It’s natural to have the thoughts of why is this happening to me? or why can’t I be spared?
It’s a fact, sometimes life sucks. It can make you feel like life is conspiring against you and all the people around are out to get you.
It’s inevitable that such thoughts cross our minds from time to time and do not do us any favors. The problem is when you allow those thoughts to stay with you for a long time; when you start to believe in the idea that it’s only happening ‘to you’.
What if you start telling yourself that life is not happening ‘to you’ but ‘for you’?
Of course all these might seem a cliché’ especially so when you are in the whirlpool of emotional upheaval and things are going wrong, it’s hard to see you any of what is happening is ‘for you’.
You might be tempted to ask “What does it even mean to me?” How can life be happening for me when I’m working so hard, yet things are going in the wrong direction?
It will help you if you know what to look for, cause you see only that which you seek.
Let’s look at ways in which challenging life situations may be happening ‘for you’ and not happening ‘to you’.
For you to learn
Sometimes it pays to look at the arising situations in a very practical manner. A challenge or a problem occurs to teach us a lesson about something we must do or implement to prevent that particular challenge or problem from recurring.
Always lookout for patterns and if you notice that the same type of situation is often occurring to you, it is likely that you can find a system or a process to stop that from recurring.
For example, several years ago I noticed that I often felt overworked and stressed about the thought of paying all my employees their salaries on time. I never missed doing that but felt dissatisfied at the end that I had very little left for myself. This was really demotivating and impacted not just my health but my ability to take decisions and be innovative in my approach to business. Most days, my mind used to go blank thinking where I would get business and more money in order to promptly pay my employees their due. So much so that I felt resentful of them for “taking advantage” of me and started blaming them for not doing enough themselves to contribute to the business. The fact was that they were putting in their efforts and working as hard as I was. When I thought about it, I realized that what was making me unhappy was the fact that I was not getting paid myself and compromising my peace. That’s when I came across the wonderful book from Robert Kiyosaki “Rich Dad Poor Dad” in which he makes an important point about “paying yourself first”. That’s when you will get the energy to take on the challenges of the day. I decided to do just that and resolved that I will keep myself first – pay myself first. This helped me approach my business with more intention and made me feel better. A lesson I learnt and apply to this day.
For you to be aware
Sometimes the challenge or pain that you experience may not provide you with an obvious lesson but contributes to an awakening and lesson about life.
When I suffered a back injury and as I struggled with the after effects of stress and forced rest, the experience of which was I presume to serve my awakening. The lesson about rest was a practical lesson. Three months off from work gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and focus on those parts which I would have otherwise neglected. I could review my goals and bring about a semblance of balance in my life. More importantly brought me to look at so many beautiful things around me which I have been missing all the while. The road to recovery was sweeter by this experience and the injury served that purpose well.
To facilitate growth
Some of the toughest challenges cause us to draw on all our resources to adapt. It’s the challenge that facilitates our growth, strength, and flexibility. Sometimes challenges are an opportunity to show what we are capable of. It also serves the purpose of making us aware of the skills we need to navigate the vagaries of life.
I was once faced with a particularly tough challenge with someone who was spreading lies about me, physically threatening me and manipulating the environment to serve his malafide agenda. This person held a position of power in the organization which was being threatened by my increasing popularity with the management based purely on my performance. I was angry and frustrated and jumped into the game with a vengeance, losing control over my emotions. I started to commit mistakes which gave this person a handle to further brow beat me in the increasingly messy conflict. I was losing it till the time I brought up this case with my friend who was a good counsel during difficult times. He advised me to show some compassion towards the person and practice forgiveness. He directed my attention towards the fact that ‘the person was feeling a threat to his position and was reacting this way to protect his turf’. Probably he has nothing against you as a person, he said. On reflection, I saw the point which helped me reduce a great deal of anxiety and depression. I learnt not to join the party. My friend asked me whether I was able to feel compassion for myself as well. While I told I had, as I reflected more, I saw that it wasn’t true. I realized perhaps that’s what this experience had come to teach me – self compassion.
Self-compassion yields a number of benefits, including lower levels of anxiety and depression. Self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, which reduces their anxiety and related depression. Fortunately, it is a learnable skill.
To bring attention to your riches
A chance visit to an orphanage and spending time with the children there had a great impact on the way I started to look at my life from then on. The whole experience provided me with contrasts so deep in meaning. You see the kids happy about the little things in life and it reminds you about the riches you possess. When you see them play and enjoy each other’s company, it showed how they have been able to leave behind the seemingly tragic nature of their life and learnt to make the best of what they had. I stopped whining about what I did not have and started to enjoy the life I have been gifted.
To foster empathy for others
A life of hardship or challenge gives you the necessary tools to serve others at a higher level. It helps to foster greater empathy and compassion towards others. Right from being rendered unemployed, to being a victim of deceit, failed business ventures, my experiences have at times been painful, but they give me a perspective that few others have when it comes to coaching high achievers who feel ashamed by their struggles. My clients often tell me that I can articulate what they feel better than they can. It’s only because I’ve been there.
To test you
What purpose do tests serve in school and college? It helps us more to measure our progress and assess our capabilities. It shows us the mirror for where we are and how far away we are from the destination. It acts as a reminder of the actions you need to take to travel the distance successfully. Often people say that challenging moments in life are like a test from the universe to test whether you ‘really’ want what you say you want. It helps you realize your passion and desire towards your goals. It also helps you to re-evaluate and review your goals from time to time.
To provide proof
Often when we are faced with difficult times and continued challenges in life, we feel that the whole world is conspiring against us. Those who have been brought up with the idea of ‘God’ and the existence of a ‘superior being’ start to question that very idea. As my son who is a Doctor started to feel during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He was stuck away from home, with no support as his house-help was unable to make it due to the lockdown. His schedule at the hospital were erratic which upset his dietary schedules and health adversely. He started to tell me “Pa you say God exists, I don’t believe in that anymore. Even prayers are not helping me during these times. I am stuck with no support, erratic timing, no one to cook food and take care of my daily chores”.
I always felt that he was a person, all to himself and rarely used to interact with neighbours, staying aloof most of the time. I encouraged him to start interacting with people around and seek their help. To his pleasant surprise, he found out that an elderly couple who were his neighbours belonged to the same state and town from where we hail. They were so kind to offer help and take care of all his dietary needs, so much so that they were willing and also got his clothes washed in their machine and kept them ready for him to use. They made it a point to call him daily to check his well-being and ensured that he never felt alone and helpless. For one whole month this wonderful couple took care of him as their own and I can’t but help feel a great sense of gratitude for their gesture. It was a reminder and a lesson for my son that “God comes in many forms” and this beautiful couple were one such expression. It was a ‘proof’.
For learning to trust
Sometimes the challenges we face are simply an opportunity to cultivate deeper trust that things will work out eventually. It teaches us to trust the process and go through the actions in a diligent manner in order for us to achieve our goals. It teaches us not just to trust ourselves and our abilities but people who could lend a hand in helping us realize our dreams.
Remember, Life happens ‘for you’ and not ‘to you’!