“The struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive and Godlike.” – Helen Keller
Life is a series of peaks and valleys. If we’re to ascend to the next peak, we have to navigate the tricky and dark terrains of the valleys.
The ups and downs is part of the human experience, and each and every person on this planet will, sooner or later, come to grips with this reality.
Sometimes we choose to step into one of these valleys because we’ve chosen to be there while chasing a challenging goal that’s deeply important to us, such as building a business or nursing a loved one back to health.
We perceive these sacrifices as worthy investment in our time and efforts.
However, the tougher valleys brought on my unanticipated events are harder for us to navigate. Examples of such events include the loss of a job, a breakup or the diagnosis of a serious health concern.
It’s tough to maintain perspective when we’re in the midst of a personal calamity that’s not within our control. I can recall my muddled thoughts while I was in the thick of a particularly tumultuous period in my life.
It took some time to detach myself from the situation and makes sense of my struggle. At some point in my healing journey, I came across a book that gave me solace called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who was sent to concentration camps during World War II. His wife, mother and brother died in other concentration camps. During his time there, he witnessed horrific atrocities such as flocks of people being sent to gas chambers and seeing dead bodies strewn on the street sides.
While facing this horrendous ordeal, Frankl had the awareness to realize that the kind of person he would end up becoming heavily depended on how he chose to interpret and respond to those dreadful circumstances.
He knew that although he couldn’t change his outer life or even his fate (he could’ve been killed at any moment), he could use those circumstances to strengthen his inner foundation.
After he was released from the camps, he was determined to derive a sense of purpose from the opportunity that the war had given him. He made the decision to extract all the wisdom that he gained from his experiences and share it with the rest of the world.
He went on to spend the rest of his life spreading his message, enlightening people on the importance of finding meaning and purpose in our struggles.
This is an indispensable contribution towards a society where the youth of today are hardly prepared for the inevitable difficulties of life. Education systems and society offer children the academic knowledge for a successful career but not the life skills that will help them deal with real-life problems.
The lack of emotional competence has lead to an escalation of depression, addictions and mental illnesses. Painful emotions are heavy entities that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can leave us feeling weighed down and stuck.
The only way to rise above the pain is by gaining a healthy sense of perspective on the predicament we are enduring. When we bring our stories of struggle to the light, we release the heavy emotional charge behind them.
Here are five reasons why your struggles can empower you:
1. You have the power to shift a situation in your favor: Although we can’t always control the nature and timing of the events that occur in our lives, we have the power to shift the outcomes in our favor based on how we choose to respond to them. Just as how old, worn-out crops are burnt to the ground and used as fertilizer for new seeds to sprout, we can use our difficult experiences (with the right perspectives and initiatives) to create new opportunities for personal growth and progress.
2. Your struggles build your character: Nothing can shape our character as markedly as the struggles we face in our lives. Challenges provide the perfect opportunity for us to stretch beyond our comfort zone and discover our strengths. A piece of coal can only transform into a diamond after facing tremendous pressure, and this applies to our spirits as well. It’s only when we encounter some form of resistance will we be able to grow into our brilliance, while also gaining a sense of maturity and humility.
3. None of your efforts wasted: If we lament about the amount of time, energy and heart we invested into something that didn’t pan out as we hoped it would, we’ll be prone to feelings of sadness and regret. The truth is that none of our efforts are ever wasted because every single struggle we face provides a trail of clues and kernels of wisdom about a better and more suitable way of living. I like to think of struggles as integral pieces of the puzzle of our lives, which can help us make sense of the bigger picture.
4. Things can only get better: If you discern the wisdom from your experiences and apply your knowledge in future decisions, you can expect your life to be on the upswing. You’ll morph into a wiser and stronger person who is less likely to repeat the same mistakes again; and you’ll move closer towards creating your ideal life. Even if you do face another major adversity in the future, you’ll be able to face it without falling apart, because you’re now armed with experience and the right coping tools.
5. You have the opportunity to change another person’s life: After you’ve overcome a struggle, you’ve gained valuable knowledge that can enlighten those who’re facing similar situations. You have walked down a particular road so you’re familiar with all the potential road blocks and traps others might encounter along that road. You can help them bypass these obstacles by sharing your story.
For example, many parents who have lost their children in drunk-driving accidents have started foundations and awareness campaigns to educate other families on the hazards of this reckless behavior. They found purpose in their painful loss by giving back to their community.
Once you’ve made peace with your struggles, you will be convinced of the tremendous value they can add to your life. Like the ultimate alchemist, you’ll possess magical powers to use your struggles to transform yourself into a person of character and virtue, grateful for the human experience.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are some of the steps you’ll take to develop beliefs that will help you find meaning in your struggles?
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