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Many years ago when I was going through divorce, followed by a career change, I had no idea how things were going to work out. The unknown was intimidating to say the least. I was afraid that I might make a wrong decision that would threaten not only my future, but my kids as well. No doubt, it was a dark period for all of us.
Have you ever been in a dark place? Perhaps you’re there right now. Your darkness may be a career loss, an illness, a death of a loved one, or a failed relationship. I understand your fear of the unknown. I was there too. Maybe like me, you realize that remaining stuck in a dark place is not good. The longer you’re in it, the more it can feel permanent. The effect of the darkness can eat away at your soul. You feel like you’re dying on the inside.
Residing in a dark place is not good. You may be at risk for problems like depression, anxiety, dependency on drugs, alcohol, or some other form of impulsive behavior. These things compound the problems you already face. By far, the greatest risk is a loss of self. You can become disconnected to your true self.
I know I was there when I was in my dark place. Fortunately, I did not linger long enough to compound my problems with poor coping strategies. Instead, I found the courage to enter a brighter future by following a different path.
Let me share with you 5 steps into a bright future after a dark past.
Be sure to check out the podcast version by clicking the button above. I go deeper into my process by sharing how my faith played a key role in the 5 steps below.
See your circumstances as a temporary place, not a permanent residence
You have a choice about how you look at your past or present circumstances. Are you planning to live in it? Or, are you going through it? If it is a permanent residence the future may be dim. On the other hand, if you choose to put distance between your past, plan for brighter days ahead.
You don’t have to remain stuck. Consider your past a chapter, not a finished book about your life.
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Pack up the lessons you learned because you will need them for the future
Dark periods in life are difficult. Yet they also offer lessons to learn. I learned a lot about myself when I was going through divorce. It was clear to me that I had to change things about me if I wanted a brighter future. Being a people-pleaser was not as admirable as I thought.
Going through difficult times affords you the opportunity to learn what matters to you. What lessons have your learned in your experience of hardship? Pack these up and take them with you as you move forward to a brighter future.
Muster the courage to leave your past so you can enter your future
Some people stay in a dark place thinking that it will eventually become brighter. Circumstances don’t usually change on their own. You have a decision to make. Is your circumstance a permanent residence or will you choose a new path?
Fear of the unknown is often a deterrent to action. “What if I find I made a wrong decision? How do I know it will work out?”
Sound familiar? I can relate too.
One of the things that helped my decision was a statement by Dr. Richard Dobbins, a prominent psychologist.
People change when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.
Pain is an informant. It tells us something is wrong. If the pain of remaining stuck hurts more over time, maybe it’s time to do something about it. Muster your courage to act. Face your fear of the unknown.
Consider the opportunities a bright future holds for you
Dark events are often a prelude to future opportunities. Losing a job may be a stepping stone to a new career for you. I know someone who experienced a painful loss of an untimely death of a teenager. She is going back to school and plans to establish a career in mental health working with families. One of the bright spots of my journey is entering a new career. Some of the things I achieved were not on my radar screen.
Understand this. Within every person is untapped potential: latent skills, abilities, and passions. When you muster the courage to step into a brighter future, this part of you is activated. Be prepared for new experiences, opportunities, people, and places.
Face forward, move your feet, and don’t look back
Once you choose your path forward, muster your courage, pack up your lessons, and step into your bright future. Feelings of fear are normal. Just keep moving your feet! Self-doubt and fear of the unknown will greet you on the path but you must proceed forward.
The further you walk along the path to your future, the brighter it will become. Your confidence will grow as you problem-solve one decision after another. Your untapped skills and abilities will surface. You will meet new people to add to the group of those who already support you. Things will finally start falling into place and you will notice that the pain of the past hurts much less these days.
Now for what you may find along the path
Here are some things you may encounter along the path that confirms you made the right decision.
- Peace about your decision
- Confidence about your future
- Serendipities that confirm you are on the right path
- New people, places, and experiences
- A sense of purpose and deeper meaning
- The ability to influence and inspire others to authentic living
Now it’s Your Turn
Are you stuck in a dark past? Is your present circumstance a permanent residence of emptiness? Look over the 5 steps to a bright future. What’s your next step?