A common question I get asked by clients is “Why did X period of my life have to happen?”  It’s usually something that took 5/10/20 years, seems from the perspective of cultural norms to have been a failure to achieve the standard goal, and to have nothing to do with the current phase of life that the client is in or not be related in any way to what they want out of life.  They feel it was wasted time and effort and could have been avoided, either because it was a mistake of some sort or because it hasn’t connected in a straight line, cause and effect way to their perceived goals and ambitions.

And I get that.  Why spend 5 years in a relationship that ends when we’re told that it should bring us happiness, last ‘forever’ bring children and family and fulfill all of our needs and wants, but ends in disaster instead?  Why dedicate yourself to a religion that ends up either disappointing you or expelling you or both when it should give you all the answers?  Why get all this education and experience to find that there is no job for you in your field or that the jobs available are so hard on you that you can’t cope being in them when they should feed your soul and propel you to abundance and happiness?  Yep, it’s a conundrum and yet it’s not.  At least not usually.  And while it can sometimes be a process of finding the silver lining in things, many times it’s really about stepping back from your expectations about the outcome of the event and looking at it from a completely different perspective.

First of all, let’s jettison the notion that just because the event didn’t meet goals we are told it should, that it was a mistake.  Throw it into a pile of judgements that we’ll haul out to the trash in a moment.  Labeling something a mistake is a judgement, not a fact.  Let’s avoid those for the moment.  Also, let’s throw out the concepts of “wasted time” and all those goals that society and culture say should come out of these events.  Again, those are judgements and expectations that will just get people hung up and unable to actually scrutinize the events.  Once all of that is out in the ‘to be trashed’ heap, then we can actually look at the event.  Many times these things happen because we need to learn something or develop in some way in order to achieve something else.  Think about this in terms of chess.  You have been looking at your life 1-2 moves ahead, but your planning is 12 moves ahead and you are playing the long game.  That relationship, how much did it help you create boundaries and independence and help you to create a sense of self that you can now share with a partner in a healthy way?  Would you have had that otherwise?  How much did you learn about your spirituality and your understanding of how the world works, politically and socially as well as spiritually through your struggles with your religious institution?  Would you have opened yourself up in new ways if you hadn’t?  Would you have questioned and searched and developed if you hadn’t been spurred on through that struggle?  How much courage would it have taken for you to take that professional leap of faith and move into a completely new career path if you hadn’t been barred and frustrated in the first one?  Would you have done it at all?

Sometimes the things we go through seem random and disjointed, can seem like mistakes or failures or huge digressions and wastes of time in our lives, but those are judgements we place on them.  Take a look at them, not as ends in themselves, but as education, skill building processes, and stages or development that get you closer to your goal of living an authentic, meaningful and even happy life.  I’m not saying that this will take away from your need to use the voodoo doll with the pins every once in a while or will stop that nagging urge to throw darts at the picture of your previous boss’s face, and why should you? 🙂  But it can really help you to stop negatively judging yourself and allow you to see yourself as a work in progress whose life is not as random as it might seem.