This is inauguration weekend in Washington. There's a feeling of anticipation in the air, because even though there will be a continuity of leadership at the Presidential level, many changes are in the works: new cabinet appointments, new ambassador assignments, and perhaps (may it come to pass!) a fresh approach to some of the governance problems that have stymied progress on so many fronts. Despite past disappointments and setbacks, the inauguration will, I suspect, instill a renewed sense of possibility in a lot of people who have lost their optimism. Indeed "to inaugurate" means: "to make a formal beginning of; initiate; commence; begin," according to dictionary.com.
The moderately well-known English writer Arnold Bennett made a wonderfully wise pronouncement about the potential of new beginnings: “The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.”
This is a fact (that's right, a FACT) that is opaque to most people. Time tends to be thought of as linear and continuous. In fact it is composed of an infite number of moments, any one of which can be a turning point. But turning points can't exist when self-defeating narratives take hold. I dealt with a powerful one this morning in a phone session I had, a lengthy conversation with a client who moved away from DC after failing to achieve the success he had hoped to gain as a senior executive in a major corporation. Well over a year after leaving his position he is still haunted by the belief that he blew the chance of a lifetime, and dwells on that conclusion, which causes him to be despairing. This despite having landed a good position at at a smaller, less prominent company. The despair and the "demotion" are preventing him from excelling to the degree he should in his new position.
Last night I encountered another self-defeating narrative: a prospective client, a senior government employee in her early 40s, divorced with no children, e-mailed me in part:
"I'm trapped. I hate my job but I haven't got a clue what I'm meant to do. I go to work and I'm miserable. I come home and I'm miserable".
As best I can tell the only thing trapping her is her perspective on her situation. From that perspective she will be unable to summon up the energy needed to change her situation, but even if she were the choices she would make would be skewed by her negative mindset. As her perspective shifts (and, with my help, it will) she will be able to start investigating ways of making her current situation more bearable at the same time that she investigates alternative career paths.
Let me suggest that if you find yourself stuck in a negative way of thinking about some aspect of your life, whether your career, your relationship, your financial situation, or your health, experiment with shifting your perspective on it. Imagine looking at it after having made love, or during a vacation at the beach. Or back on it from a point in the future. Or from the perspective of a homeless person. Would it feel as depressing? Does your spouse, your child, or your friend look at it in the same way as you?
Past disappointments or setbacks, or current obstacles, will only rob you of your future if you allow them to. Every moment has the potential to inaugurate a shift in your trajectory, a new beginning.