Chapters of My Life
By: Portia Nelson (20th-century American writer)
I walked down the sidewalk and fell into a deep hole.
I couldn’t get out and I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t my fault. It took a long time to get out.
I walked down the sidewalk and fell into the same hole again.
I couldn’t understand. It wasn’t my fault. I really had to struggle to get out.
I walked down the sidewalk and fell into the same hole again. This time I understood why and it was my fault. This time it was easier to get out.
I walked down the sidewalk and saw the same big hole. I walked around it. I didn’t fall into that hole.
I chose another sidewalk.
Sometimes we find ourselves making the same mistake over and over again. Other times it feels like we’re attracting the wrong energy or the wrong people into our lives. This can be incredibly frustrating because at first it might not be so clear why we seem to find ourselves gravitating towards or staying in the same problematic situation. Whether we are dealing with a difficult relationship pattern, stress, anxiety or depression– life has a way of testing our limits.
The Power of Choice
Taking ownership over your choices can be difficult but incredibly liberating. Find yourself in a frustrating relationship pattern? Perhaps there’s something you could do differently this time to interrupt the cycle. Love spending time with a certain friend, but know that it always turns into a late night that throws you off the next day? Try communicating that you love spending time together, but really need to protect your energy for the following day and suggest another option to share quality time.
When we look inward and take the time to operate with an understanding of the control we do have within a problematic pattern of behavior, we begin to dismantle the power of the cycle and take a step closer to making better choices that focus more on what we truly desire.
Try these three tips:
List Your Options
In any situation, you have choices, and it helps to identify them. For example, Tova was passed over for a promotion at work and feeling “like a failure.” Instead of continuing to put herself down, she made a list of action items she could accomplish. She came up with four options:
1. Start looking for a new position. Set up one or two coffee dates to talk with colleagues about other opportunities and make a plan to leave her current position.
2. Research and apply to other openings within the same company.
3. Stay at the company and learn more about what she could do differently to be the best fit for the next promotion.
4. Reflect on what went wrong and try to improve the areas within her control.
Notice what you did right. Research shows that one of the most powerful methods of growth is positive reinforcement. Instead of being harsh with yourself, find every opportunity for praise no matter how small. Instead of “I was foolish to think I could get that position”, try “I was able to put my best self forward, and it was enough to compete with other high performers. That’s an accomplishment in itself!” Or, “I received great feedback in certain areas and have a better sense of how to improve things to become even stronger.” Be generous with yourself—there’s no such thing as overdoing it when it’s well earned.
Learn From Your Experience
Focus on the meaningful lesson that can help you the next time. Is there a person or situation that you recently learned isn’t able to be there for you in a positive and healthy way? Maybe you’ve expressed an important need and it wasn’t responded to in a helpful way. What is the lesson you learned from it? Perhaps after some consideration, you’ve decided that you need to spend less time with that particular person and more time nurturing relationships that feel mutually healthy and supportive.