Bad times come to all of us.
Pain and suffering are inevitable in the human experience. No one is immune.
But if we are to live a happy life—a life in which we are able to meet and overcome challenges—there is one thing we absolutely must do: change our perception of what we think a problem is. It will have a profound effect.
“There are two types of pain in this world: the pain that hurts you, and pain that changes you.” ~ Unknown
Now if I were to say, “You don’t actually have any problems, you just think you do,” would you think I was crazy?
Ralph Waldo Emerson didn’t think so. He said:
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
If all things really have contributed to our advancement, this means that all experiences, good and bad, are directly for us (whether or not we realize it at the time).
When we are going through a painful experience, instead of feeling like a victim, we can reflect on it and ask ourself, “How would I think and act in this situation if I fully understood that what I’m going through is actually a helpful circumstance that I require for the evolution of my consciousness?”
Wouldn’t this totally change our perspective?
One of my favourite authors of all time once said:
“Thou hast thy trials? All outward trials are a replica of an inward imperfection. Thou shalt grow wise knowing this, and shalt thereby transmute trial into active joy”. ~ James Allen
Although I can’t articulate it quite as well as Mr. Allen did over 100 years ago, the way I see it is this: The obstacles in our lives are actually the opportunities that life gives to grow and reach our full potential.
Yes, the problem itself is the very thing that furnishes us with the opportunity to change.
All experiences, then, (positive or negative) are gifts.
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” ~ William Shakespeare
This process of being molded and changed by problems is working in everyone’s life, including my own.
I have been a pro-blogger for almost six years. I make my entire living online. And yet I wouldn’t be privileged to live this lifestyle had I not have been teased as a teenager for being thin.
Today, I am the CEO of my own online fitness company. Had I not experienced the insults that came my way as a younger man, I would never have been inspired to start lifting weights and researching fitness in my 20s.
At age 26, I began to take it seriously.
I trained, researched, trained, researched, trained, researched—you get the idea. It culminated in creating my own training system. I started a website and shared my routines and tips with the world for free. My work quickly became popular.
But carving out a nice body and starting a successful business was not the greatest success. My greatest success was the person I became in the process.
I learned goal-setting, self-discipline, motivation, the power of purpose and the ability to delay instant-gratification in return for longer-term success.
I also learned an amazing analogy for life.
Imagine this. You walk into a gym with the desire to start building some muscle. However, you are startled to see that there aren’t any weights in this gym—no dumbbells, no barbells, no machines—nothing.
How are you going to sculpt your body without any resistance to push against? It’s impossible.
It works the same with our characters. We sculpt our characters and grow through resistance. Our challenges provide the necessary resistance to enable us to grow and evolve. When we push through and overcome challenges in our lives, we grow and become more.
No resistance, no growth.
I remember years ago when I first read the Og Mandino classic, The Greatest Salesman in the World, one section in particular made me sit back and think, “Wow. That was good!”
Og had a rather interesting analogy for how our problems, failures and setbacks serve a purpose. I’ve never been able to shake this passage from my mind.
He wrote that in order for wheat to grow and multiply, it was necessary to plant it in the darkness of the earth. Likewise, our failures, despairs, ignorance and inabilities are the darkness in which we have been planted for the very purpose of “ripening.”
Could it be that we actually need the dirt and darkness in our lives to grow to our full potential? I think the fact that so few people change, evolve or grow spontaneously is proof that we actually require some moments of suffering to act as a purifying and perfecting process in our lives.
“You seek problems because you need their gifts.” ~ Richard Bach
What happens if we don’t choose to grow as a result of a challenge or difficulty? What if we don’t change as a result the painful experience that comes into our life? Then I believe we are doomed to repeat the lesson again and again—until we get it.
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ~ Pema Chodron
Wiser souls only need life to give them one “spanking” in order to get the lesson and grow accordingly. I think that’s the best approach to take. This way, growth occurs quickly, and suffering is minimized. When we begin to see things this way, we start extracting the opportunities arising from each seeming setback.
I like to say that perhaps there’s no such thing as a bad event. Don’t “all things work together for the good?”
Here’s the bottom line. If we begin to look at all events in our life as necessary factors in our personal growth and evolution, we will emerge superior to every painful situation. Nothing can or will overtake us.
Author: Mark McManus
Apprentice Editor: Carlene Kurdziel / Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Taylor Nicole/Unsplash