Life lessons from something that seemed like a good idea, but wasn’t
I recently made a decision to do something that I later regretted. In hindsight, I can see that my intuition was warning me (quietly) that it was not the right move. All the outward aspects seemed to line up. It seemed to come together quickly and easily. I had to ask myself afterward why this had happened, what I’d learned from it, and how I might avoid it happening again.
I have come to think that it’s of utmost importance that you feel things out for yourself. In the case of my mistake, things appeared to align ’just so’ and I thought perhaps my initial intuition was wrong (it wasn’t). This, and a few smaller-scale experiences of this around the same time, left me asking myself: how do you know when you’re forcing something? How can you tell the difference between fear and your intuition warning you that something doesn’t feel right?
Unfortunately, I think the answer is that, most of the time, you learn this only through experience. Through making the wrong choices and the right choices, collecting these learnings, and getting better and better at understanding what decisions to make for yourself based on how you work best.
This experience was such a painful way to learn this lesson. I spent weeks thinking about it and trying to figure out why it had happened. I thought I’d share my small pieces of wisdom in hopes that they’ll help you through a similar experience.
Anything that you feel rushed to purchase due to scarcity or pressure, is usually a purchase to avoid.
First things first. Making the right choices requires patience – both in making the decision itself and in gaining the experiences you need to get better at making decisions.
I think it’s quite possible that as you become stronger and more into yourself, you may find that you have the ability to force open a door (that you maybe shouldn’t have) with your newfound confidence. I am a big proponent for sitting on things for a while and checking back in to make sure they still feel right – whether a purchase, a course, a trip… Anything that you feel rushed to purchase due to scarcity or pressure, is usually a purchase to avoid.
Learn to trust yourself
Another thing I have noticed is that it’s possible to mistake useful life lessons for limiting beliefs. There is a lot of talk about limiting beliefs and limiting stories right now – especially in the coaching world. After a long time of trying to ’fix’ myself and my mindset, I have come to think that sometimes what you think (or are told) is a limiting belief may actually be helping you. It may be a valuable lesson hard-won through previous experience.
I have been practicing trusting myself and my own intuition – seeking and listening to my own guidance – rather than that of a book or coach. And, guess what, it seems to be working better (bonus: it’s much cheaper!). Even if it takes me a little longer to come to answers, I believe they are more likely to be truly in alignment with my core and values.
Your intuition will tell you what you need to do, but you need to get quiet and calm for long enough to hear it. It’s a soft whisper, so it tends to get overridden if something splashy or fast-moving is going on.
Beware of false doors
This is something I’ve only recently begun to realize. I had to make the wrong decision (and the right decision) enough times to begin to see the overall pattern. By a door I mean any kind of opportunity that opens up before you. Usually when a door has turned out to be false, there was a sense of pressure or limited time, and I made a decision quickly. Things all seemed to line up or point to this thing, so I must be meant to do it, right? Not necessarily.
I have found that your intuition will tell you what you need to do, but you need to get quiet and calm for long enough to hear it. It’s a soft whisper, so it tends to get overridden if something splashy or fast-moving is going on. In each case, I either didn’t allow my intuition to be heard, or I ignored it. Which leads me to the next point…
Double-check that it feels right
Go somewhere, get really quiet, ask yourself what you should do, and LISTEN to that response. You can do this twice with space in between to be really sure of the answer. If it feels right, get a second (or third) opinion from a friend or mentor you trust. Draft up a response (ex. an email) saying yes or no to the experience. How do you feel? If you feel relieved to say no, it’s probably a sign you should say no.
Work on learning from the experience and transforming it into something strengthening and empowering for you.
Figure out what you can learn from the experience
I know how difficult it can be to look at a negative experience. In order to learn from it, you must look at it. It needs to be faced. To do this, you must eventually encounter the experience honestly and directly.
Take some time to recover, if you need. Be gentle with yourself. Notice if you feel shame, anger, hurt, embarrassment and accept these emotions. If it’s helpful, you can try journaling or shifting the emotions to ones that feel lighter and more empowering to you. Reconnect with and centre yourself in your own strength. Write about what you love, what you have done well, what you are good at, experiences that have felt whole to you.
Release the negative feelings
You are using your energy to feel badly or angry about the experience – thereby doubly doing yourself harm. Instead, work on learning from the experience and transforming it into something strengthening and empowering for you. Look toward where you are going and take from the experience what helps you on your journey forward. You have new wisdom and knowledge from the experience – and can now grow – as hard and unwished for as it may have been to go through it.
After I had felt that I had learned what I could and made the most of the experience, I decided that it was time to release the anger and resentment around it. It had happened, there was nothing more that I could do about it, and it was now only holding me back from wonderful future things. I sat down and had a very clear journaling and meditation session around it, forgave myself for my part in it, forgave the other person for their misleading, and resolved to look forward. I spent a journal page looking ahead at what was next for me. I selected a task and began working toward the next thing.
Just like that, the anger and resentment that had been plaguing me was gone. Released into the air around me. It was amazing and complete. I felt so free. I have very rarely looked back, and never with such deep anxiety/shame/regret. I removed the cost from my budgets, I found other things to look toward (rather than looking back).
Recover your strength
Pick yourself up. Stand tall. Set your sights on the horizon ahead.
As you look toward where you want to go, think of some actions you can take that begin moving you in that direction. Then, pick something from the list and DO it.
There is enormous power in small actions – and, with each step, a new step is revealed. ⠀
Everything ‘bad’ has either pointed me in a new direction, helped me to change my course, or taught me something that has then helped me in a future situation.
Guidance & wisdom from others
Here are a few books (and a video) I have found helpful related to fear and to gaining wisdom from mistakes. As with everything, I believe you should read what speaks deeply to you and that feels empowering. If something begins to feel chastising or like it’s creating ‘shoulds’ in your life, put it down!
- Fear – Thich Nhat Hanh
- Finding Inner Courage – Mark Nepo
- Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones that Count – Bréné Brown
- Longing for Certainty – Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano
- The Artist’s Way & Finding Water – Julia Cameron
If you know of any books that you’ve found helpful and think could be added to this list, I’d love to hear from you.
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Finally, I encourage you to remain open. To either try to see the silver lining of the experience or be open to the possibility that the good that can come from it has not yet been revealed to you. Everything ‘bad’ has either pointed me in a new direction, helped me to change my course, or taught me something that has then helped me in a future situation.
Take heart. You will recover from this experience a stronger and wiser person. ♥
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For more lessons learned while striving to live meaningfully, go here. If you are a maker, I have written a number of posts about how to understand & navigate the creative process.
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