life goes onOrson Welles said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you end your story.”  Life is full of ups and downs, and it’s easy to forget that everything is temporary.  Both the painful moments and the joyful ones pass.  Life goes on.

We can greatly reduce our suffering in life by remembering the impermanence of things and letting them go.  It’s easier said than done, however, we can get better with practice.

Have you ever done something embarrassing in front of a crowd of people you know or screwed up publicly at work (for example, hit “Reply All” by mistake)?  Chances are you replayed that moment over and over in your head, torturing yourself about how silly you looked or worrying what others thought of you.  Perhaps the replay of the memory kept you up at night or made you avoid certain people for a while.

The reality is, most people will forget about the incident pretty quickly, and after some time passes, you will forget about the incident, too.  It may even become a funny story you share with others.

I recall one of my first big meetings at a new job where I walked into the crowded conference room and very noticeably tripped over the cord for the projector.  Funny story now, mortifying experience then.  I couldn’t make eye contact with my colleagues for days and was certain everyone had written me off as an idiot.

Well, my career didn’t end and life went on just fine.  Thinking back, I wish I hadn’t let it get to me and take away my confidence.  Here are some strategies I use now to help me through those trip ups in life:

–          Keep the saying “this too shall pass” in an accessible place.  It is sometimes hard to remember at the times when we need it most.

–          Ask yourself, will this matter 3 years from now?  Humans are incredibly resilient and we are built to forget pain.  Just ask any woman who bore children.

–          Laugh at yourself.  Being human makes you more likable.  Who wants to be around someone who is perfect?  We relate with people more deeply when we reveal our flaws.

–          Apologize.  If the painful situation involves hurting someone, take responsibility and make amends.  It takes courage to admit you’re wrong.  Chances are people will remember your character in taking ownership and being a stand-up person over the mistake.

–          Let it go.  With the flood of information on the Internet, television, social media, and everywhere else, today’s viral news will be tomorrow’s forgotten history.  You’re likely the only one who is holding onto the memory and making it more than it really is.

–          Gain perspective.  If no one died, there are probably worse things.  Most situations are never as bad as they seem.  Surround yourself with friends who can remind you of the bigger picture.

–          Embrace it.   Tony Robbins says, “Success is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is usually the result of experience. Experience is usually the result of bad judgment.”  We often learn the most in life when things don’t work out as planned.  Take what you can from an experience, let the rest go.

Have a situation that you look back on now and laugh about?  Share it on the blog. You may help make someone else’s day.

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