Life's Most Valuable Lessons


And How to Make Sure They’re Helping You!

By Mary R. Dittman, M.B.A.


My greatest heartbreak occurred when the man I’d been dating for a year told me he wasn’t ready for marriage.  I’d met him when he was separated and finalizing his divorce - a scenario that made me nervous, but he seemed like he had completed his emotional business with that failed marriage.  When he told me he didn’t know what he wanted, I said I needed a break.  I figured some time apart would have him ready to get engaged. 

It worked: six months later he was engaged to another woman.  They married shortly thereafter.

I immediately jumped back into online dating.  I met a schoolteacher who was marriage-minded and excited about me.  But something felt “off.”  I uncovered his recent - and disturbing - criminal record, so I ended the relationship.  He proceeded to stalk, harass, and terrify me for months.

Between the heartbreak and the fear, I decided to stop dating.  

Recently, I wrote in my journal that if I’d had a higher standard for myself, I could have avoided the heartbreak with Doug.  And then I wouldn’t have turned to online dating to try to get over him.  I wouldn’t have met Jon.  I would have spared myself THAT heartbreak. 

But the only way I could learn that standard was to go through those heartbreaks.

One of the things my entrepreneur clients struggle with is launching something new: a new product, a new program, a new logo, a new website.  They get trapped in analysis paralysis and don’t want to launch until they are confident everything is perfect. 

The problem is, you can’t reach perfection by yourself.  At some point, you have to put the product out there and see how it does.  The positive feedback will feel good, but the negative feedback is what’s truly valuable.  That negative feedback gives you the information you need to make changes.

It’s easy to look back and regret things from the past based on what we know now.  But many times, the only way we know what we know now is because of what we did in the past.  Avoiding that experience would mean we wouldn’t now have that valuable information.

I think we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.  I see my students look at their exams when I return them.  They gloss over what they got right and focus in on what they got wrong.  Why?  They know that’s what they need to get clear on before the final.  That test is coming back around and they want to do better next time!

For an entrepreneur, the best information isn’t from your customers who love your business, it’s from customers who have left your business or those who have never patronized it at all.  This isn’t to say that everyone should be your customer, but people who are willing to share negative input can shine a light on things you can improve.  Or, at the very least, help you get clear on why you’re NOT willing to make changes.

It would be ideal if we could learn from the cautionary tales of others’ experiences.  Sadly, most of us suffer from believing we are special.  We are the exception.  The pain others experienced won’t happen to me.  Maybe you’ve done this in friendships: you see a friend who blames others or treats people badly, then you’re hurt and shocked when she turns this behavior on YOU.

This is why it’s important to actually LEARN from painful experiences.  You learn that you are NOT the exception, and that you need to do things differently next time.  Some of us need several tries before we learn the lesson.  

One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn is that when I’m thinking, “Maybe this time things will work out,” or “Maybe this isn’t as bad as it appears to be,” I am setting myself up for pain.  I’m kissing frogs hoping they’ll turn into princes.  Ladies, that is a fairy tale - it isn’t real.  You can kiss all the amphibians you want, and they will not turn into a man.  Stop using Hollywood as a guide for your real life.

Today, if a great guy who is separated asks me out for coffee, I may be tempted to go for it.  However, I remember what I learned from the Great Heartbreak. 

My answer:  call me when your divorce is final.

To me, that’s the One-Derful Life: getting to the point where you can take care of yourself emotionally and not keep sticking your hand in a blender (thanks, Dr. Phil).  You learn from your painful lessons and then you do something different.  

Here’s another piece of advice I give entrepreneurs: if you want different results, you have to do things differently.  It’s true in singleness, too.  If you want to be peaceful and happy and have a chance at that love of a lifetime, you have to stop doing the things that have kept you single and start doing things differently.

Are you stuck in a painful heartbreak? Here’s my ABC’s of Healing - a free program that will help you move past the pain so you can get on with your One-Derful Life.

Question: What lesson have you still not learned?

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