The proverb, “when one door closes, another one opens,” conveys more than just a tidbit of wisdom. Like many people, you may have heard the phrase countless times, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means and how you can apply the wisdom in your life?
Understanding the concept behind this popular saying can help you maintain a positive outlook in practically all the aspects of your life, from your relationships to your career.
Here are some salient messages to pick from the aphorism.
The End of One Phase Is the Beginning of Another
It is common knowledge that life is in phases. But this fact is a lot easier to accept when you are moving from an unpleasant phase to a better one. On the other hand, it is more challenging to make peace with that same fact if the phase you are enjoying so much suddenly comes to an end.
Here’s what you should remember if one door closes or a phase of your life ends somewhat abruptly. Nature itself and the laws of the universe always ensure that everything maintains equilibrium.
There is no room for imbalance in the universe, so if anything happens to cause disorder in the system (such as a door closing), the universe will immediately set to work to reestablish the balance (by opening other doors or creating other opportunities).
When one door closes, it is not time to fuss about should-have, could-have, or would-have. Instead, it is time to let go of the past and find your next window of new opportunity. This is usually not an easy thing to do for many people, but by improving your self-discipline, you can accomplish whatever is important to you, including learning how to make peace with what you can’t control.
Defeat Is Education
Have you ever listened to someone’s success story and thought everything happens smoothly? It may sound that way, but that’s not usually the case. The “time in between doors” can be frustrating; anyone who’s been through a series of disappointments knows this firsthand.
Sometimes, it feels like your entire life has come to a standstill when one door closes! It is difficult to imagine another equally matched or better opportunity than what you’ve lost or missed.
Here’s how Alexander Graham Bell puts it:
“When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Defeat is nothing but education; it is the first step towards something better.”
It is easy to read this quote and agree with it completely when things are working out as planned. But when faced with defeat, it is hard to accept it as education.
Yet, there is no denying that within each seeming failure or defeat is a lesson that, if learned, will make us better. It is a lesson learned that can be good for personal development. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, is an excellent example of learning and becoming better through defeat.
The door to building the light bulb was slammed in Edison’s face 1,000 times, yet he didn’t give up! He achieved success by learning through a series of frustration and seeming failures.
You may be currently in between doors, with no sign that another door or window is about to open any time soon. Don’t be in a hurry to get through another door.
If you aren’t seeing another new opportunity, perhaps it is time to refocus and learn vital lessons. It might be helpful to spend some time reflecting on the possible lessons from the last opportunity and how to become better.
You Need to Be Flexible About Your Goals
No doubt, setting goals and making plans are great!
In fact, you can’t accomplish anything meaningful if you don’t set goals and craft actionable steps towards making them come true. That’s why it is important to heed the admonitory adage, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
While that is true, not every plan works out, regardless of how well-thought-out it may appear. Sometimes, some things are just out of our control, and that’s why we need to be flexible.
No one in his right sense plans to lose their job or a beautiful relationship. We certainly don’t graduate from school and look forward to spending years job hunting. Yet, these things happen despite our best plans.
Your Attitude toward Unexpected Change Is Crucial
Unexpected changes in plans aren’t as nearly as important as how we respond to them. This is what Viktor E. Frankl, a psychologist and neurologist, meant when he wrote:
“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Whether Frankl, Rollo May, Stephen R. Covey, or some other author wrote the above statement is debatable. But that’s beside the point. The important thing here is to think of this “space between stimulus and response” as the time between doors, which I explained earlier.
Your attitude is far more important than anything life throws at you. Attitude plays a big role in shaping our beliefs, feelings, and, most times, our behaviors. Perhaps you’ll understand this better if you consider that two sets of people can face the same situation but behave or respond very differently.
Some people’s attitudes can push them into making hasty decisions based mainly on emotions, which is often a recipe for regrets. In this case, they see the unpleasant events in their lives as equivalent to the outcome, so they readily blame themselves, others, or their circumstances for the hand that life has dealt them.
On the other hand, resilient individuals don’t throw their hands up in the air or point fingers, regardless of the situation. It doesn’t matter what their past looks like or how difficult their current situation is; these people will succeed despite all the hurdles.
The difference between these two sets of people isn’t the situation – it is their attitude. People who hold too tightly to their plans will likely see only defeat if things don’t work out as planned. And they will immediately behave from a reactionary place.
Those who are flexible see unexpected changes as education and not defeat. In other words, they will find a way through, under, above, or around their situation because they are flexible enough to tweak their plans.
When one door closes, they can quickly recognize the multitude of other open (or about to be opened) windows, doors, and walkways along their path. They grab these opportunities without looking regretfully at the failed plan.
Remember that adaptability or flexibility isn’t about giving up on your goals or changing your mind. Instead, it means allowing yourself to adapt to your evolving situation so that you can smash your goals, even if how you go about achieving them changes a bit.
Indeed, unexpected events can get in the way of our best plans, but as Epictetus puts it, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
You Risk Missing the Next “Open Door” If You Hold Onto the Past
When you focus your attention on what you’ve lost, you increase your chances of missing the next opportunity. Indeed, when one door closes another one opens, but if you are focused on the wrong things – things in the past – you will hardly notice the possibilities right in front of you!
Here’s the deal.
You do not have any power or control in the past or even in the future. All of your power is in the present. Now is when you can take action, not in the past or the future. Worrying about the past (and all the great opportunities that are no longer available) will only put you under constant stress in the present moment, and that’s not good for you.
As humans, one of our deep-seated problems is failing to take positive action because we can’t see how our actions will lead to the next big opportunity. However, practicing positive thinking can help you trust that everything will turn out okay.
Don’t be afraid to take action if you get the nudge. Trust that the next step will lead you to something better. Martin Luther King Jr. puts it better when he said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.”
Seek Out Your Next “Door”
“When God closes a door, He opens a window.” That’s another version – a believer’s version – of “when one door closes another one opens.” However, you don’t have to believe in a deity or subscribe to any belief system to acknowledge that both statements ring true.
Whatever belief system the saying is attributed to isn’t as nearly as important as the message it conveys.
And here’s the message:
How ready are you to seek out your next opportunity? You can’t see the doors wide open in front of you if you are still clinging tightly to the so-called missed opportunities.
Let go of the things you can’t control. Instead, focus your energy and undivided attention on all the possibilities and chances before you!