“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
We all need second chances. This isn’t a perfect world. We’re not perfect people. I’m probably on my 1000th second chance right now and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Because even though I’ve failed a lot, it means I’ve tried a lot too.
We rarely get things right the first time. Almost every major accomplishment in a person’s life starts with the decision to try again and again – to get up after every failed attempt and give it another shot.
The only difference between an opportunity and an obstacle is attitude. Getting a second chance in life is about giving yourself the opportunity to grow beyond your past failures. It’s about positively adjusting your attitude toward future possibilities. Here’s how:
1. Let go of the past.
What’s done is done. When life throws us nasty curve balls it typically doesn’t make any sense to us, and our natural emotional reaction might be to get extremely upset and scream obscenities at the top of our lungs. But how does this help our dilemma? Obviously, it doesn’t.
The smartest, and oftentimes hardest, thing we can do in these kinds of situations is to be more tempered in our reactions. To want to scream obscenities, but to be wiser and more disciplined than that. To remember that emotional rage only makes matters worse. And to remember that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger.
Every difficult moment in our lives is accompanied by an opportunity for personal growth and creativity. But in order to attain this growth and creativity, we must first learn to let go of the past. We must recognize that difficulties pass like everything else in life. And once they pass, all we’re left with are our unique experiences and the lessons required to make a better attempt next time.
2. Identify the lesson.
Everything is a life lesson. Everyone you meet, everything you encounter, etc. They’re all part of the learning experience we call ‘life.’
Never forget to acknowledge the lesson, especially when things don’t go your way. If you don’t get a job you wanted or a relationship doesn’t work, it only means something better is out there waiting. And the lesson you just learned is the first step towards it.
3. Lose the negative attitude.
Negative thinking creates negative results. Positive thinking creates positive results. Period.
Every one of the other suggestions in this article is irrelevant if your mind is stuck in the gutter. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. The mind must believe it can do something before it is capable of actually doing it. For some practical positive thinking guidance I recommend reading The Power of Positive Thinking.
4. Accept accountability for your current situation.
Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will. And when they do, you’ll become a slave to their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own.
You are the only one who can directly control the outcome of your life. And no, it won’t always be easy. Every person has a stack of obstacles in front of them. You must take accountability for your situation and overcome these obstacles. Choosing not to is giving up.
5. Focus on the things you can change.
Some forces are out of your control. The best thing you can do is do the best with what’s in front of you with the resources you do have access to.
Wasting your time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration, misery and stagnation. Invest your energy in the things you can change.
6. Figure out what you really want.
You’ll be running on a hamster wheel forever if you never decide where you want to go. Figure out what’s meaningful to you so you can be who you were born to be.
Some of us were born to be musicians – to communicate intricate thoughts and rousing feelings with the strings of a guitar. Some of us were born to be poets – to touch people’s hearts with exquisite prose. Some of us were born to be entrepreneurs – to create growth and opportunity where others saw rubbish. And still, some of us were born to be or do whatever it is, specifically, that moves you.
Don’t quit just because you didn’t get it right on your first shot. And don’t waste your life fulfilling someone else’s dreams and desires. You must follow your intuition and make a decision to never give up on who you are capable of becoming.
7. Eliminate the non-essential.
First, identify the essential – the things in your life that matter most to you. Then eliminate the fluff. This drastically simplifies things and leaves you with a clean slate – a fresh, solid foundation to build upon without needless interferences. This process works with any aspect of your life – work projects, relationships, general to-do lists, etc.
Remember, you can’t accomplish anything if you’re trying to accomplish everything. Concentrate on the essential. Get rid of the rest. The Joy of Less is a great read on this topic.
8. Be very specific.
When you set new goals for yourself, try to be as specific as possible. “I want to lose twenty pounds” is a goal you can aim to achieve. “I want to lose weight” is not. Knowing the specific measurements of what you want to achieve is the only way you will ever get to the end result you desire.
Also, be specific with your actions too. “I will exercise” is not actionable. It’s far too vague. “I will take a 30 minute jog every weekday at 6PM” is something you can actually do – something you can build a routine around – something you can measure.
9. Concentrate on DOING instead of NOT DOING.
“Don’t think about eating that chocolate donut!” What are you thinking about now? Eating that chocolate donut, right? When you concentrate on not thinking about something, you end up thinking about it.
The same philosophy holds true when it comes to breaking our bad habits. By relentlessly trying not to do something, we end up thinking about it so much that we subconsciously provoke ourselves to cheat – to do the exact thing we are trying not to do.
Instead of concentrating on eliminating bad habits, concentrate on creating good habits (that just happen to replace the bad ones). For instance, if you’re trying to eliminate snacking on junk food, you might create a new mental habit like this: “At 3PM each day, about the time I’m usually ready for a snack, I will eat five whole wheat crackers.” After a few weeks or months of concentrating on this good habit it will become part of your routine. You’ll start doing the right thing without even thinking about it.
10. Create a daily routine.
It’s so simple, but creating a daily routine for yourself can change your life. The most productive routines, I’ve found, come at the start and end of the day – both your workday and your day in general. That means, develop a routine for when you wake up, for when you first start working, for when you finish your work, and for the hour or two before you go to sleep.
Doing so will help you start each day on point, and end each day in a way that prepares you for tomorrow. It will help you focus on the important stuff, instead of the distractions that keep popping up. And most importantly, it will help you make steady progress – which is what second chances are all about.
11. Maintain self-control and work on it for real.
The harder you work the luckier you will become. Stop waiting around for things to work out. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.
While many of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us actually work on it. By “working on it,” I mean truly devoting oneself to the end result. The rest of us never act on our decision. Or, at best, we pretend to act on it by putting forth an uninspired, half-assed effort.
If you want a real second chance, you’ve got to be willing to give it all you got. No slacking off! This means you have to strengthen and maintain your self-control. The best way I’ve found to do this is to take one small bite of the elephant at a time. Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they arise. For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, come up with a list of healthy snacks you can eat when you get the craving for snacks. It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier. And that’s the whole point. As your strength grows, you can take on bigger challenges.
Remember, life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Achieving your dreams can be a lot of work, even the second time around. Be ready for it. Read Getting Things Done for some practical guidance in this arena.
12. Forget about impressing people.
So many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know. Or some variation thereof…
Don’t be one of these people. It’s a waste of time. And it’s probably one of the reasons you need a second chance in the first place.
Just keep doing what you know is right. And if it doesn’t work, adjust your approach and try again. You’ll get there eventually.