Gratitude and Hardship

 In gratitude, stress

How do you make the most of life’s challenges?

My life hasn’t been perfect.  Has yours?  I’ve experienced everything from the loss of a job to the death of a parent and husband.  I’ve had interpersonal conflicts and personal failures.  I grew up in what used to be called a broken home and I’ve been so shy that I was afraid to try anything new. What have your struggles been?

Gratitude for Difficulties

Are you ever grateful for the difficulties in your life?  Everywhere we look there are reminders to count your blessings. We start gratitude journals and publish what we are grateful for on Facebook, but do you ever  express gratitude for your failures and losses?  Or do you try to overcome and forget about them?

 

In one of his weekly podcasts, Dan Miller of 48 Days to the Work You Love, talked about his childhood.  He grew up in a Mennonite family where money was considered evil and poverty a way of life.  There was no running water in his house until he was in the 8th grade.  He worked hard on the family farm and was not allowed to watch television, listen to music or enjoy social or sporting events.  He didn’t have any support for attending college as education past  high school was considered dangerous and unnecessary.

Despite all this adversity, Dan is grateful for this lifestyle.  Out of it came an independent spirit and love of reading and books.  He learned to earn his own money, to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and create his own opportunity.  He believes that he is the successful entrepreneur that he is today because of the adversity that he faced in his childhood. 

Do you have a similar story? When I was younger, my goal was to live a carefree-adversity-free-life. I hoped to avoid conflict and failure at all costs. I tried to fly under the radar and stay out of sight.  I truly thought this was the way to be successful and move forward in accomplishing goals. I’ve come to realize that not only is this impossible but it also creates a colorless, ordinary risk-free life.  Is that your goal?  Or would you prefer an extraordinary life of color and adventure?

How to be grateful for difficulties

After a lifetime of trying to avoid risk and failure, I’ve finally learned that there is much to be grateful for in difficulty and adversity.  Here are five things I’ve learned:

  1. In every adversity, there is an opportunity.  It’s not always easy to see.  It takes a certain perspective, even sometimes the advantage of hindsight to find it.
  2. A life free of failure is also a life free of success.  If you take a risk sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always learn.
  3. You can turn any difficulty into a learning experience if you will focus on being a learner instead of a loser.  Rather than emphasizing that you failed look for what you have gained.  I’m not saying this is easy…
  4. Difficulties make you more empathetic to others, especially those who have experienced similar ones.  It can help you forge close relationships.  It also gives you an additional way to serve others by sharing what you learned.

Avoiding Failure and Risk Means Living an Ordinary Life

Some of these have been hard lessons to learn.  It is still easy for me to sit back and let life ramble on without direction or purpose while I wait for things to happen.  It is hard to step out in faith and try new things that may not work.  It is hard to look for opportunities in the midst of tragedy or loss but I do believe it is the best way to live.  Rather than trying to avoid failure, take planned and intentional risks to live a life that is truly full of color and excitement.

What about you? 

How have failures or losses in your life been opportunities? 

Are you grateful for the desired difficulties as well as the blessings in your life? 

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