I know at least four talented, smart nonprofit professionals in my community who lost their job during the past two years. That’s a difficult thing to endure.
Life is continually changing and evolving. Sometimes things end. We lose something important; we get fired; we are rejected. We can look at this as a door that closes.*
However, the end of one thing is the beginning of another. We can choose to stay focused on what is not here anymore (the doors that closed) or to be aware of the new doors that are open before us.
Optimism is about focusing on promising new things despite our loss. It’s holding a favorable view of the future while noting that some doors have closed. We can then turn the closed door into something beneficial.
Can you find something positive about a loss that you’ve experienced? Did a door open for you?
Why a shift in our thinking helps
We want to be more aware that the end of something also is the beginning of another thing. We can let go of our hurt or disappointment to make room for something new, something wonderful, and something joyous. We can choose to see the potential that lies ahead.
This requires a shift in thinking, from focusing on what we’ve lost, to looking at what we’ve gained.
This shift also allows us to examine why it’s been challenging for us to adopt this optimistic outlook. What’s holding us back? We can develop a more positive outlook on life and prepare for future door-closing events by examining our thinking and developing more insight on our behavior and our beliefs.
Talking about what we’ve lost, or our job that ended, or the relationship that’s painful to remember can be difficult and emotional. Our loss is real. Our sadness or hurt is justified.
The goal of talking through our loss is not to downplay the negative thing that’s happened to us, but to develop awareness of the positive potential as a result. To find the goodness and possibility in a world that can be painful at times.
A simple exercise
Think about a time in your life when you were rejected, when you missed out on something important, or when your dreams were squashed. These are points in your life when a door closed.
Now think about what happened next. What doors opened? What would have never happened if the first door hadn’t closed?
Write down these experiences. List as many experiences as you can.
The door that closed on me was: ________________________
The door that opened for me was: _______________________
Now, reflect upon your experiences:
- What were the effects of the door closing?
- How long did it take you to realize that a new door was open?
- Was it easy or hard for you to realize that a new door was open?
- What can you do next time to recognize a new opportunity sooner?
- What did you learn from the door closing?
- Did anyone help you open a new door? What did they do?
- How can you take your experience and help others?
I’ve found that the best and most exciting open doors for me came after a door slammed in my face. But that thinking didn’t happen automatically. I had to sit with the hurt for a while before I could move forward. Finding someone I could trust to talk to and process the experience really helped.
There is potential and promise out there if you’re willing to see it.
Let’s look for open doors together
If you’ve had a door slam shut and you’re trying to find the new open door, I would love to hear your story. If you’re interested, I’ll share my story of the closed door and the open door with you.
*Seligman, M.E.P. (2006). Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life. Vintage Books.