This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy a suggested product I will earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.
When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. -Peter Marshall
I try to avoid pain and hardship whenever possible. Yes, that is obvious you say. Or do I really try to avoid pain, I think it may be more accurate to say that I try to avoid change.
Much of my pain comes from hanging on to things whose time has come to let go. Maybe it is a relationship that I need to let go of or a job or a way of doing things whose time has passed. Attempting to avoid change is one of the ways I tend to bring pain into my life.
In Harvey MacKay’s book, “We Got Fired…and It’s the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us,” there are many stories about how getting fired was a catalyst for starting a business or going on to something better. One of my favorites is the story of how the founder of Home Depot got fired from his job at a hardware store because he did not understand the business.
My first internship in graduate school was supposed to last twelve months. I struggled and struggled. It was like trying to herd cats as soon as I thought I was making progress another difficulty popped up. The more I tried to make it work, the more unhappy I was with my career choice. I did not like the work and my relationship with my practicum supervisor left much to be desired. After three months, I gave up. I admitted I needed to try something different.
I was allowed to switch internship placements and ended up in my dream placement as a school social worker (a placement that was not available when I started the previous June). My second internship supervisor was a joy to work with. She was positive, supportive, and a fantastic mentor. At the time I wanted that first internship to work out, but had I stayed there I would have missed out on a great learning experience that I have drawn on for years and the opportunity to work with a wonderful woman. Given the choice at the time, I would have avoided most of my hardships which often come in the form of unrequested change. However, hardships have been one of my greatest catalysts for growth.
3 ways to use hardship to facilitate growth.
1. Focus on the opportunity.
Ask, “What can I learn?” and “How can I grow?”
When we are facing a difficulty, instead of focusing on how it is unfair, it is useful to focus on what we can learn or how we can grow during a difficult time. Difficulties are opportunities to grow and learn. Richard Rohr’s book “Everything Belongs” talks more about how to use hardship as an opportunity for growth.
2. What can I change?
Look for what you do have control over and identify where your power is in the situation. We can never control everything, but we can always control something. Look for where your power is in the situation. Then do what you can to make your life better or move it in the direction you would like to see it go. The post, What a Unicorn Can Teach You About Problem Solving gives you helpful tips on how to focus on solving problems.
3. What is good?
In times of adversity, look for what is good. Blogger Emily Furda has a great post on this, One Way to Become a Positive Person. She talks about acknowledging a difficulty while also acknowledging the positive parts of the situation. For example, “I miss my children when they are with their father; but I get time to myself, the house will stay clean for a couple of days while they are gone, I have time to work on my business that I would not have if they were here, and the time away from them gives me time to do other things so that I can have quality time with them when they are with me.”
Making the best of things is a life skill for both adults and children. Teach your children this lesson by modeling this approach when you, as a parent, are facing a hardship.
Curious about part one of “What to do about Hardship”? You can learn how hardship can help us develop compassion.
What have you learned from a hardship in your life?