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Major disappointments. Failures. Losses. Giving it your all and falling flat. No one is immune to setbacks in life and yet in the face of these times, some people get lost, forever wondering what went wrong, while others come back bigger and better than ever.
The difference between those who stay stuck in the past with their regrets and self-criticisms and those who are willing to embrace it all – good, bad, and ugly – to create something even greater in the future, is often a simple shift in mindset and outlook, with the help of some pragmatic tools and tactics.
Taking judgement out of the equation
Empowering yourself through troubling times starts with choice not to fall into the common habit of inserting judgment into the situation. Whether that is listening to judgements and unsolicited advice from others: “I told you this would happen.” “You should have done_______,” or letting inner-criticisms rule: “What have I done wrong? If only I had done/known/said _______,” choosing to take a step back and become an impartial, neutral observer will empower you to find your way out of regrets, mistakes, or feelings of failure. One simple way of moving beyond these judgments is to ask: “What’s right about this I am not getting?” If you are fixating on self-judgments regarding the circumstances, ask, “What’s right about me I am not getting?”
Adding gratitude to re-ignite creativity and forward momentum
Adding gratitude into the situation eliminates the possibility of judgement – of others, and of yourself. Regrets, blame, shame and trying to figure out what and who was wrong or right keeps you locked in the past and in a loop, you can’t get out of. Consequently, progressive ideas and action cannot occur. By adding gratitude, you begin to see ways out of the loop of judgments and onto a more generative and creative path. Ask yourself: “What if I can be grateful for this situation? What can I choose to be grateful for regarding how this played out?” Embracing gratitude allows you and others to begin looking at everything that occurred from a different perspective, so that the forward momentum beyond can begin.
Seeking possibilities and opportunities beyond the problems and setbacks
Once you’ve begun eliminating judgment and including gratitude, adding curiosity is another useful tool in supporting the move onwards. Curiosity and question are more powerful than labels, judgements and conclusions. Rather than coming from the point of view of fixing, finding solutions, and overcoming problems, ask from curiosity: “What is required in this situation? What else is possible here that I hadn’t considered?” and even, “How can I/we use this to our advantage so that something even greater can arise?” Questions like this demand you to be present with the opportunities available today, and not distracted by problems from yesterday. When you look backwards to try and figure out what happened, what went wrong, who is wrong, and how to fix it based on previous choices, decision and outcomes, you will remain stuck looking for (and finding) more problems. If you start with curiosity from the present moment, you will empower yourself to move forward and be open to new possibilities with much more ease.
Replacing “What could I have done differently?” with more effective questions
“What could I have done differently?” is based on an assumption that if you can figure out where you went wrong in the past, you can stop it in the future. In reality, this doesn’t work. The problem is that you are analyzing something that has already occurred, and the exact elements of which will never occur again. Even you are not the same now as you were at the time, even if it was just yesterday! Put your attention on asking questions that keep you looking to what is possible, and acknowledging and using what you now know:
- “What did I become aware of that if I hadn’t experienced this, I wouldn’t now know?”
- “What contribution could this be to my future, if I didn’t judge it as a bad, wrong, or a setback?”
- “What can I create with everything I have learned from this, that I couldn’t have before?”
We cannot turn back the clock and change the past, but we can choose whether it holds us back or launches us forward. By taking off the blinders of judgments and regrets, and adding gratitude, curiosity, and pragmatic questions that lead us forward, even our biggest mistakes, failures, losses and disappointments can become empowered steps towards a greater future.