I could have done differently, and committed to making the changes for similar situations in the future. Fortunately, this worked great and as I have moved through my career, I did not make the same mistake twice.
2. Forgive Others. It's easy to place blame on someone else for our mis-steps. "They should have..." or "Why didn't they..." are the common phrases we say to ourselves to point at others. I needed to work through the feelings of being let down and instead accept responsibility for my actions. As much as we definitely need others, ultimately, we are responsible for our actions and for getting the resources we need to be successful.
3. Forgive Yourself. This was the hardest for me to do. As a "perfectionist", the pain of not being successful in this situation was always on my mind. I convinced myself that focusing on this situation was a motivator for me to not make the same mistakes in the future. But, in reality, it was just a change for me to emotionally punish myself. It took years but I finally reached the point of forgiving myself of my pride in the situation. We're not perfect...sometimes we fall. But, in the end, it's not about how many times we fall, but instead how many times we get back up that really matters!
Remaining emotionally or psychologically in prison by the experiences and circumstances of our past will prevent us from living the fullness of our present and future. Resolve today to reformat your thoughts of the past - forgive yourself - forgive others - and once and for all release yourself from the past so you can put your full attention on living your purpose with passion for the future. Live your Life of Purpose with Passion!