but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
We all need second chances. This isn’t a perfect world. We’re not perfect people. I’m probably on my 1000th second chance right now and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Because even though I’ve failed a lot, it means I’ve tried a lot too.
We rarely get things right the first time. Almost every major accomplishment in a person’s life starts with the decision to try again and again – to get up after every failed attempt and give it another shot.
The only difference between an opportunity and an obstacle is attitude. Getting a second chance in life is about giving yourself the opportunity to grow beyond your past failures. It’s about positively adjusting your attitude toward future possibilities.
1. Let go of the past.
What’s done is done. When life throws us nasty curveballs it typically doesn’t make any sense to us, and our natural emotional reaction might be to get extremely upset and scream obscenities at the top of our lungs. But how does this help our dilemma? Obviously, it doesn’t.
The smartest, and oftentimes hardest, thing we can do in these kinds of situations is to be more tempered in our reactions. To want to scream obscenities, but to wiser and more disciplined than that. To remember that emotional rage only makes matters worse. And to remember that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger.
Every difficult moment in our lives is accompanied by an opportunity for personal growth and creativity. But in order to attain this growth and creativity, we must first learn to let go of the past. We must recognize that difficulties pass like everything else in life. And once they pass, all we’re left with are our unique experiences and the lessons required two make a better attempt next time.
2. Identify the lesson.
Everything is a life lesson. Everyone you meet, everything you encounter, etc. They’re all part of the learning experience we call ‘life.’
Never forget to acknowledge the lesson, especially when things don’t go your way. If you don’t get a job you wanted or a relationship doesn’t work, it only means something better is out there waiting. And the lesson you just learned is the first step towards it.
Every one of the other suggestions in this article is irrelevant if your mind is stuck in the gutter. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. The mind must believe it can do something before it is capable of actually doing it.
4. Accept accountability for your current situation.
Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will. And when they do, you’ll become a slave to their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own.
You are the only one who can directly control the outcome of your life. And no, it won’t always be easy. Every person has a stack of obstacles in front of them. You must take accountability for your situation and overcome these obstacles. Choosing not to is giving up.
5. Focus on the things you can change.
Some forces are out of your control. The best thing you can do is do the best with what’s in front of you with the resources you do have access to.
Wasting your time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration, misery and stagnation. Invest your energy in the things you can change.
6. Figure out what you really want.
You’ll be running on a hamster wheel forever if you never decide where you want to go. Figure out what’s meaningful to you so you can be who you were born to be.
Some of us were born to be musicians – to communicate intricate thoughts and rousing feelings with the strings of a guitar. Some of us were born to be poets – to touch people’s hearts with exquisite prose. Some of us were born to be entrepreneurs – to create growth and opportunity where others saw rubbish. And still, some of us were born to be or do whatever it is, specifically, that moves you.
Don’t quit just because you didn’t get it right on your first shot. And don’t waste your life fulfilling someone else’s dreams and desires. You must follow your intuition and make a decision to never give up on who you are capable of becoming.
7. Eliminate the non-essential.
First, identify the essential – the things in your life that matter most to you. Then eliminate the fluff. This drastically simplifies things and leaves you with a clean slate – a fresh, solid foundation to build upon without needless interferences. This process works with any aspect of your life – work projects, relationships, general to-do lists, etc.
Remember, you can’t accomplish anything if you’re trying to accomplish everything. Concentrate on the essential. Get rid of the rest.
8. Be very specific.
When you set new goals for yourself, try to be as specific as possible. “I want to lose twenty pounds” is a goal you can aim to achieve. “I want to lose weight” is not. Knowing the specific measurements of what you want to achieve is the only way you will ever get to the end result you desire.
Also, be specific with your actions too. “I will exercise” is not actionable. It’s far too vague. “I will take a 30 minute jog every weekday at 6PM” is something you can actually do – something you can build a routine around – something you can measure.
9. Concentrate on DOING instead of NOT DOING.
“Don’t think about eating that chocolate donut!” What are you thinking about now? Eating that chocolate donut, right? When you concentrate on not thinking about something, you end up thinking about it.
The same philosophy holds true when it comes to breaking our bad habits. By relentlessly trying not to do something, we end up thinking about it so much that we subconsciously provoke ourselves to cheat – to do the exact thing we are trying not to do.
Instead of concentrating on eliminating bad habits, concentrate on creating good habits (that just happen to replace the bad ones). For instance, if you’re trying to eliminate snacking on junk food, you might create a new mental habit like this: “At 3PM each day, about the time I’m usually ready for a snack, I will eat five whole wheat crackers.” After a few weeks or months of concentrating on this good habit it will become part of your routine. You’ll start doing the right thing without even thinking about it.
10. Create a daily routine.
It’s so simple, but creating a daily routine for yourself can change your life. The most productive routines, I’ve found, come at the start and end of the day – both your workday and your day in general. That means, develop a routine for when you wake up, for when you first start working, for when you finish your work, and for the hour or two before you go to sleep.
Doing so will help you start each day on point, and end each day in a way that prepares you for tomorrow. It will help you focus on the important stuff, instead of the distractions that keep popping up. And most importantly, it will help you make steady progress – which is what second chances are all about.
11. Maintain self-control and work on it for real.
The harder you work the luckier you will become. Stop waiting around for things to work out. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.
While many of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us actually work on it. By “working on it,” I mean truly devoting oneself to the end result. The rest of us never act on our decision. Or, at best, we pretend to act on it by putting forth an uninspired, half-assed effort.
If you want a real second chance, you’ve got to be willing to give it all you got. No slacking off! This means you have to strengthen and maintain your self-control. The best way I’ve found to do this is to take one small bite of the elephant at a time. Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they arise. For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, come up with a list of healthy snacks you can eat when you get the craving for snacks. It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier. And that’s the whole point. As your strength grows, you can take on bigger challenges.
Remember, life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Achieving your dreams can be a lot of work, even the second time around. Be ready for it.
12. Forget about impressing people.
So many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know. Or some variation thereof…
Don’t be one of these people. It’s a waste of time. And it’s probably one of the reasons you need a second chance in the first place.
Just keep doing what you know is right. And if it doesn’t work, adjust your approach and try again. You’ll get there eventually.
What to Do When You Love Someone Who Hurts You
By Lauren Erickson-Viereck
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ~Pema Chödrön
There is a person in my life who I love with all my heart, but in this relationship I struggle to keep a full cup myself. They are family, the situation is complicated and tender. But learning to have compassion for this other person begins with having compassion for myself.
A nasty divorce spanning most of my childhood set the stage for our current situation. My mother was deeply emotionally wounded by my father, and carried that pain into her parenting of my sister and me.
Contact with the ex (my dad) dropped to nil—maybe a week a year, far below what the court had decided.
Any efforts on our parts to connect with our absent parent, even recounting fond memories, were seen by our mother as attacks on her legitimacy and a discounting of her pain. And what emotional intimacy we shared was often exploited—it kept us locked into the family unit, not believing we could have our needs filled elsewhere, least of all with our absentee father.
A few short years prior, I felt part of a happy, perfect family. Suddenly one parent was effectively gone. My relationship with the other became a labyrinth of confusion—love down this path, hurt down the other, and at my young age I couldn’t find the rhyme or reason to it.
Childhood gifted me a number of unhealthy survival mechanisms, which still follow me around today: a deep fear of conflict (because conflict often meant someone would leave), constant apologies and guilt for things I’m not truly responsible for, and a voice in the back of my mind telling me no matter what I do, who I am, who I become, it will never be enough.
Growing up, I realize that those mindsets that helped me survive as a child, in the trenches of grief, inadequacy, and parental loss, no longer served me. Becoming a healthier person showed me howunhealthy this particular relationship really was.
Healing with my mom—communication about the past, forgiveness, and moving on together—has not taken place. Attempts to bring up my own hurt and pain are minimized and shut down. My words, invariably, have been met with responses like “I can’t do this right now, it’s a bad time,” “I can’t believe you’d do this to me,” or “It all came from a place of love.”
So, in interactions with my mother, I keep my guard up. I know she still hurts, and seems timelessly stuck in her own grief, but it would take a great degree of emotional wholeness on my part to absorb each new wound with simple forgiveness and empathy. I see where my path might point toward such healing in the future, but we’re not there yet.
Many of us have experienced relationships like this: someone we love acts toward us in ways that continually damage.
It’s one thing to forgive and move on from a wound we received in the past, and another animal entirely when we get hurt again and again, in the same place, a scab not quite healed over before it’s ripped off again.
We all have histories, wounds, scars. Most people carry deep tender spots that have never truly healed, and some use all their actions to self-protect. The fear of vulnerability leads them to cover those places, distract from those places.
Attempts to wear the heaviest of armor results in getting “bitter” rather than “better,” and those who are too thick-skinned start to lose their delicate abilities to empathize. They project their fear of getting hurt into decisions that may themselves, unintentionally or intentionally, cause others to suffer.
Here lies the difficulty: in a relationship with someone who continues to act in hurtful ways, how do we toe the line between loving them and interacting with compassion, and protecting our own heart?
We can save no one but ourselves.
Real shifts in our psyche, our inner being, do not come from outside pushes. Change will never stick unless the changer is ready. Our worldly circumstances will nudge us here and there, and we ultimately respond by either softening or embittering our vision, our paradigms.
If we’ve allowed experience to push us toward a scared, closed off, hardened heart, things can only be different when we are ready to make our own intentional choice to be different.
We cannot throw another person over our back, or carry them in our arms through the fire. That cannot be our job. Be there for them, be support, hold space in time of need, even be a guide when asked. But always, the true work will be theirs alone.
Being love does not mean being a doormat.
Compassion for others begins with compassion for ourselves. Loving someone should not mean getting hurt time and again. There will always be need for forgiveness, but not at the cost of healthy boundaries. Here, love might mean taking a step back.
I’ve realized that sometimes, forgiveness is not about absolving someone of their actions—it means we have given ourselves permission to move on with our lives, deciding “what you did no longer holds power over me.” It’s okay, necessary even, to set up firebreaks, to say, “Enough.”
We can’t resolve hurts from unstable ground.
If someone has hurt you, chances are they’re suffering themselves. When both parties feel pain that they believe the other caused, they will already be on the defensive. I believe the only place from which we can work through those old woundings is one of stability, of love and trust.
Yet closure in the sense of reconciliation, communication, and healing together may never happen. If someone doesn’t believe they have wronged you, arguing your point will only drive the relationship rift further apart.
If we can find common ground in our love and words, it’s possible to move forward together into resolution of hurts. But if one party isn’t ready to look at themselves truthfully and engage in painfully open communication, resolution must come a different way.
Putting things to rest can be one-sided.
Here’s the tough truth: closure won’t come from someone else. It happens when we are ready to let things go.
In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes uses the concept ofdescansos, death-markers, the white crosses seen on the side of roads in the West and Southwest, as a metaphor for marking, blessing, and moving on from trauma, grief, little “deaths” in our lives.
By tenderly identifying our own descansos—things in our lives which haven’t gone as planned, dreams we’ve had to leave behind, expectations we’ve put aside in exchange for the truth—we give ourselves a unique means for closure.
“Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos, the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived…
Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.” – Clarissa Pinkola-Estes
Surround yourself with people who love you.
This one is easily said but sometimes complicated to walk out. Family doesn’t always go hand in hand with blood: people we are related to may never truly be good for us, while the friends we’ve chosen might be more dear and positively impactful than any relatives.
A great relationship inspires and brings out the best in us, and the love shared there has few strings attached.
Great friendships should be sounding boards for the good and the bad in our lives. We need people to see our inner truths, hold our hands in the dark times, exhort us in times of abundance—and we must recognize those people as gifts.
These are hard lessons for me. It is sad to let go of a fairy-tale ideal, what I expected this relationship to look like.
But after a process of grieving, it can be so much healthier and more fulfilling to live with reality, to send out love without expectation of what we “should” get in return, to have compassion for someone without a constant eye for what they “should” do for us.
We take back our power, creating graceful resolution for the future where it wasn’t available in the past.
May we all learn to love without contingency; in the meantime, may we learn to walk our path in self-compassion. Loving ourselves is our dawn into the light of truly loving others.