If we had a crystal ball, life would be grand. But, because we don’t, we often find ourselves at the mercy of hindsight. Hindsight being 20/20, what is one setback you faced in your career that ended up being a blessing in disguise?

A long time ago, my father told me it was important to collect life experiences. It was not only important to collect them but to cherish and to learn and grow from them. Let me add . . . to heal from them.

As you journey through life, you collect personal and professional experiences. If you had asked me a couple years ago, I would have told you to let someone else collect them. I was done. I had had enough. Today if you ask me, I will tell you I am glad I did not.

Many people tend to believe you heal from the personal or private things in your life and that will affect or spill over to the rest of your life, to your professional life. I began to wonder if you also heal from professional experiences and when I shared this with a colleague, she paused momentarily and said, “Um, you are right. That is so true. I have never thought of healing in a professional capacity.”

And so my journey of professional healing ensued.

My healing started in 2010 with the passing of someone close to me followed by a series of wonderful and traumatic events in a short 18 month time period. I agonized over a decision that would have long standing affects:  take a permanent leave or continue to work. I was giving everything I had to work and to others. I was failing miserably in caring for myself. I decided to take the time I needed and heal. If you asked me then, I probably would told you it was a crazy and outrageous decision. Others thought it was a brave and courageous decision.  Today, I consider it to be a rare but extraordinary gift I gave myself.

A couple of things I learned on this journey. Death is certain – but so is life! In essence, I was reclaiming my life.  I now surround myself with only those that I love, enjoy and connect with. I engage and seek out work that I am passionate about.  I am solidly anchored, confident, and grounded.

Taking the time I needed to heal was a blessing in disguise.  Hindsight provides you with the clarity to move forward.  It is not always clear in the moment, but it becomes so as time passes. Time is precious so make the moments count. Life is too short to not enjoy every moment.


Many of us go through life identifying themselves by their work. Yes, to some degree it does define how you live and what you are able to enjoy.  How do you answer the question, “What do you do?” Many answer with,  “I work here and do this and have done this for x numbers of years.” I challenge this by telling you that you are not defined by your work, you are defined by who and what you love. What you love is in part your work – your professional self – but that is not all that it is. As you grow and establish a life for yourself your thinking changes and you begin to think this way too. The more people I talk to and share this with, the more people affirm this for themselves too.

When askes what is it that I do, I answer, “I am a consummate professional with over 16 years experience in Human Resources, I love developing and coaching others, tackling problems, engaging with others on creative, rewarding and complex projects. I love to write, volunteer and stay close with family and friends.  And in my spare time I read everything I can, swim and enjoy watching sports.”

Professional healing. Yes, I have healed in ways that have even surpassed my greatest expectations. But more importantly I have re-discovered myself again and let me tell you, I am awesome!

A part of you dies when you stop collecting life experiences. If your bucket is not continuously overflowing, you are not living enough.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Michelle McLaren

Michelle McLaren, PHR is a Human Resources Business Partner for Wincor Nixdorf, a Global IT organization and has over 18 years progressive human resources experience. She is the Chair for the Austin HR Management Association Certification Committee, blogs regularly for AHRMA on various HR topics and lends her talents to other HR projects and initiatives. You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.


Debra Ingram

Great article – I love the phrase “professional healing” as it finally helps me define my own decision to leave a 14+ year career at my company last year – without having anything else lined up. Given the down economy many thought I was crazy while others thought courageous. But like you, with the benefit of hindsight (and a great new job) I see it as the greatest gift I ever gave myself!


Fabulous article! I happen to know this author personally, and I have watched her heal and grow over the length of time in which she speaks. She is an amazing, incredible, strong lady who I am glad to call ‘my friend’.


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