We know we work the best when we have a peaceful mind, a place devoid of clutter and noise. But sometimes the echoes of our past failures fill our thoughts and crowd out the focus and clarity we need to move forward.

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart." - Francis of Assisi

We all have these echoes of past failure: the times we thought we had something great and it fell apart, the times we did our best and it did not measure up, or the times something unexpected wrecked our plans completely. Normally, our minds use various ways to frame the past, both the good and the bad. Through internal narratives and filters, we amplify the positive and mute the negative to make us feel better about ourselves. 

But for a moment, let's reverse the settings on those knobs. Let the negative get a little louder and the positive get a little quieter. Now go look hard at those times we came up small or short. Is there a theme? Is there some common thread that connects things together? If there is, take a breath and pull on it a bit. Do more ideas or memories move with it? Can we learn something more by spending time with something painful so we can grow and step forward? It is hard, but you can. You can make peace with that failure, and take ownership of it.

“In life, it doesn’t matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you’ve been given.”

Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Why should you do this? That failure is a part of you. The project that failed, the job you lost, the relationship that ended. You thought of it, you made it, you shared it, and it did not work. Instead of hiding our eyes and heart like we usually do, let’s embrace that failure for a change. Now this is not celebrating the failure, but it is having an honest relationship with it. It means going to a place where there are no lies about what happened or excuses for yourself. It means finding a peace with that failure so you can make something beautiful from it and move forward in life.

Now go—find the strength to make peace with your past. And then, put that peace with the past to work. Let it quiet your fears and calm the noise of the present. And with that peaceful mind and heart, go create, take that next step and make something wonderful for someone else.


J.D. Nolen is a physician who expresses his creativity through writing. His book, Unlock Your Creativity, is now available on Amazon. You can follow him via his blog or on Twitter.

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