You have likely heard the phrase, “When one door closes another door opens.” I heard it first a few years back. At the time, I was focusing so hard on the what I was losing I almost missed the meaning in the words.
However, later that day it came back to mind. For a few minutes, I wondered what they meant. I wasn’t sure if the person offering them was making an observation, filling awkward silence, or making a prediction. I eventually supposed it could mean many things to different people…and moved on.
Since then, I’ve had the phrase revisit me several times. Each time it was for a different reason and from a different person. I have taken each opportunity to consider it from a different perspective and try to learn something. Here is what I have learned so far.
Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) is often credited with saying, “When one door closes another door opens”. Here is the full quote.
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
As the second part of Graham’s phrase eludes, our opportunities are mostly limited by our tendency to continue focusing in the wrong places.
Our Virtual Fishbowls
We tend to operate in a world we construct around us through the act of becoming aware. As infants, our awareness barely extends beyond our mothers embrace. As we grow, our awareness grows.
- As mentioned, we create our “virtual fishbowl” with the effort of our awareness.
- Said a different way…what we pay attention to becomes our reality.
- What we don’t focus on has a reduced impact then it would if focused on.
As we grow, we learn to pay attention to things that we perceive as having (or potentially having) a significant impact on us. This involves looking out for things that bring rewards as well as things that threaten the stability of our “fishbowl and the rewards we have in it”. This is how we survive.
While opportunities are limitless, our personal capacity/energy to engage them is not.
Ignoring speed limits on the road gets the attention of the police (or creates an accident). As you know, driving recklessly through your life causes a mess too. Sometimes people get away with both for a while, but eventually they have to pay the piper. Most of us catch on to this early in life. And so, we create limits to operate within.
We do this for two main reasons:
- This helps us survive (with minimal conflict).
- To manage the limited energy we have (so we can use it where we want).
The Limit Trap
The limit trap lays in the parentheses of those two factors (above). If we aren’t careful, we find ourselves making the caveats the priority instead of just considerations.
If not careful we end up:
- Using our energy primarily to minimize conflict vs. to grow and survive.
- Using our limited energy to think, worry, vent, rant and rave about what we don’t have vs. to get what we want and need to keep growing.
When we use out limited energy to dwell on what we don’t have (and to avoid all conflict), we directly limit what we do and will have. This is because we shrink our virtual fishbowls by limiting our focus to within our existing boundaries of awareness.
Choice vs. Magic
One thing that irks me about Graham’s phrase (When One Door Closes another Door Opens), is the way it gives the concept an air of magic or fate to the process of opening the doors to our future. He makes it sound like the doors to opportunities we want will open and close automatically on their own. Even as if everything will be fine if we just turn our back on things we don’t like.
That is not the case. We have to take an active role in this process. We choose what doors we pull open, what ones we no longer want open and will push close if necessary, and in moving our focus from where it is wasted to where it will be productive.
- If we don’t make that choice and act on it, we’ll never realize or enjoy the limitless opportunities just waiting for us to pursue them.
The Bottom Line
Keep your focus off what you don’t have to free up your energy to see and take advantage of opportunities that will help you achieve the goals you’ve set. Say Goodbye to 2012. Stop staring at closed doors and use that energy to pull new ones open.