I’m writing about one of my biggest regrets and three lessons I’ve learned looking back. At the end, you’ll also find a free book guide just for you.
About this time 13 years ago, I quit my dream job, a decision that would later become one of my biggest regrets. I didn’t understand the consequences at the time, of course.
Call it immaturity. Call it stupidity. Call it fear.
I had no idea this knee-jerk decision I made in June 2005 would fester over time, lying dormant for a season, but finally culminating in feelings of regret and painstaking “what ifs.”
These nagging questions bubble up whenever summer rolls around. As I’m at my 9 to 5, staring at my screen. Or late at night, seemingly out of nowhere.
As I’ve pondered what my passions are, what makes me feel alive, what my purpose is on this planet, I’ve drawn a blank for most of my life.
I never realized that what I loved to do growing up — dancing, cheering, leading — could be not only the means of a paycheck but also the basis of a fulfilling career.
When I quit my job that day as a clueless 18-year-old, I gave up years of hard work and gave in to fleeting feelings of fear and failure. I settled for a summer of comfort, my last at home before college, and set in motion a future of regret.
So this is for you … the girl on the brink of quitting something she loves. The person coming to terms with a past failure and regret. Anyone who’s felt confused about a career. The people who’ve believed lies about themselves.
Let’s take a trip back in time…
I attended my first Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) summer camp as a sixth grader. I was enamored with two tall blonde staffers, twins who resembled Phoebe from “Friends.” Their talent. Their spirit. Their beauty. I wanted to be like them.
Fast forward eight years, I was invited to try out for UCA Staff at camp my senior year.
Two months later, I arrived home from a national cheer competition in Orlando. And there was the letter.
I made it!
In three months, I would be traveling to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for “work week,” where all the Midwest staffers gather for training before taking the country by cheer camp storm.
In the meantime, I tried out for the cheer team at the out-of-state college I’d be attending that fall. I bombed the interview and fell on my face performing a backflip. I didn’t make the cut.
Attempting to brush off this defeat, I graduated from high school and the very next day embarked on a two-day trek from Nebraska to Wisconsin.
Hello, hardest week of my (teenage) life. It was mentally and physically grueling.
By the week’s end, I felt deflated. Left out. Doubting my talents. Questioning my abilities. Less than. (Sore and sunburned, too.)
The worst part? I didn’t tell a soul. I kept it to myself. My feelings festered the entire seven-hour drive back home. By then, I’d decided I was going to quit.
I needed out. I was freaked out.
I was scheduled to be at my first camp a couple days later in Sedalia, Missouri. I’d have to drive by myself on the highway. Something I’d never done before.
Sedalia is only about four hours from Omaha. At the time, though, it felt like an insurmountable journey.
My self-talk turned negative: I can’t do it. I’m not that good. I wasn’t even good enough to be a collegiate cheerleader. UCA made a mistake.
All lies. And they won.
Thirteen years, two college degrees and at least five jobs later, I still think about this pivotal decision. If I could go back, you bet I’d do it differently.
But I can’t change the past. I can only learn from my mistakes and use them as fuel for a better future.
So I want to share with you three lessons I’ve learned from this bad decision.
1. Don’t discount what you love to do.
Take an inventory of the things you loved growing up and what you’re drawn to currently. Connect the dots. Don’t worry about others who are doing similar things. Don’t lose heart when adversity strikes.
God has given each of us a unique personality and call on our lives.
Make a careful exploration of who are you and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (Galatians 6: 4-5)
Are you feeling a pull toward a certain career, hobby, or activity but are too afraid to pursue it because it’s not “practical”? Have you discounted your dream based on past failure or fear of what others will think? Or are you totally clueless about your calling?
Get to know your Creator. God has a lot to say about who he is and who you are. Ask him for clarity and then make a small step forward.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because the world needs people who have come alive. — Howard Thurman
It’s never too late to reset, start fresh, and chase your dreams. God can redeem your missed opportunities and lead you toward an even better future than what you can imagine for yourself.
2. Identify the lies you’re believing.
We all believe certain lies about ourselves. When I quit UCA, I was believing that I wasn’t good enough. I was comparing myself to others, many with more experience, around me. This lie followed me for years until I realized it was holding me captive.
Lies can have power over us, especially when we don’t detect them and then share them with others. Before I quit UCA, if I would have shared my feelings with someone and brought my fears into the light, I probably wouldn’t have quit. I bet I would have received truth and encouragement in return for sharing my fears and doubts.
What lies are holding you back? Identify and then denounce them. Confide in someone you trust and let them speak truth into your life. Problems don’t seem so large when we free them from the confines of our mind and let in others who can help.
3. Let fear fuel you.
If your dreams don’t scare you a little bit, they’re probably not big enough. Anything that is worthwhile is going to be somewhat scary, especially at first. Adversity is certain.
So let fear fuel you, not freeze you or, worse, finish you. When you move through fear, you’ll likely learn that the thing spooking you is actually not that bad. You’re not that easily defeated.
And if you fail, that’s OK. Failure is actually a good thing. Don’t let one failure or bad experience define how you view yourself and your worth. You may have failed, but you’re not a failure. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
Free book guide
Get my list of six books that will help you pursue life on purpose: Click here to get the guide.
I’d love to learn from you, too! What has failure taught you? What’s one of your biggest regrets, and how has it shaped you? What books would you add to my list? Share in the comments.