Keep Moving Forward (Use Unfortunate Incidents, Mistakes, and Pain to Your Advantage)

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Keep Moving Forward (Use Unfortunate Incidents, Mistakes, and Pain to Your Advantage)

The topic of ‘moving forward’ is appropriate at the start of a new year. Many of us have goals or targets that we want to reach in the next 12 months. We also know that along the way to our goals we will encounter unforeseen problems and we will make mistakes.  This blog discusses not only how to bounce back from adversity, but how to use it to your benefit as you move forward.

Choose the Meaning of every event or situation:  “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii. No matter what happens to us, we have the ability and the choice to assign any meaning that we want to it. Every event can have some benefit in it if we look hard enough, and we can learn from all of the situations that we find ourselves in … if we choose to do so. Here is an example that EVERYONE will experience at least once in their life: If I lose my job, be it a lay-off or an outright dismissal, I can look at that experience in a number of ways: 

  • That’s it. My career is over. I lost my dream job and the future is hopeless.
  • It sucks that I was canned, but thank God that I do not have to work for that guy any longer
  • This is all that I know how to do. What am I supposed to do now?
  • You know, I have always wanted to pursue (enter exciting career here), but I was comfortable with the job that I’ve had for the past few years. Now that I’ve been laid off, I can actually pursue that dream! 

The meaning that we give to a situation will have a profound impact upon the decisions that we make moving forward. We can move ahead weak and scared or move forward strong and emboldened. 


Don’t let the past hold you back. An important part of moving forward is letting go of the difficulties of our past. We all have had terrible things happen to us, or have done things that we regret, and we often carry this baggage with us. The negativity from our past can not only slow down or halt our progress, but can become a lense with which we see everything in front of us. 3 steps that can we can use to free ourselves of our past are:


  • Acknowledge the pain of the incident or situation
  • Forgive the person (or ourselves)
  • Commit to moving forward and leaving the past behind


Use Mistakes or Bad Luck to find out more about yourself. Mistakes can be life’s way of sending us a message that a change needs to be made. At first they are small setbacks that we can ignore, but if the problem has not been solved, the setbacks can become more painful and carry a higher price. In “Failing Forward,” John C. Maxwell states that, “great achievements can come only as the result of a period of failure that helps you understand who you really are.” WE are often the problem, and WE are often the cause of our own failure.  John quotes television host Jack Paar who said, “Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as its chief obstacle.” If we continue to face the same roadblock(s) over and over again, it is most likely a sign that we need to add, eliminate, or change something about ourselves or about our lives. We can use our failure to see ourselves more clearly and evaluate which flaws we have that may be holding us back.


A Failure Policy.  In his book, “Authentic Success,” Robert Holden talks about having a failure policy. Robert discusses how each one of us already has such a policy (the way in which we view failure and how we use failure) and how it can be re-written at any time. We can choose to get beat down by our mistakes or we can look at them as lessons that spring us forward. Below are two different policies on failure:


  • FAILURE POLICY #1: If I mess up, it spells the end of my career, my life, or this relationship. It means that there is no hope of me going on and that I do not have what it takes to be in this field, or industry, or sport, or with this person. I cannot fail, I cannot fail, I CANNOT FAIL!!!!!


  • FAILURE POLICY #2: Along this journey, I am going to encounter resistance and I am going to make mistakes. I don’t have to like failure, but I do have to learn from it.  I know that there is no such thing as a pain-free life. Whenever I experience a setback, I am going to take a lesson from it and keep moving forward.


You can probably tell that a person who uses policy #1 will go in a very different direction than someone who follows policy #2, even if they experience the same type of events during the course of their lives. Luckily, failure policies are not set in stone; they can be changed if one chooses to do so. At any point in time, we can choose to view failure positively and get some benefit out of it. People who are able to move forward from unforeseen tragedies or from their own mistakes often have a failure policy that closely resembles #2.


Learn How To Be a Resilient Person. Being resilient means that you can navigate through tough times while keeping your eye on the goal(s) you have set for yourself. Resilience enables you to bounce back from the mistakes you have made or the misfortune brought about by people or circumstances that out of your control. In her article “How Resilience Works,” Diane L. Coutu describes the characteristics of resilient people:

  • They coolly accept the harsh realities facing them
  • They find meaning in terrible times
  • They have an uncanny ability to improvise, making do with whatever is at hand.


She also quotes Dean Becker, CEO of Adaptiv Learning Systems, as saying “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”  The idea of resilience brings together the other 4 points (discussed above) and puts them all under one umbrella.


I hope that this blog on ‘moving forward’ serves as a source of inspiration for you, as you move toward the goals you have set for this year. Below are a few of my favourite books that discuss in full (or in part) the idea of Moving Forward:


Failing Forward, by John C. Maxwell


How Resilience Works, by Diane L. Coutu

(Found in the Harvard Business Review Book: On Managing Yourself)


Authentic Success, by Robert Holden


Thinking For A Change, by John C. Maxwell



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