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How to Turn Missed Opportunities Into Teachable Moments

Photo by Jannes Glas on Unsplash

We all know the feeling of a missed opportunity, the stream of “what ifs” that flows from regret. Sometimes a window of opportunity truly does close and there is nothing left to do but cope with the emotions that fill the resulting void. But often, whether in our relationships, careers, or with regard to personal goals, we do get a second chance to get it right. If we want to give ourselves the best opportunity to get it right the next time around, it pays to focus on why we missed the mark before.

One reason you may be reluctant to examine missed opportunities is that you blame yourself for falling short, so it’s important to approach this exercise not from a place of criticism but from a place of curiosity. Therefore, the first question is always: what would you have said or done differently if you had it to do over again? Sometimes the answer to this question will be obvious, but in some cases it may take careful exploration to decide for yourself the best approach to have taken. There might have been multiple factors at play, different people to consider, or your own mixed emotions. Either way, the best chance you have to get it right the next time a similar situation arises is to spend the time and energy figuring out what you would like to have done before.

Once you decide what you wish you had done, the next step becomes understanding what prevented you from responding that way. Perhaps it was a simple lack of awareness, not realizing that the situation at hand was an opportunity to make a healthy choice or communicate in the way you want. If so, then the goal is learning how to improve your radar to spot these opportunities when they occur.

If you did sense the opportunity to take an action or communicate in a healthier way but couldn’t bring yourself to do so, then the goal is understanding what was getting in your way. It is usually some combination of beliefs and emotions, such as a fear of how someone will respond, or a sense of helplessness that nothing you do or say will matter anyway. This is often the heart of the matter, so it’s essential to fully explore these barriers. Ultimately, the goal is for your old pattern of beliefs and emotions to hold less power over you, allowing you to choose the course of action you actually want for yourself.

This is how by responding to missed opportunities less with regret and more with curiosity and optimism you can transform them into useful teachable moments.

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