‘When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.’
‘Everything happens for a reason.’
‘Every disappointment is a blessing.’
How often have you heard these sayings or some variation of them? They’re meant to make you feel better but it’s pretty hard to see the positive when your world’s falling apart right? Not to mention the challenges of the past few years. Still, even with the angst that lingers after a worldwide pandemic and the current global oil crisis, there is wisdom behind those words. It is possible to go through the trials of life and come out stronger. But we know the opposite happens too. One person goes through the most horrible of events and comes out a better person for it while another crumbles under the pressure.
What makes the difference?
Well, we’re all different. We each have our strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, values, and experiences. We each carry our view of the world. The key to getting through those challenges, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, is to step outside the turmoil in your mind for a bit. Distract yourself from the problem at hand. That can be by focusing on helping someone else or doing something that brings you joy. Allow yourself to calm down by taking a step back only then can you adopt a different more empowering perspective. It starts with these three simple questions.
1. How did I get here?
This question invites you to objectively evaluate the situation and the part you played in it. What choices did you make? What actions did you take? Did you compromise or delay? Did you ignore the warning signs or fail to set boundaries? The purpose of this question is not to place blame but to allow you to take responsibility for where you are.
It can be painful but by asking and answering this question with honesty, you gain clarity about your role in creating the situation you find yourself in. It also highlights what you can influence if you are to change the situation.
2. What can I learn?
This question encourages you to be open and willing to move forward. What went wrong and why? Are there lessons you can learn? What are the opportunities presented by this challenge? How can you reframe the events and make them a teaching moment? Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, look to the future, how can you take this information and use it going forward?
3. How can I improve?
This question encourages you to take what you’ve gleaned from the previous two questions and use it to make positive changes in your life. How can you use the experience and the lessons learned to get stronger? What do you know now that you would do differently going forward? Are there new skills you need to acquire? Do you need to develop in particular areas? Do you need to eliminate certain things from your life? How can you use the lessons learned to grow and evolve and is it possible now to change your situation for the better?
Remember to focus on the things you can control
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus
By honestly answering these three questions, you quickly shift from a victim mindset to an empowered one. You focus on what you do have control over, your reaction to what has happened. Instead of worrying about how horrible the current circumstances are, you put your energy into what you need to do to move forward. You become solution-oriented instead of problem-obsessed.
Challenges are an unavoidable part of life. There’s no point in wasting time wishing them away. Use them as a golden opportunity to get stronger, better, and wiser and let the answers to these three questions spur you on.