Tips for Fishing and Living #25

Tip # 25:

“May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it.

                                                                                  Irish Blessing

Stephen found his 41-year-old life bottoming out. His wife of ten years was leaving him, and she was also fighting for sole custody of their two children. At the same time his business was in the tank, with his business partners suing him. It wasn’t surprising that Stephen was in a tailspin. He felt overwhelmed and depressed.

Out of desperation he went for counseling, at first to blame and to vent.

“The whole world is out to screw me over,” he stated emphatically.

Eventually, by staying with the therapy he began to shift and take a hard look at several things he did that had percolated much of this present mess. After a while, he even saw that he was chiefly responsible for creating this life. He recognized how the cumulative effect of many decisions he had made, things he ignored, and those things he didn’t resolve adequately, all contributed to his present disarrayed state.

With hard work, persistence and some openness to coaching, Stephen came to own the part he had played. Some things were not in his control; but there was much that was. This was both sobering. It was also hope filled. He could now see some things he could do something about. With this new found hope he began to move his present life forward with new possibilities.

With the continued support Stephen utilized his “terrible” life as a spring board for a better one. It took time; there wasn’t some “quick-fix.” But he started making small shifts that resulted in an overall better feeling. This began to build steam and further his positive efforts.

First he cleaned up some of the messes he had either initiated or fueled, beginning with his wife. She would not stop the divorce, but he got her to see they could co-parent their children rather than keep fighting over them. Each desired their children have both a mother and a father so they agreed to take co-parenting classes in order to learn how to communicate better, and compromise for the sake of their children.

He also re-started his career, using lessons he had gained from his so-called failed business. He made some new agreements with his now former business partners, by owning his past failures with them. This humility and wisdom drew newer business relationships toward his latest enterprise.

When we do things well we learn very little. We’ll celebrate. We party. But usually we don’t learn anything substantial. When we “fail” and make mistakes we are provided with great opportunities and access for wisdom. It is up to us to exploit these opportunities in the very best sense. If we don’t, we’re doomed to keep repeating them.

Ted Williams, someone who knew a lot about hitting home runs, once said:

“If you’re in a slump, don’t swing harder, change your stance.”

Most of us are inclined to keep swinging harder.

What would changing my stance look like?

How would I do this?

First, we need to get to a place where we STOP. And then, PONDER.

Then we can ask new questions; better questions:

“What can I take from this life lesson?”

“What is available and useful for me in this seemingly disastrous situation?   

We can also ask ourselves:

“What’s good about this situation?”

 It’s not that we wanted this crisis or upset to have occurred; but now that it has, what can we glean from it?

‘What is the possible lesson here for me?’

 I have met with many engaged couples where one, or both, was previously married, divorced, and about to marry a new person.

Invariably I would ask the divorced person,

“What did you learn from your break up?”

No one goes into a marriage hoping for it to fall apart. But when it does, there are useful lessons to learn, or “takeaways,” that are invaluable.

 If they say to me something like:

“I learned don’t ever marry a jerk,” I know they haven’t grown much, and are likely about to repeat the same mistakes again.

 However, if they say something like:

“I learned that at that time in my life I was attracted to “jerks,” or they speak of being so needy, or desperate to get out of their parent’s house, and either missed or overlooked various red flags regarding this other person,” then I know they are in a radically better place regarding their new pending marriage.

 We are all wounded healers, or as I often say, a work in progress. If we are earnest about growing we can keep a look out for our various blind spots. These are things we don’t readily see, or even want to see. They might be our “holes in the net.” Humility and gratitude bring us farther along our pathway toward growth. If we take on that everything is a blessing we can be predisposed to utilizing life as providing us with exactly what we need. Whatever shows up in our lives are possible opportunities.

 Sometimes we fantasize about having a life free from burdens, and even imagining such a life as possible. Then we go about trying to figure out how to construct such a life. There is only one way to do so: It’s called being “flat-lined.” In other words, we are dead.

 Until then, the ups and downs of our life serve a great purpose. They are a means for us to grow. Life without challenges is unrealistic. It precludes the possibility for true maturity. From this perspective, mistakes are important, even essential.

 We’d be better to not think in terms of “mistakes.” Instead, think of these as “learning opportunities.” A breakthrough can only occur when we are in a break down. We call this a paradigm shift.

 So here’s a crazy idea: If you really are interested in growing and in gaining wisdom, the next time you find yourself in a particular jam, instead of getting bummed out about it, tell yourself:

“Wow! I’ve never seen an opportunity like this before.”

You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste.