Why are we all so freaked out about the mistakes, failures, and mess-ups in our lives? If we look around, we’ll see plenty of folks who have turned a hot mess into something redemptive.

Take a look at Oprah Winfrey; she is one of the most loved and successful women on the planet—and probably the most transparent. That’s why people love her. A week didn’t go by without her struggles, especially with food, being plastered all over TV, magazines and the Internet. People related to Oprah’s struggle because of their own; maybe not with weight, but with something, and that’s what connected them to her. That’s what connects us to each other, because in the telling of our stories, we see we’re all on the same playing field.

Oprah took turned her mess into a message by taking off her mask and getting real: through it she created something hugely redemptive.

That’s what John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted did. After the abduction of his young son, he was determined to do something to help other families who went through the same horrific struggle. He started a television show, and through the 25 years it has run, he has helped capture over a thousand criminals.

How about Candice Lightner who started MADD after her 13 year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver? And even though Lance Armstrong blew it, he founded Live Strong to help survivors of cancer and their families. Each of these folks turned a hot mess into a powerful message. Each has done something redemptive for mankind, and each had a few things in common.

They all:

  • Failed in some way
  • Made a mess out of something
  • Suffered pain and heartache
  • Persevered
  • Never quit
  • Had the courage to tell their stories

Here’s the point: we don’t have to be perfect to be influential or make a difference. What we have to do is be willing to use our stories and our pain to help encourage others.

Where do we begin? Consider this:

Consider telling your story

When bad things happen in our lives, we generally want to keep them under wraps. Why? Because we don’t want people to think poorly of us or reject us, especially if we’ve messed up. Shame causes us to hide, but hiding never helped anyone. Ask yourself if what you’ve been through could possibly help encourage someone else. If the answer is yes, step out and tell your story and let it be used to strengthen others and give them hope.

Find your passion

What do Oprah, Walsh and Lightner all have in common? Passion. They were passionate about a cause, and they wanted to direct that passion toward helping others. You may not be passionate about much these days, especially if you’ve just gone through a difficult time, but somewhere percolating below the conscious surface, there is something you care about—maybe even enough to start a revolution!

Narrow your vision

Once you figure out what you’re passionate about, it’s time to narrow your focus. Walsh focused on catching criminals and Lightner focused on drunk drivers.  Find your niche and figure out how you can spread your message.

Don’t give up

Anything worth doing is going to take time and effort. You have to keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. The cause will be your motivator. Keep your focus and press on. Much of what we become passionate about has to do with the personal struggles we’ve gone through. From there a desire is birthed to help others or change society.

Think bigger picture

No matter what’s happened in your life, your story isn’t finished yet. There is still a lot of living to do. We all need time to heal from the messes of our lives, but after we’ve healed, we need to consider re-investing our hearts with a bigger plan and purpose in mind.

So where does that leave you? How can you learn from those that have gone before you?  How can you turn all those places in your life that you’ve wanted to hit the delete button on, into something profoundly redemptive? Start by being transparent, and see what will happen with your hot mess.

Back at you: Have you ever been in a hot mess? If so, how have you turned things around for the greater good?

Are you one of those people who has never failed?: Why Failure Can Take You One Step Closer to Success

Featured photo credit: Light at the end of tunnel black and white.Grain added via Shutterstock

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