“Where have you been all my life?”

That question is probably on the Top Ten list of lousy pick-up lines, but it’s something I find myself asking – or at least thinking – whenever I come across something or someone that seems like the answer to a prayer. Or the solution to a problem or issue I’ve been working on or struggling with for a long time.

Like getting organized.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’re somewhat familiar with my ongoing efforts to get more organized. Under the umbrella of “getting organized” are projects and tasks like clearing the clutter out of my home and office, dealing with paperwork that seems to pile up faster than I can whittle it down – including the electronic paperwork in my email inbox – and working effectively and efficiently on the dreams and goals I have in different areas of my life.

Books I’ve read, advice I’ve taken, systems I’ve incorporated, and routines I’ve established have been helpful in varying degrees. Some I’ve rejected or abandoned along the way, while others are still an invaluable part of my life months or years later.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that I’ve just started using a workbook that’s helping me to organize and manage my time in a way I’ve never been able to do before. And once again I find myself asking, “Where have you been all my life?” Immediately following that are thoughts such as, “I wish I had known about this years ago. What a difference it would have made.” And, “Imagine everything I would have accomplished by now if only I’d been using this all along!”

This way of thinking, however, is neither appropriate nor accurate. And can actually be quite damaging.
One of the sessions in the coaching I do is about turning failure into success, and a good working definition of failure is “anything that didn’t work exactly right the first time.” Most likely, this applies to pretty much everything any of us have ever attempted to do.

Giving up after the first attempt – or the tenth, or perhaps the hundredth – is what really dooms our efforts. If we analyze what we did wrong, as honestly and objectively as we can, we’ll do better the next time we try, and the next time after that. The key is to keep learning, tweaking, and experimenting, while at the same time remembering that we have to give new systems and procedures enough time to work, especially if they involve following a new routine, or breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones.

There’s a saying that goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” But that begs the question, “How do you know when the student is ready?” Or, “What does it take for the student to be ready?”

Everything we learn, everything we attempt to do in pursuit of a goal, is crucial in helping us get there – including our mistakes, false starts, and disappointments, and the bumps and bruises, the hurts and humiliations we incur along the way. When we come across something that really may be the answer to our prayers, the secret to success, or a miracle cure, we should indeed be grateful that we found it when we did. But we should also be aware and appreciative of everything that came before, and that prepared us for what we have and where we are now.

The next time I find myself asking, “Where have you been all my life?” after discovering something or someone that I know is going to make a big difference in my life, I’ll try to remember the answer – that it’s been waiting in the wings for me to be ready. And I’ll take pride and pleasure in realizing that I’m ready right now. And I’ve worked long and hard to get here.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on April 11, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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