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Have you ever thought you were in love only to be told by the one you admire that he or she wants to break up with you? Have you ever applied for a job and been told the organization or company chose someone else? Have you ever applied to a school or program and been declined entry?
In all likelihood, you can answer “yes” to at least one—or more—of these questions. It’s something most of us experience sometime.
But when we are in these moments of disappointment, it is very hard to move on. We get stuck. Our minds dwell on the past. We worry about the future and deconstruct what went wrong. Sometimes the feeling of rejection can be so painful that we doubt our self-worth and find the possibility of a new beginning daunting.
All of these responses are normal.
What’s important to remember in these moments is that there is not a single person alive who has not experienced rejection. There is no journey without roadblocks. There is no lifespan without the distress of a detour, a dream that is shattered, or an aspiration that goes unfulfilled.
So how do we move forward the next day with renewed confidence? How do we navigate life's twists and turns in healthy and constructive ways? How do we avoid becoming mired in negativity and paralysis?
Falling is a part of the experience of life. We will inevitably make mistakes. We will get no for an answer.
That’s why the most important ingredient to success and inner peace in life is developing the resilience, and grit to transform obstacles into opportunities and rejection into renewal.
When faced with painful rejections, we are confronted with two choices: 1) We can sit in the darkness and lament our fate; or 2) we can muster the strength to transform our fate into destiny and the pain into purpose.
Norman Vincent Peale, author of the bestselling The Power of Positive Thinking, shared the story of a salesman who could never hold a job for more than a year. Then, he learned a statement that he began to recite every day: “I believe I am guided. I believe I will always take the right turn in the road. I believe that there is always a way when there seems to be no way.”
This saying changed the salesman’s mental attitude and sowed seeds of success in life, Peale said.
I will never forget the feelings of deep pain I had when a girlfriend broke up with me. Within months, I realized how grateful I was for this rejection as it led me down a path to find the love of my life. I will never forget being rejected as an 18-year-old from a desirable school only to be led to the school that ultimately would prove a sanctuary for personal development and lead to lifelong friendships.
In each of these cases, I wondered “why me?” but learned that rather than wallow in doubt and darkness, I needed to look toward what I truly desired. In each case, as one door was closing, another, better door was opening so I could walk through.
Try this exercise to find your own path forward:
- Think about past obstacles. Identify personal examples of when you came to an obstacle or “closed door.”
- Look for the open door. When confronting that obstacle, what new or exciting opportunity came to you? Think about how you could have passed it by, but you didn’t. You took it.
- Keep looking for success. Every week, reflect back on obstacles and how you’ve overcome them. Make it a practice to always remind yourself of how you are moving forward.
Remember, no matter where you are in life, no matter what your age, your income level, your job, or your relationship status, the best part of your life is yet to come. Every day is a new day with new possibilities for greatness and impact. Every day we possess a choice to follow the path of life or death, lament in the past, or forge ahead towards a better future. It is truly in our hands and our hearts. Choose life.
About Rabbi Daniel Cohen:
Popular motivator, mentor, and inspirational speaker, Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s unique blend of authenticity, humor, wisdom, and insight helps anyone better navigate contemporary society and lead a life of legacy. Rabbi Cohen has served in the rabbinate for over twenty years and is the author of What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone? Creating a Life of Legacy.