The Three Dots

Those three dots.

Have you ever been in a text conversation with someone, seen the three dots like they are responding, but nothing ever comes through?

Those three dots. Taunting me. What could they be saying? Is there some gem of wisdom that’s taking a long time to type?

Then the three dots go away. Just like that. What were they going to say? For the love of all that is decent, WHAT WERE THEY GOING TO SAY? I MUST KNOW WHAT WAS WAITING BEHIND THOSE THREE DOTS!

Sometimes life gives us three dots. 

We want an answer, but it never comes. We want a reason for why things are the way they are, but it eludes us. It’s like we’re staring at those dots, waiting for some bit of wisdom or insight that never arrives.

We need answers. We need closure. We need to feel like things are resolved in our lives so we can move on. But life doesn’t necessarily work that way.

Why did my marriage have to end? Three dots.

Why did I get laid off? Three dots.

Why won’t anything work for me, no matter how hard I try? Three dots.

The answer never comes. And it’s usually because we’re asking a question that cannot be answered.

We need a villain. Our story isn’t complete without someone to blame. We need a hero, and usually we want that hero to be us. We need to have our story end like the ones on television.

But that’s not the way things go. There are some questions for which there are no answers. There are some puzzles that may not have a solution. And the success or failure of our lives might just hinge on our ability to accept that fact.

Perhaps there’s an alternative.

If you are stuck in that endless loop of asking questions that can never be answered, you might want to try this two-step approach to moving forward in your life.

First, be honest with where you are. Admit to yourself the reality of your current position. Stop assigning blame or looking for a scapegoat. Just admit your current state. It doesn’t matter how you got here, or who got you here, the fact is you are here. Just admit it.

When we take the emotional charge out of our situation, our minds are then able to redirect those energies into finding solutions. That’s why the 911 operator always says, “Try to stay calm.” Panicked people often don’t make good decisions. It’s just a biological fact.

Dr. Gail Gross explained it this way in an article in Huffington Post: 

When the body is under stress, it moves into survival mode, better known as the fight-or-flight syndrome. Under these conditions, the body prepares itself by overproducing the stress hormone cortisol. Then, cortisol goes to the brain and causes a slow-down in the process of the pre-frontal cortex, where you think critically and have your executive function. Therefore, the captain of your ship is no longer in control, and the amygdala, where the fight or flight syndrome and your emotions come from, gets larger and takes over the controls. Finally, the hippocampus, where your learning and memory are found, temporarily narrows.

Asking the wrong questions, blaming others, anger or regret all keep us stuck in that endless loop. If we’re going to move on, we need to let go and accept the situation for what it is.

Then, the second step to freedom is to start asking better questions. The bad questions keep us stuck. The three dots never go away.

What if you asked better questions? You know, questions for which there are answers. Instead of “Why does this always happen to me?”, ask yourself “What can I do to prevent myself from being in this position again?”

BOOM. That’s a question we can answer. Instead of running in circles of anger or depression, our mind can now work out an answer and a strategy to help us avoid the current situation in the future.

“Why do I always fail?” There is no answer to that question other than, “I’m a loser!” Maybe it’s time for a better question, like “What steps do I need to take to ensure this project has the best chance for success?” Asking that question is the beginning of a plan. My mind is already thinking about doing more market research, hiring a coach or mentor, finding a partner or other productive answers to that question.

See how it works?

I am a firm believer that failure is unavoidable. But I also believe we shouldn’t try to avoid failure. Failure makes us better. Failure forces us to accept the truth about where we are and make the changes necessary to take the next step forward. We don’t achieve success in spite of failure, we achieve success because of failure.

Failure makes us ask better questions. And instead of staring at those three dots, waiting for an answer that will never come, those better questions help us find our way through the darkness of the present into the light of what’s ahead.

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