Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, Poland (1772-1810), once made this wise saying, “All beginnings require that you unlock a new door.”1 Here’s one lesson we can learn from what he said: Many of us are still holding on to keys from doors of the past that are not only closed, but the locks have been changed. We’re toting around a ring with keys to doors of opportunity long gone. For some reason, we’ve hung on to those keys and they are weighing us down. So how can we even think of opening a new door?
Here are ten things I’ve read that are important to keep in mind when, and if, you’re on the verge of starting a new chapter in your life and need to open a new door:
First, let go of the past. It’s so difficult when you’re starting something new to keep hauling the past along behind you. New beginnings require moving forward and letting go of those things you’re trying to pull along with you. Remember, you can grow new flowers where old flowers used to be, so you should let go of whatever you’re still holding onto and learn from it. Furthermore, why not let go of the things you can’t control? Remember, most things are only a part of your life because you keep thinking about them. Positive things happen in your life when you emotionally distance yourself from the negative things. So stop holding on to what hurts, and make room for what feels right. Do not let what is out of your control interfere with all the things you can control.
Secondly, face your fears. Fear is an excellent indicator that you’re on the right track. If you’re starting to feel anxious or fearful about taking that step forward, that’s a good sign that you’re actually entering new territory and you should continue moving forward. Don’t let fear hold you back. In other words, accept and embrace reality. Everything happens for you, not to you. Needed changes come around at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. For everything you lose, you gain something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else. You don’t have to like it, but it’s just easier if you do. So pay attention to your outlook on life. You can either regret it or rejoice in it; it’s your choice.
Thirdly, watch the stories that you tell yourself. Let me share what I’ve heard about this a little further. We all tell ourselves stories, whether we realize it or not. Here’s one that a person told themselves as they were looking into their future as a retiree. They thought of telling themselves a little fib that when old people become retirees, they will no longer be good for anything after they reach that stage of life. Believing that story might cause them to begin exhibiting the behavior of giving up and coasting through the rest of their life without any purpose. So, watch the stories and fairy-tales you tell yourself because you might start to believe those stories and let them affect your behavior. You can also look at it this way: a change of mind is like taking a deep breath – it isn’t part of the process, it is the process. In reality, the only thing we can count on is change. And the first step toward positive change is to change your outlook. Prepare for the positive. Prepare for something different. Allow the unknown to take you to fresh and unforeseen areas in yourself. Growth is impossible without change. If you cannot change your mind, you cannot change anything in your life. Sometimes all you need to do is look at things from a different perspective.
Fourthly, endings are necessary. There’s a saying that goes, “The day you were born, you began to die.” That’s pretty hard to swallow, but it’s true. Everything will one day come to an end, but when we face that end, that’s our opportunity to look for a new beginning. But there is another aspect to consider. Hold tight to the good things you’ve learned. When life’s struggles knock you into a pit so deep you can’t see anything but darkness, don’t waste valuable energy trying to dig your way out. Because if you hastily dig in the dark, you’re likely to head in the wrong direction and only dig the pit deeper. Instead, use what energy you have to create new ideas. For good ideas are like a light that’s bright; its radiance will show you which way is up, and illuminate the correct path that will take you there.
Fifthly, failures can teach us lessons. They are a bruise, not a permanent tattoo. There is a story that basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan tells. He says that he missed over 9,000 shots in his career, and 26 different times he went up for a game-winning shot and missed it, but all of those mistakes led to his success. Think about that for a second. When you are looking your new beginning in the face, just know that mistakes will come and you will learn from them. We are all perfectly imperfect. That’s why we should rest and regroup. Strength isn’t about bearing a cross of grief or shame. Strength is about choosing your path, living with the consequences, and learning from them. Sometimes you do your best and end up with a mess. When this happens, don’t be discouraged. You tried. That’s really all you can ever do. You have not failed; you just learned what not to do. So rest, regroup and begin again with what you now know.
Sixth, new beginnings are a chance to be better. Metamorphosis can happen to you – it’s not just for caterpillars, it’s for you and me, and we can choose what to do in our new beginning to make ourselves better. No one has a monopoly on their future. Each one of us can determine what we will write in this new chapter of our life. New beginnings are a clean sheet of paper in our book, so turn that page and begin doing what you want. It’s another way of saying, don’t be afraid to take chances. Making a big life change or trying something new can be scary. But do you know what’s even scarier? Regret. So realize that most of your fears are much bigger in your mind than they are in reality; you’ll see this for yourself as soon as you face them. Don’t let them stop you. Live your life so that you never have to regret the chances you never took, the love you never let in, and the gifts you never gave out.
Seventh, keep climbing. Every person who is at the top of the mountain did not fall there from the sky. Good things come to those who work for them. You gain confidence and grow stronger by every experience in which you truly push yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do. If you are standing in that place of in-between, unable or unwilling to go backward, but too afraid to move forward, remember that you can’t enjoy the view without being willing to climb.
Eighth, appreciate what you have learned. Nothing is more beautiful and powerful than a smile that has struggled through the tears. Don’t regret your time, even the moments that were filled with hurt. Smile because you learned from it and gained the strength to rise above it. In the end, it’s not what you have been through that defines who you are; it’s how you got through it that has made you the person you are today and the person you are capable of being tomorrow.
Ninth, realize every step is necessary. Nothing is ever wrong. We learn from every step we take. Whatever you did today was a necessary step to get to tomorrow. So be proud of yourself. Maybe you are not as good as you want to be, or as great as you one day will be; but thanks to all the lessons you’ve learned along the way, you are so much better than you used to be.
Tenth, learn what God’s word has to say about facing new challenges in life. You are not the only one who has plans for your life. God told the prophet, Jeremiah, that He had plans for him as well. But God’s plans were designed for his well-being, not for trouble. That way, he had a bright future with great hopes.2 Later on Jeremiah found out how true that was. So he looked up and said it was all because of the Lord’s loving-kindness that we do not end up with a ruined life, for His loving-kindness never ends. It is new every morning. He is so very faithful. Jeremiah then said his soul exclaimed: “I’ve put my future hopes in the Lord’s hands, so all my hope is in Him.”3
Later, when Jesus came to walk the earth, He taught those who would listen this exciting prospect about opening new doors of opportunity: Don’t stop asking, and what you are asking for will be given to you. Keep looking, and what you are looking for you will soon find. Keep on knocking, and the door you are knocking on will be opened to you. Everyone who keeps asking will receive what they ask for. Everyone who never stops looking finds what they are looking for. And everyone who keeps on knocking will see the door opened to them.4
So we can see why the Apostle Paul and Barnabas when they got back to Antioch after their long missionary journey through Asia Minor, told the congregation everything God had done for them. They told how God had opened the door for the people who were not Jews to have faith.5 They credited all their success to God’s plans, not theirs. In fact, Paul credited everything he accomplished to the wide door that God had opened for him to go through.6 In other words, God had opened doors that he could have never unlocked.
What does all this tell us? That during our journey through life we will encounter many new doors that must be opened in order for us to continue on toward our goal and God’s destiny for our lives. But many of these doors are not only locked, but they are big and hard to open. That’s when we need to remember we are not on this journey alone. We have family, friends, and the Holy Spirit to help us. So as Rabbi Nachman tells us, don’t get frustrated because you’ve been stopped due to a locked door. Work and pray on learning how to get the door open so you can move on. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 The Empty Chair, p. 19
2 Jeremiah 29:11
3 Lamentations 3:22-24
4 Matthew 7:7-8
5 Acts of the Apostles 14:27
6 1 Corinthians 16:9; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3