6 Life Lessons We Can Learn from “Missed” Opportunities

Negative circumstances can spark the personal growth and success we deserve.

By Marina Khidekel

Missed opportunities often end up being the course corrections we need in our lives. Many of us have had disappointments — say, rejections from top-choice schools and “dream” jobs — turn out to be the best thing that could have happened in our careers.

Mollie West Duffy, co-author of the book No Hard Feelings, recently told The New York Times about how actively processing our feelings is the crucial first step to reframing negative feelings into positive action when things don’t work out the way we’d initially hoped.

Recalling the instance when was she rejected from her first-choice business school years ago, she told the publication, “I realized that in the process of not getting what I wanted, I had this deep self-reflection about what actually motivated me and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” she said. “Looking at the roles that I would’ve had if I had gone to business school, I don’t think I would’ve been happy in them.”

We asked members of the Thrive Global community to share the best lesson they learned from missing out on an opportunity they initially wanted.

A painful breakup can spark renewed love and career success

“My fiancé abruptly broke off our relationship right after we picked a wedding date. I was devastated. However, I moved to New York City, created a whole new career, and eventually met my best friend and husband. The breakup was painful at the time and made me feel very depressed. But that ‘missed’ opportunity led me to a much better life than I’d imagined I’d have.”

—Mim Senft, founder, CEO, Blooming Grove, NY

Listen to your body before you burn out

“My daily life doing senior crime scene investigation in London consisted of being stressed to illness, horrific scenes of the darkness of humanity, and trying to keep a team of 100 people motivated. So I jumped at the chance for a promotion as a way out — but I wish I’d listened to my gut then and resigned. I missed it or was too afraid. I was appointed to an impossibly huge management role, felt even more stressed, and eventually burned out. I knew deep inside that the organisation as a whole wasn’t feeding my soul and I needed creative freedom, space, and no rigid rules. My failure to listen to this cry from within caused me to crash and burn, but that’s what it took for me to quit, start living on my own terms, and create a business that gives joy to both myself and my clients. My body, heart and soul knew what it needed, I just needed to tune in and listen.”

—Lorna Reeves, founder, London, UK

Your destiny is tied to your intuition

“I’ve learned the hard way that my destiny is aligned with my intuition. Over-pursuing opportunities I’ve thought I wanted has resulted in disappointment. When I owned a small business, I was determined to lease a new space in a neighborhood where I was sure my business would thrive. Even when I caught the building owner in a lie and he tried to renegotiate a finalized agreement, I ignored my intuition and signed the lease. The location was a disaster. I’ve learned from this and other experiences that bad things result when I push past my better judgement in pursuit of a goal.”

—Matt Salis, writer, Denver, CO

Reaching out for help can help you redirect to your true purpose

“I remember working so hard to create an online summit — I had a big vision and wanted it to be perfect! I poured my heart and soul into the project, yet at almost every turn I was facing challenge after challenge. I felt absolutely defeated and exhausted. Right before my launch, I had my last five interviews cancel due to circumstances beyond our control and it felt like everything was working against me. I gave up and was about to throw in the towel in defeat when a close friend encouraged me to carry on and remember what I was working to accomplish. Through all the challenges, I’d lost my direction and forgotten what I was working towards. But in an effort to regroup and reach out for help, I spoke with an expert in my field and was able to connect with my purpose in a way that had previously escaped me.”

—Nicole Michalski, life strategist, speaker, and author, Alberta, Canada

Not fitting in can be a blessing in disguise

“As an immigrant, everything from my food choices to my accent made me feel like an outsider in the USA. But eventually after years in the United States, I slowly stopped fitting in back home. This feeling of inadequacy stuck with me throughout my childhood and early adulthood, leaving me feeling unstable and always out of place. After a plethora of sad and hilarious, failed attempts at trying to fit in, I surrendered to the fact that my happiness and sense of security was not dependent on belonging somewhere. Since then, my lack of belonging has become my secret power. I’ve created projects and organizations from the ground up with teams from every continent because I’m able to connect and collaborate with people from all walks of life. Since I don’t have a personal connection to a particular demographic, country, or culture, I’m more willing to meet people where they are, because I’m not attached to where I am.”

—Julie Santos, program strategist, Pala, California

Slow down so you can recognize a good thing

“On a hot southern day in July 1996, I met my future wife. Unfortunately, I was young and wishy-washy, she said, so we drifted apart. But we eventually found each other again many years later, and we’ve been happily married ever since. Here’s a lesson I learned from my youth: slow down and recognize a good thing when you see it — destiny doesn’t always ring twice.”

—Allen Barrett, business manager, Decatur, GA

This article was first published at Thrive Global

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