Life is a constant unfolding of events, circumstances and relationships. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that the only guarantee in life is that there are no guarantees. You may have also noticed, that even when you do everything you can to protect yourself from uncomfortable experiences (loss of job, relationship crash, grief, etc.), life just happens. In reality, we have very little control over what goes on around us.
But, don’t despair… We do have control over one very important aspect of life’s challenges. We can control the stories we tell ourselves about the things that happen to us. We do get to choose whether or not we want to continue to let an unhappy thought take us deeper and deeper into a hole.
Several years ago, I was working as the Customer Service Manager for a large, international corporation. Lead time from the factory was going to be much longer than usual and management was worried about losing sales orders. I was instructed to direct my team to withhold the actual lead time from customers who wanted to order our product. I expressed my disapproval of this practice, but I was overruled. I either had to comply or risk losing my job. As the main source of income and health insurance in our household at that time, I did not think I had a choice. There were other things going on in the company that I found disheartening as well. I was really struggling to keep a positive attitude and give my best at work. The stress of doing something that was out of alignment with my values was keeping me awake at night. I became more and more unhappy at work. I never missed an opportunity to complain to my family and friends about the situation at the office.
When the company went through a reorganization, my position was eliminated and I found myself out of a job. I was furious! They let me go only 3 months before I would have been fully vested in the 401K plan and to top it all off, there were only 3 weeks left until Christmas! I’m sure you can imagine the choice words and thoughts I had for the decision makers at that company.
Sometimes, blessings come in peculiar wrapping paper.
Some interesting things happened around the time I was let go from my job. Not long after I lost my job, my husband found a job with a great company. His salary more than compensated for the income I had lost. At the same time, one of my adult children got into a situation that required me to be available to help them almost every day for several weeks. There was no way I could have been there for my child if I were still employed by that company. I also used that time to do something I had wanted to do for years… I started my own business.
Even though losing the job opened some other doors for me, for a long time afterwards, I still held on to resentment toward the company for the way I was treated. I found it difficult to let go of the bitterness and move past those feelings. I kept reliving the loss of the job over and over again. I continued to feel victimized and angry. Holding that grudge was making me miserable, but It was not impacting the people I was angry with at all. I knew I had to let it go.
When I took a closer look at the experience of losing my job, I began to see that everything unfolded perfectly. It just didn’t manifest the way I thought it would.
It wasn’t until I learned to look for the gifts I had received by working for that company that I was able to release myself from those unhappy thoughts. What gifts did I receive? Well, for example, I learned that I do not enjoy working for companies who are more focused on their bottom line than on providing quality goods and honest service to their customers. I learned that when I am asked to do something at work that I think is out of integrity, it is time to speak up. If the company insists on following a path I am not in alignment with, it is time to start looking for a different place to work. Looking back, if I am honest with myself, I know my attitude about the company had something to do with my eventual loss of the job. I am grateful that I earned a good salary and was able to provide health insurance for my family when it was needed. I became a better leader while I worked there and more confident in my abilities. Best of all, some of my most cherished friendships, were born in that workplace.
This was not the first, nor was it the last time I experienced a setback in my life that proved to be a gift in disguise. If there is something going on in your life, that you are struggling to accept, I encourage you to look at it from a different vantage point. Replaying a painful situation over and over again in your head will cause you to stay stuck in resentment. The only way out is to let it go. Release the people or situation that caused the pain and find something to be thankful for. Ask yourself if it is time to move on or if there is more to be gained or something to learn by staying where you are. As much as possible, do not allow fear to be your decision maker.
It has been my experience, that new beginnings are often not possible, until something else comes to an end.