We got to school for years hoping to learn enough information and skills to get us through life. Courses in school go in sequence when they built upon one another. They increase in depth and difficulty as you move along the education continuum. The goal of learning is to build an arsenal of tools that will guide and assist you as you move through life.
We learn a lot of facts, but when it comes to practical life lessons we have to divert our attention from the classroom and look to our real world experiences as our teachers. This is where we learn respect, responsibility, and cooperation to name a few. Real world experiences provide us with a context for overcoming adversity. These are the lessons that are often the hardest to learn because they can only be learned by making it through the challenge. You have to find a solution to the problem/challenge to learn the lesson.
Obviously there are challenges you can’t prepare for such as an illness. This is where life lessons get more complicated because we have to able to generalize our lessons learned to a new situation. If you’ve been sad in the past how did you get over it? What did you do to resolve that emotional challenge? Having the capacity to superimpose those lessons to new situations is how we move forward on our path to health and healing.
So what are the lessons that are taking you the longest to learn? How would you know that they’re a struggle? They are the challenges that continue to present themselves challenging you every step of the way. They are the challenges that give you an opportunity to try various possible solutions providing an arena for trial and error.
We don’t like to think about the lessons we are having difficulty learning. Thinking about the unlearned lessons often makes us feel defeated. On the other hand, if you’re up to “doing the work” having these challenges build inner strength. They allow you to build a pyramid of learning expanding the realm of possibility in your life.
How will you tackle the unlearned lessons? What strategies will you use to learn the lessons most trying physically, mentally, or spiritually?
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There are certain sayings that give me pause when I hear them because they call into play the master plan of the Universe. The one that I have a hard time hearing is, “Everything happens for a reason?” To me, that phrase implies the Universe providing us with the biggest question of our lives and trying to make sense of challenging times. Would it make it easier if there were a reason for everything, or would it complicate the issue?
I started reading David M Howitt’s new book, “Heed Your Call”. Howitt states, “Most of us interpret being blessed with challenges as being dealt a bad hand.” So is it possible that challenges are blessings? Do they encourage us and challenge us to try something new? Are there degrees of difficulty in the challenges that present themselves in our lives?
I ask this question because I’ve sat in hundreds of support groups for those facing chronic and life-threatening illness and the notion that a health challenge is a blessing perplexes me. I do understand that a gift can be found within the challenge, in this case an illness diagnosis, but the illness itself as a gift I still question.
There is one aspect to Howitt’s quote that I like, and that’s the notion that we’re blessed to be or do better in our lives. The idea that we’re faced with challenges to overcome something we’re avoiding, or something we wholeheartedly desire is truly a blessing. We do become stronger when we conquer a challenge. The number of people who climb Mt. Everest every year is amazing. Each climber is striving to reach the mountains summit as well as the summit within their own physical, emotional, and spiritual being.
I do agree with Howitt that attributing a life challenge as being a dealt a bad hand serves no purpose. I often joke about being my family’s genetic dumping ground. I don’t say that out of anger, but it is a fact that I seem to be the repository for many of my families health shortcomings. Fortunately, since I’ve was a child I’ve had support and love allowing me to face each challenge as it arises making me the resilient being I am today. Did I know as a child that these challenges were blessings? I often wonder if I learned to consciously filter all of life’s challenges through the lens of resilience. It provides me with great comfort in that belief.
How do you filter your life’s challenges? Are you on the side that life’s challenges are a blessing or a bad hand you’ve been dealt? I hope we can start a dialogue and explore this further.
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If you got past the title I’m sure you’re thinking I’m crazy. You may even be asking yourself, “How could there be a bigger challenge than being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?” I didn’t say a bigger challenge; I said your next challenge. I can assure you there will always be a next challenge, so you better start preparing for it now!
Life is full of challenges. It’s these challenges that get us to grow in ways we could previously never have imagined. Yes, the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness may be your largest challenge so think about the lessons you’ve taken away thus far. How have your learned to cope with your diagnosis? How have you become a better advocate for yourself? How have your clarified your positions and priorities in your life?
The questions I just posed are crucial because the way you answered them will be the roadmap for all future challenges. One of the things I’ve learned from my twenty plus years of working with individuals and families facing a health challenge is that life lessons are generalizable. We don’t learn a lesson and then can only apply it to a health crisis. The lessons learned from facing your health challenge are the catalysts for coping and thriving through any challenge.
This isn’t about finding out how life can be ideal; but how life can be fulfilling. It’s about taking each challenge and taking the lessons you’ve learned to branch out and explore more of your own emotional and spiritual worlds. It’s about deepening your relationship with yourself. Once you take on that challenge those lessons will be applied to your relationships with others. For example, when you learn to treat yourself with loving kindness and compassion; you’ll be more likely to treat others with loving kindness and compassion.
We don’t live in isolation, that’s why our life lessons can be transferred to other arenas of our lives. Know that your diagnosis isn’t your last challenge. Know that you have resources yet untapped waiting to aid you in your health and healing. Know that each challenge gives you clues to increasing your quality of life and making your mark on the world.