Saturday, August 31, 2013

What is the Lesson?

One of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves in any situation is "what can I learn from this?" This is especially profound - and especially difficult - when we are facing the challenging times in our lives.

When things do not go as planned, it is easy to react negatively. Indeed our social structure is set up to encourage us to do so. When we react we make the situation about us. Whether we get upset or feel under attack (or any other or a range of negative emotions), those reactions color our view of the situation. They make us angry, bitter, or to feel sorry for ourselves. Reactions fuel reactions and suddenly the entire event becomes a drama. During these times some people will encourage us in that behavior.

Recently, I read a quote from Mark Twain that said, "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

I think that this statement is true not only of our ambitions, but of our focus in life. People who encourage you to be upset and unhappy are trying to get you to focus on the negative aspects of the event. Those people may get great enjoyment from the drama because they can gossip and talk about it to others. Those people, however, do not have your best interests at heart.

There is no such thing as a perfect life if you define one as being devoid of any challenge or hardship. It is easy to look at people at the pinnacle of their success and to assume that they have achieved it all overnight. However, another great quote is "nothing fails like success"; meaning that we learn from our mistakes and difficult times. When you succeed, you don't learn nearly as much as you do when things don't work out as planned and you have to figure out why and move on. To succeed, you must experience hardship to learn what it takes to get to the place of your success.

So, if in dealing with hardship we take our mind off the event - and resulting frustration - and instead focus on the lessons we can learn from it, we will get to our place of success quicker.

Sometimes when I have expressed this idea the response I get is "I can't help the way that I feel!" Lets look at that. Feelings are not just emotions that happen to you from outside yourself. Feelings are reactions that you choose to have. Reactions are thoughts - the way you interpret events - and we certainly have control of your thoughts . . . or at least you should. You *will* have negative thoughts. We all do. You can choose to dwell on them or to move on to other thoughts that are beneficial to you.

When we make our experiences about the lesson we take the emphasis off ourselves, and the way we feel about the experience, and move it onto what we learn and how we benefit from the situation. This is true even if it is one that we don't think the event is in our best interest at the time. I know from my own experience that some of the events that seemed like the worst (for example a car accident the sidelined my early career as an artist) actually sent me on a life path (back to school) that improved my life dramatically.

There is great power in the questions we ask ourselves because they direct our thinking. Questions like "why me?" or "why does this always happen to me?" do not generate beneficial responses. They are a negative loop. It is important to ask the right questions to put us on a track that will give us something of value out of a difficult situation. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, as questions like "why does this always happen to me" will help you do, you can focus on the positive side of "what can I learn from this" because no matter how difficult there is always something to learn.

1 comment:

  1. Howdy neighbor! I just found your blog and I'm so glad I did!! I also live in Oklahoma and I wanted to leave you a note to say hello and let you know I'm your newest follower! Have a good week =)

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