How One Little Comma Can Change Your Life

Life's commas are just like the ones we got used to during those mundane classroom lessons. They are a time to pause, reflect, catch our breath then move on. They aren't the end.
05/15/2013 02:36 pm ET Updated Jul 15, 2013

We begin today's post with a quick roundup of two recent incidents. See if you can find a theme.

Incident #1:

One of my favorite professional relationships -- a client I'd been working with forever -- had to end our partnership. They were changing their focus and moving to a new city. Gone was a continuous stream of support, relationship and income. I knew I'd never find another partnership so perfect. I was devastated. Crushed.

Things would never be the same. Period.

Incident #2:

A recent blog post hit an all-time high. It seemed to catch a bit of virtual fire, resulting in hundreds more reads than any blog that came before it. I knew this was a turning point. I was ecstatic. Blissful.

Things would never be the same. Period.

In the end, both incidents surprised me. Within a few months of Incident #1 I found not one, but several new clients that resulted in not just ongoing projects, but also energized, supportive relationships. Within a month of Incident #2 my blog numbers evened out, going up and down in an ongoing, dynamic pattern.

Life, I realized, is not about periods.

Life is about commas.

Here's the deal.

We all have incidents in our lives -- good and bad -- that feel monumental. We fall in love, get the perfect job, get divorced, lose loved ones, get promoted, have kids, move to a new home, get fired... the list goes on and on.

These incidents feel huge to us, like a turning point where things are so final, that things will forever exist in this new context. That this is it. Period.


It's not a period. It's a comma. Because things are always changing. The good stuff will go a bit bad and the bad stuff will get better. Life is just one big, run-on sentence... that is, until the real period. When we die.

Until then, it's all just a bunch of commas.

Life's commas are just like the ones we got used to during those mundane classroom lessons. They are a time to pause, reflect, catch our breath then move on. They aren't the end.

Even our goals are commas. We meet them, then create another goal. We have no choice. We fail at them, then get up and do something else. We have no choice.

Let me be clear.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't celebrate our successes, learn from our failures, or set goals. They are all important.


Great leaders know that no one turning point is the end of the game. No success or failure is the new everything, the new forever. The new period.

Why must we remember this?

  • Because when we lose something, get disappointed or feel depressed we are certain we've blown it forever. But we haven't. Because the sentence goes on after the comma.
  • Because when something great happens we fantasize that things will only be good from here on in, then we are shocked and dismayed when things take a turn. Because the sentence goes on after the comma.
  • Because we put so much pressure on ourselves all the time, thinking we've found the one perfect job.. .thinking we've found our only opportunity to do something big... thinking we will never bounce back from a terrible loss... thinking we will never hurt again because we've found true love. We must stop. Because the sentence goes on after the comma.

We must remember that life is all one long sentence, no matter where we are in life, no matter what we've done up to now.

As a goal-driven gal, I've always struggled with the notion that life is a journey and not a destination. Yet it turns out, that pesky clichᅢᄅ is true. The journey is just a run-on sentence. The commas are all the twists, turns and stops we make along the way. By the time we get to the actual destination -- the end of our lives -- we've already seen everything we need to see, done everything we need to do, and realized that life is for the living.

And living means remembering the commas.

It's easier said than done when things go well, and even more so when things go horribly wrong. But all you have to do is look to our old grammar school lesson.

Remember the comma. Remember there's always more on the other side. Remember that life will go on, will change after this.

That's what I'll try to remember, no matter how many people happen to read this blog post.

This week:

No matter how good or how bad things seem, remember the comma. Then do everything you can to make the next part of your run-on sentence as awesome as it can be. And know if it doesn't work out great, there's always another comma coming.


Now go do good, and do it well.

For more by Deirdre Maloney, click here.

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