I interviewed Jay Coughlan on my radio show last month about the worst part of his life. He joked about his hard upbringing: “In our neighborhood,” he says, “A few kids were going to Penn State, but even more were going to the state pen.” In high school, Jay says he was combination of a hoodlum and an underachiever. But then, years later, after achieving some significant success, the unthinkable happened. He and his father stayed out one-night drinking went to drive home. They never made it. Jay’s father died in the accident, and Jay was severely injured. To make things worse, when he got out of the hospital, Jay was facing four years in prison for vehicular manslaughter.
In Jay’s book, “Five Bold Choices”, he asks the question:
How can we choose not to be defined by the worst moment of our life?
Along with my successes, I have suffered from my share of setbacks. In May 1995, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I quickly spun out of control into depression and anxiety. At that time, I kept thinking to myself: Is this the way I am now going to define my life?
There have been other failures, bad partnerships, lost big business deals, and lawsuits. When I go through these tough times, it’s the only thing I go to bed thinking about, then dream about it and still wake up again pondering the entire next day. My world just collapses in on itself. This is when it becomes nearly impossible to let go.
But to move forward in our lives and businesses, we must get unstuck. We need to give ourselves a new chance at success. Here is where to start:
Have a pity party and “cheer the darkness”. Feel really sorry for yourself. Don’t cheat on this moment. Really wallow in it so you can get it out of your system!
Let go. Being a victim may feel good, but it does not help long term. You don’t have to stay where you are. Realize there are always choices and options in the future if you are willing to consider different possibilities. You are the only one that can move you forward.
Take action. Determine one small action you can take to move from your current place. It doesn’t have to be significant, just something to take you to a new place.
You don’t have to be your history. You are not what happened to you. While the past can’t be changed, the future still can. Come up of with a new definition how you want to define your life and the contribution that you still want to make.
How have you not let the worst thing in your life define you?