When Life Forces You to Shift

Learning to pivot is usually not about choice. It’s more about finding ways to thrive despite the cards we’re dealt.


Regina Cash-Clark is a Writing Facilitator and Encourager based in Somerset, NJ. She will be facilitating two writing workshops, Tackling the Overwhelm: Unleashing Your Authentic Writer's Voice and "Whose Story Is This?" Writing Your Own Narrative at the 2024 Weekend Getaway.

There are a lot of reasons and situations in life that cause us to change course: Moving. Going back to school. Changing jobs. Switching careers. Suffering loss.

And they can all be challenging, affecting our lives in vastly different ways.

The trick is not to focus so much on the pain, that we miss the lesson.

For me, it’s happened through a number of learning experiences over the years, some more painful than others. That’s just the truth. So, why does significant growth always seem to come with growing pains? It’s all a part of the process most of the time, the thorny path to much-needed development, evolving...just plain growth. The trick is not to focus so much on the pain, that we miss the lesson.

The big miss

As I reflect on my own past with facing change, it dawns on me that some of my greatest pivots have come after some pretty devastating experiences, at least at the time. I can remember one from back in the early days of my career. I was working as a marketing assistant at the New Jersey headquarters of a tightly-run London-based company. Without realizing it, I made a really dumb editing mistake, right on the cover of the main brochure. The cover. I missed it, even though it was the headline...in Big. Bold. Letters. It was a glaring type-o, an error of errors, for everyone to see. I was mortified. And that mistake haunted me, probably because I had thought that this assignment would be my big chance.

My boss was away, and I was left with the responsibility of proofreading these new direct mail campaign materials. I was excited and up to the challenge. I wanted to show that I could handle it and that I could take on more. I was even hoping for a promotion somewhere in the near future. Then it happened. It was a glaring miss, an oversight, really, from reading or scanning too quickly. This was my first full-time job after college, but I was feeling like it was the end of the world—and of my career. “That’s it,” I thought. “I’m done.” I was pretty hard on myself to boot, as always.

It's just desserts

I knew I needed to face the music...and that meant facing a supervisor. Walking into the office of my boss’ boss was truly a sobering experience. She was sitting behind a big bold wooden desk, and I was shivering in my little chair, waiting for the axe to fall. But I give her credit. She was stern, but fair. And we fixed the problem, at some added expense. That was one day I won’t soon forget. But I’ll tell you one thing: It never happened again! I became an expert editor after that. I truly learned from that experience. Even today, I count myself an even stronger editor than writer. I’ve put in the time.

Yet that discovery led me down a new path and also taught me the importance of taking responsibility for my actions immediately, not looking for someone to shoulder or somewhere to lay the blame. It taught me to seek solutions first, not to waste time with finger pointing, so that improvements could overtake errors in the end. And, yes, sometimes our solutions are better than what we started with in the first place. Go figure.

Now that’s not exactly a life-altering experience, I know. But for a perfectionist who had almost always come out on top, it was a rude (and needed) awakening. From that failure, I learned to face my mistakes head on and to push forward toward solutions. I don’t think that I’d have understood the importance of that without such an experience.

And, truth be told, if it hadn’t been for that fear-inducing experience, this Jersey girl would never have had the courage to venture out into the big City, NYC. After that, I started thinking about my future and the type of career that I really wanted, beyond a job that paid the bills. That failure actually propelled me forward to what would eventually become my  dream job at a major magazine. It was worth the tough lesson.

I also learned that in life, you may have to have an extra helping of humble pie sometimes. So, be willing to eat it, to put that ego aside whenever necessary. It may be sweeter than you think in the end.

What was one of your early life pivots? What did you learn?

Side note: I had to proofread this article multiple times because a few of my keys are sticking. Time for a new laptop! So don't hold any errors here against me. *Wink.*