I recently embarked on an ambitious journey, one that I knew would have a ripple effect on my life and those closest to me. This adventure would take me into situations stressful enough to rival my tour of duty overseas in Desert Storm. I set off early in the morning for a day of license renewal at my local DMV. I know what you are thinking, “How brave I must be to do this alone.” As expected, the ordeal was sure to live up to my expectations.
As a recent transplant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to switch my credentials over to my current address. I called ahead and checked online for a list of documentation. Armed with my iPad to fill in the time, I stepped into the building confident. I shuffled from line to line as instructed and after nearly an hour, I was told I needed a “better” copy of my birth certificate. Frustrated, I asked to speak with a supervisor and was quickly told to go to the end of the longest line there. In other words, I was told to start over from scratch.
Riddled with embarrassment, I obeyed. But as I stood there, I thought how this was just a picture of what life can be like sometimes. Standing, waiting, and pushing, only to be told your efforts aren’t good enough and go to the back of the line. How great life could be if it came with a restart button that would allow you to pick up where you left off. Usually, that’s just not the case. Whether it is work, family or even personal finances, there are times when we are knocked off our square and have to build back up from the bottom.
The key to any endeavor from “scratch” is to understand what happened, assess where you are trying to go and get back on course as quickly as possible. Below are a few simple tips to assist you along your journey from the back of the line:
- Distinguish the difference between guilt and shame: There is a world of difference between feeling guilty about a failure and feeling shame about it. Guilt, simply put, is “I did something wrong,” shame is “I am something wrong.” Guilt is an indicator that you are on the road to owning your behavior but shame is the heavy burden that goes beyond behavior into self condemnation. There’s nothing wrong with you; all that is needed is to address the thinking that led to failure.
- Don’t get used to the view from back there: Often when we suffer a setback we begin to accept it as our “normal.” In reality, we are only there for a short period of time. You still have the same skills that got you to the front of the line before, so keep things in perspective. Life will continue and as long as you don’t quit, chances favor you getting back on track.
- Use what works and be bold enough to scrap the rest: Here’s the tough part. As we journey through life, we create comfort zones filled with behaviors that no longer serve us. Once you own your part of a failure, you next have to discard EVERYTHING that will not serve you in a positive way. This includes relationships, habits and thought patterns. We sometimes struggle with this step because we have adapted these items as part of us. When challenged, we usually revert to our comfort zones. Remember, everything you really want is on the outskirts of your comfort zone.
Life can be a funny dance back and forth in the direction of our dreams. The key to winning and sustaining that victory is found in our ability to bounce back after setbacks. No one likes to hear those wicked words, “Go to the back of the line.” But sometimes starting over from scratch is just what the doctor ordered to orchestrate a comeback.