Self-Discovery: Step Outside Yourself for a New Perspective

by Kim on April 15, 2010

L.A. palm trees

If you have been focused on your personal development for any length of time, you may feel like you have self-discovery down to a science. You know how to quiet yourself down, tune in to your inner dialogue and ignore mainstream society’s idea of what constitutes success in favor of what makes your authentic self happy.

All the above are great. They truly are. You need to have these skills in your personal development toolbox if you want to find true success and fulfillment.

At the same time, by relying solely on your own experiences or those of a tightly knit group, you risk becoming very insular. By that, I mean that you close off your worldview. You have decided that this is what I think and this is how I feel and then you are no longer open to other possibilities. In other words, you begin to lose sight of the big picture.

Singing the Blues

Let’s look at an example of this…

Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island for the last decade, you are probably familiar with American Idol. It spun-off from the UK’s Pop Idol and has spawned similar competitions throughout the world. The show is ultimately about weeding through thousands of singing auditions until the voting public crowns one contestant the American Idol.

The first few episodes are devoted to the mass auditions held throughout the country, and viewers are treated to some truly interesting singing styles. Invariably, some of the wishful contestants are tone deaf and are adamant that yes, they are the next American Idol!

After all, their mom told them they are good. Their church choir director told them they were good. Their friends told them they were good. But really, they need training, direction — they need to address their skill set and how they can improve; otherwise, they risk insular thinking. These people were determined that they were good singers. They surrounded themselves with others who reinforced their beliefs.

Self-Discovery Means Looking Outside the Box

Not that you are lying to yourself… but you might be limiting your possibilities.

You see, when you have a hope or dream that really speaks to your core, you can have tunnel vision. That passion that fuels you is fabulous, but it can also be limiting. You lose sight of everything else which means that you are working with an incomplete picture.

To build success, you need to expand your circle of vision and consider other perspectives.

So when your mother-in-law tells you that she thinks you’ll have a hard time making it as an actor, you need to give that consideration without letting it rule your worldview.

This is very important.

Too many of my clients swing from extremes. Let’s use another example… you are having a family dinner and mention that you are auditioning for a role in a play. Your mother-in-law – dear, sweet thing that she is – says, ‘Oh honey, you’re really not planning to pursue acting are you? How ever will you feed your family?’

Do you respond by thinking…

A.) Miriam says I can’t act. I’m such a loser – time to go back to school and study to become an accountant.

B.) Miriam should just mind her own business. What does she know anyway? Brad Pitt has nothing on me!

C.) I wonder what Miriam means by that? Do I need to brush up my acting skills? Are there not enough jobs in the area?

Just as we shouldn’t let others dictate our hopes and dreams, we shouldn’t automatically dismiss those who disagree with us. As tactless as your mother-in-law might be, you need to honestly consider whether there is any truth to her words.

If there is a nugget of truth in her statement, that doesn’t mean you throw up your hands and resign yourself to never acting. It means that you identify that as a challenge you need to face head-on if you want to succeed.

Maybe you need to brush up on your acting skills. Maybe it will be hard to sustain an acting career in Des Moines, Iowa. Or maybe your mother-in-law is just spreading some negative energy and needs to be ignored.

All of these are obstacles that can be overcome (like limiting family dinners with your mother-in-law!), but you can’t meet those challenges head-on until you’ve identified them. And that means sometimes going outside yourself to complete your self-discovery.

In what ways do you limit your thinking? How do you get out of that little box that dictates how you see the world?

Image via opimentas on Flickr

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben April 15, 2010 at 9:37 am

Problems with your mother in law Kim? Lol

I really like this post. Feedback whether good or bad is important. We need to take it on board and action it if necessary.

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Kim April 15, 2010 at 10:22 am

Good one, Ben!
No, I don’t have a mother-in-law — was going for a common experience 🙂
You’re a hoot!

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Ben April 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Ah ok then.

The post was great. Struggling with my own negative feedback at the moment and your post really helped me today. Thanks

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Kim April 17, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Sift through it Ben, keep the lesson (if any). You have my support and we need your Light. Your work in speaking, training, writing, and educating is admirable. And, we know it’s just the tip of the iceberg as your talents are limitless. Be well, my friend.

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Ivana Sendecka April 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hi Kim;-)
thank you for your post!

On the journey of pursuing a dream when you do it with total passion and dedication, one must be aware that different course of actions might be really against “normal” way of existence for many people and even close people like relatives or friends will disagree. That is the part of a game.

Listening to their “advices” can be really harmful (if you allow it to hurt you) and will let your lizard brain to win and will put you back into zone of “certainty”.

Listen. Understand their disagreement. Find a piece of truth in their doubts – if there is any (which can eventually inspire you to work even harder on your skills) and IGNORE everybody except your heart.
Supporters, well-wishers and inspiring people will appear on your new journey at the right time, when you will need them.

Haters or those who adore your work are very essential part on the path of personal growth and mastering your ” thing”.
😉
Be grateful for both.

cheers,
i.

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Kim April 16, 2010 at 1:09 am

Hi Ivana,

Thank you for your eloquence in addressing constructive criticism and following your heart’s desires.

Many of us who put ourselves out there while we do our ‘thing’ risk being exposed to haters as well as awesome supporters. Interestingly enough, both groups contribute to our personal growth since feedback can lead to improvements.

I’m grateful for your contribution!

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Jeremy Johnson April 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm

C, C, C all the way! Love the example. I think you’ve hit it – we need to become master’s at what we do if we want to be successful at it – and at the same time, we must really decide if what we are pursuing is what we want to do, because it takes a while to be a master and that’s a lot of time to realize you don’t want to do it. Nicely done Kim!

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Kim April 16, 2010 at 1:13 am

Hi Jeremy,

I like the way you included clarity into the mix. Time is the new currency and it’s too valuable to waste.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Hulbert Lee April 15, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Hi Kim. I like this post; it’s about straying away from tunnel vision and looking at the big picture. One example of limited thinking was when I first started blogging. I thought just writing posts would be enough for people to visit my blog and I was wrong. So I did the opposite and started visiting and interacting with other blogs. Then people started to come. Basically, I was missing the big picture because focusing on my own writing was clouding my thoughts. Another nice post!

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Kim April 16, 2010 at 1:17 am

Hi Hulbert,

It’s true – we can get so immersed in our own sites and how to improve, when all the while it is about sharing value where ever we visit. It’s good to get fresh perspectives.

BTW, did you visit Starbucks Thurs? 🙂

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Hulbert Lee April 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Haha no I didn’t…

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Therese Miu April 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Hi Kim, I am all about exploring the possibilities and love the example you presented here. I love learning from the positive as well as the negative. As long as I don’t dwell too long on the negative. Let the lessons teach me something valuable and then inevitably move on. Also, I always have positive juices flowing so it’s great to step back and learn from other things whether its T.V., gossipy neighbor, or negative uncle. I have also once heard, “Feedback is the breakfast of the champions” Anyway my first time here Kim. I found you through other blogs and I like the energy you bring.
Hopefully we’ll get to know each other more.
Thanks again for the enlightenment 😉
Love Light & Blessings,
Therese Miu

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Kim April 16, 2010 at 1:30 am

Welcome Therese,

It’s wonderful that you take the lesson and value from an experience or circumstance, then move into a positive flow — I sensed this in some of your videos 🙂 You mentioned, ‘exploring possibilities,’ which brings to mind a mantra I use, ‘open to all, attached to none.’ There’s so much to learn — being open, sifting through information, and keeping what I find valuable warms my heart.

I enjoy your energy and look forward to learning and sharing with you.

Thank you for your contribution!

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Greg Blencoe April 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Happy Thursday, Kim! Thanks for the post.

I love the American Idol reference. As a big fan of the show, it is amazing how certain people don’t see that they are not going to be the next American Idol. I believe we all have the potential to do great things, but singing just might not be one of them for some people (or at least not without more practice and refinement).

But I completely agree that we all have to be careful about being too insular. I think the key is to maintain the desire and the focus on your dream while at the same time being open-minded about where others may actually be right (even though they are often wrong!).

The people who can master this balance are likely going to make it big.

I used to live in Los Angeles and I noticed that actors in particular have a very difficult time with criticism (not that any of us like it!). It is basically the opposite of getting a standing ovation at the end of a play.

Though this is not easy, my suggestion would be to just not take anything personally. Take your ego out of the equation. If the advice is not good, simply don’t take it. If the advice is good, benefit from it.

Another thing to remember is that people are often projecting when they are giving you their opinions. When somebody tells another person that they don’t think they will make it in acting, a lot of times they are just saying, “I don’t think I could make it in acting.”

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Kim April 16, 2010 at 1:46 am

Happy Friday Greg 🙂

I appreciate your thoughtful comment. The ego looks for attention and acceptance a.k.a. applause. I would be in joy to help some of these contestants connect within, connect with their song or character, and finally connect with their audience.
You bring up an important point – it is a delicate balance – to take opinions into consideration along with the dreams in your heart. The great thing about life is that your dreams can come true, but it just might appear differently than you originally imagined. Just because someone doesn’t win first place in one race does not mean he won’t win first place in another 😉

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ayo April 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Hi Kim,

How are you?

Thanks for sharing this article. I’m open to constructive criticism and it’s not the most pleasant experience to go through because at times it involves ripping you apart and stating the obvious. But I have an understanding that if I need to see growth in any area of my life i’ve got to take certain things on board.

In the last few days I’ve received some serious bashings and I’m like huh!!! but there you go…

However there are just people that wont see any good in you either through jealousy, fear of you becoming so successful and they just cant stand it or they are just naturally critics everyday of their lives. Some times you cant avoid them but you can certainly buckle up.

And there is self denial: You are not good at it & some people dont really tell it as it is for the fear of hurting you and there’s a belief that one could be encouraged(now I’m not sure if that works because I was told ‘you are good at football keep trying’ but i was horrible and never liked the sport, but basket ball hmm!!! now we are talking and I’m sure I’d be head to head with Shaq today(psyche)

We also live in self denial believing we are good at certain things and as you’ve mentioned develops a tunnel vision. We may like certain things but we cant be or do everything & we fail to realise at times some fields are so overcrowded and we just need to be in the moderate fields where we can shine on full blast and be spotted if thats what we choose to do.

Again forgive me for rambling.

Do have a lovely day.

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Kim April 16, 2010 at 2:12 am

Hello Ayo,

I thoroughly enjoy your ‘rambling,’ although I wouldn’t deem it as such. I love your input 🙂 Sounds like you’ve come across some EV’s (emotional vampires) and fortunately you’re aware to steer clear!

I mentioned to Therese (above) that I use the mantra, ‘open to all, attached to none.’ It deserves repeating to realize you can sift through the feedback you receive and only keep what you choose. ‘Bashing’ is uncalled for, conjures up negativity, and doesn’t really serve either party. It’s one reason I enjoy the personal growth and development community.

You brought up an interesting point about being encouraged to play football over basketball. In the end, it truly goes back to what is in your heart. As I said to Greg, just because you don’t win in one game, it doesn’t mean you can’t in another.

Have a blessed weekend and get back in your game 😉

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Adrian Swinscoe April 16, 2010 at 4:23 am

Hi Kim,
Great post. One thing I think we have to remember is that when someone gives us feedback on what we are doing etc it shows that they care enough to do so. There are many people (friends, customers etc) that do not give feedback as they do not care enough. Be grateful for the feedback would be my advice.

Have a great weekend,

Adrian

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Kim April 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

Hi Adrian,

Good point. When others care to help us on our path or point out our blind spots, I’m all for additional ways to improve.

Thank you for stopping by again.
Have a beautiful weekend!

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Ben Weston April 17, 2010 at 12:41 am

Hey Kim,

I really appreciated the insight from this post. This is something I’ve struggled with for some time. I studied philosophy in college as a way to detach myself and allow myself to be more open to other viewpoints. I found a nice balance by putting forth my beliefs but not fully investing myself in them. If something new came along that made more sense or proved my beliefs wrong, I would be open to them.

Now that’s just with reasonable and logical topics. When it comes to my passions (movement, personal development, circus acrobatics) and my family’s values (Chinese, grad school, stable job), things often don’t go as well. I find it difficult to detach myself when I’m so emotionally invested in whatever the belief may be. Comments like the ones you mentioned above tend to hit a tender spot when the topic is something so important to me.

Thank you for the wake up call! I guess have I something to work on =)

Take care,
Ben

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Kim April 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Hey Ben,

Thank you for the insightful comment. We have many parallels in our lives (acrobatics aside 😉 ), it’s no wonder we resonate with each other. There always seems to be something to work on, but this is how we know we are engaged, passionate, and fully living.
At the end of the day, we really can’t go wrong if we follow our heart and stay flexible and open to learning and improving. We may tumble and fall sometimes, but if we are fulfilled, having fun, being in joy — that is what counts most!

Have a blessed weekend!

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Eric April 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

limited thinking is the one way we limit our way to success. Though first we must understand what success means to us.

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Kim April 19, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Welcome Eric,

You’re right — it’s important to define what success means to us. This is a good way to gauge our progress.

Thank you for stopping by!

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Baker April 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Hey Kim
Good post. I would say that a lot of what you mention here also may have to do with the idea of having balance in one’s life. If we are too “one way” with things, other areas of our life begins to suffer and feel unbalanced. Balance begins to emerge I feel when we are honest with where we are in life, and what needs improvement. When we become honest with what needs improvement we continue to learn and grow in a more balanced manner.

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Kim Maglinti April 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Hey Baker,

Great point! Having balance in perspective both within and outside of ourselves helps us to decide what is best.

I appreciate having you here 🙂

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Evelyn Lim April 21, 2010 at 1:00 am

Love the post! How very true! Many of us can respond negatively to some well meaning remark. The thing is to be focused on our dreams and do what is necessary to help us achieve them!

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Kim Maglinti April 21, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Welcome Evelyn,

We definitely attach meaning to events, situations, and remarks. It’s up to us to decide whether we will make it negative or positive in our minds.

Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

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Catrien Ross April 22, 2010 at 4:28 am

Kim, oh dear, I have heard the words American Idol, but although I don’t live on a desert island, I have never watched one episode. Living deep in the mountains in Japan may just as well be a desert island, it seems!

Nevertheless, thank you for your inspiring post, as always – it is filled with insight. Growth in self-discovery means growing our capacity for listening without judgment. When someone says something we may not enjoy hearing, we can let the words flow and fall into us for a moment before automatically responding in our usual way. Creating that small space of acceptance expands our awareness that there are other ways of looking at things – another perspective which we may not have noticed because we are so ingrained in our patterns of thinking and reacting.

From the rainy mountains of Japan, evening greetings to you – Catrien Ross.

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Kim Maglinti April 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Hi Catrien,

You are a dear heart 🙂 I’m happy you weren’t turned away by what might’ve seemed as strong words, but instead understood the message.
You’re so good to point out the importance of creating a small space of acceptance to expand our awareness. It serves us to take various perspectives into consideration — to weigh what is most beneficial.

I enjoy your contribution and hope to continue to see you as my blog evolves in the coming weeks. Personal development is for everyone, but I’m looking to serve in ways that resonate with me.

Be well 🙂

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Travis April 24, 2010 at 10:24 am

Good advice… looking outside our box definitely improves the process of self-discovery! Whenever I’m knee deep in a project, I ALWAYS consult others about their opinion because ironically, I feel like the longer I’m working on something the more blinded I become to it. Not only do others help provide a fresh perspective, but they’re also the best way of identifying keep components we’ve missed!

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Kim April 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

Well said. When we are so close to our work or project it is important to step away and gain fresh perspective.

Great to see you again Travis!

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Faizal Nisar April 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Tunnel vision can hurt us but not if we’re open to constructive criticism. It also depends on who’s telling us. If my mom, who knows nothing about singing says I’m good compared to a professionsal singer who says I need practice, I’d rather listen to the professional singer. Always be open for improvement, but stay focused on your goals as well.

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Kim April 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Hi Faizal,

It makes sense to consider who is offering their opinion and if it warrants any merit. It’s great to have you contribute! It seems change is in the air… for both of us 😉 See you soon!

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Mandy Allen April 30, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hi Kim, inspired post thanks. I work with young people and find most adults in their lives constantly criticise them. It’s such a shame and is often so very damaging for them. I recognise what you are saying and it does depend where we are in our lives as to how we receive and deal with any comments made, positive or negative.

Enjoy the journey.

Mandy

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Kim May 1, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Hi Mandy,

It helps to have conscious adults support youth in learning how to sift through helpful vs detrimental comments. The youth you work with are fortunate to have you as a positive role model.

Wonderful to see you again.

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Karen May 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Hi Kim,

This is a great post and a reminder to consider the source of what we allow into our lives. Perhaps our MIL wanted to be a singer herself when she was young and wants us to not go through the same heartache. Maybe they have a different agenda and don’t want us pursuing our dreams because they feel threatened by us that they gave up on their dreams.

I’ve read somewhere that deep down we must believe in a kernel of truth when people say things like that to us, otherwise we wouldn’t believe what they said and would discount it automatically. So, we have to sometimes overcome our limiting beliefs and also what others tell us. It’s a fine balance, but ultimately you should be listening to yourself. It’s your life and your choices.

Karen

It’s great that you gave the options, because things aren’t always what they appear to be.

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Kim May 2, 2010 at 11:03 am

Hello Karen,

I’m happy to see you here. You’ve made two important points — ‘consider the source and things aren’t always what they appear.’ Many a disagreement, disappointment, or heartache could be saved if people would take these points into consideration.

The kernel of truth that you addressed is from our subconscious mind. This is where we store information a.k.a ‘knowns’ from our life experience — good/bad, right/wrong, positive/negative, etc. As you noted, we would discount a comment from someone automatically, if it is ‘unknown’ to our subconscious mind.

The upside is that there are a variety of ways to dislodge the knowns and as you’ve said, listen to yourself — actualizing your dreams.

I appreciate your contribution.
Kim

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J.D. Meier May 2, 2010 at 11:38 pm

You’re right — self-discovery does mean looking outside the box. For me, it means bouncing myself against experiences to see what sticks … and whatever doesn’t break me, makes me stronger 😉

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Kim May 7, 2010 at 12:30 am

Hi J.D.

It’s helpful to view experiences as lessons. I agree, it makes us stronger.
Great to see you here 🙂

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Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey May 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I love this post Kim! It reminds me of some questions that we ask ourselves when were given constructive criticism. We can either beat ourselves up, get defensive, or ask questions that allow us to rationalize what was said.

Unfortunately, we don’t always resort to the rational thinking. But I agree, It’s very important that we take a different perspective and weigh that other perspective carefully.

Thanks for sharing!! Very much worth the re-tweet!!

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Kim May 7, 2010 at 12:39 am

Hi Jarrod,

I agree. Of all the interpretations one can create, it’s not always rational. Are we ‘inferring’ meaning? 😉 It’s not only important to weigh the perspective, but to weigh the source.

Your re-tweet is very much appreciated!

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Angela Artemis May 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Hi Kim, I found your blog through Greg Blencoe’s 10 Must Read Posts. He kindly listed one of my posts there as well!

I loved this post. I think it’s wise to always step back and not react when we’re criticized. So often we allow are emotions to run on auto-pilot to our detriment. If we can take a deep breath and remove the reaction from criticism toward our deepest desires and dreams they wouldn’t deflate as easily.

I recently fell off the wagon myself – when I told my mother my intention to resign from my full time job to become a blogger. I told her my resignation wasn’t imminent – but all she heard was – You’re quitting your job – to do what? She took the wind right out of my sails – just like she always did when I was a young girl. Luckily, I’ve grown a thick skin around my mother and allowed her skepticism to roll off of me. But, I have to admit it did sting!

Thanks for the great advice.
.-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..Intuition: You Don’t Have to Scare The **** Out of Yourself! =-.

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Kim May 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Hi Angela,

You make an important point about removing the reaction from criticism that we might receive in order to keep perspective on our dreams and desires. It’s valuable for everyone to keep in mind. A knee-jerk response is not always accurate.

Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. It helps to be a part of a personal development community that understands similar challenges 😉

Thank you for contributing. I’ll be sure to visit your site soon 🙂

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Topi May 24, 2010 at 12:26 am

Hi Kim,
I’ve come here via Positive Waves Baby, and Greg’s recent post listing 10 must read posts. You make such an important point here. A teacher once told me that there’s no such thing as failure, just feedback. So, it’s not something to be scared of, just something to consider and then either act on or let go. I know that’s easier said than done, and something I continually struggle with, but it is a valuable point.
Topi
.-= Topi´s last blog ..5 lessons I’ve learned from my children =-.

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Kim May 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Hi Topi,

I love the saying, ‘there’s no such thing as failure, just feedback.’ This allows us to correct our course on a path we may not want to continue traveling on.

Understandably, we all struggle with ‘feedback’ on occasion. Sometimes the desire for acceptance and approval can be strong.

Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to checking out your site soon 🙂

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Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker May 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm

What I have learned to do when a person like your mother-in-law makes a statement like she did is to ask is their comment about me or is it about her? Is it her fear that her child and grandchildren will starve if I can’t make a go as an actor? Is her question fear that my talent isn’t enough? Am I talented enough? Maybe I need to pursue acting lessons and get a job as a waiter/waitress to support my family. Getting angry at the mother-in-law for her concerns and fears doesn’t help. Consider all possibilities before making a decision. Thank mother-n-law for her concerns. Hug mother-in-law. Tell her you love her.
.-= Patricia – Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker´s last blog ..From Tracie: Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse Hope And Joy Edition May 2010 Is Posted =-.

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Kim May 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Hi Patricia,

You pose excellent questions that a person can potentially ask if he were to have the experience that I used as an example. It’s important to take different views into consideration instead of quickly attaching meaning to an event — that meaning may not be the same as what was intended.

Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

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