Surprising Benefits of Setbacks

Imagine beams of sunshine pouring through your bedroom window awakening you. You unfold your arms into a satisfying stretch and throw back the sheets. You spring to your feet looking forward to a wonderful day.

You haven’t opened your mail yet, so you don’t know that you didn’t get the job whose interview you thought you’d aced. Instead of deciding what to wear on your first day, you’re going to spend the day job hunting again. Worse of all, once again you’ve got to figure out how to stretch the few dollars left in your bank account.

Every adversity, every faliure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.
~Napoleon Hill

No matter how hard we plan or try to avoid it, we all encounter adversity, failure, and setbacks. These occurrences are inevitable. Our challenge is handling them well until we manifest the good outcome we want.

This is easier said than done because as humans we love to look in all the wrong places for solutions.

Is Your Solution a Mask or Cure?

When we get a headache we search for an aspirin. When we spot a pimple we want to apply an ointment. And when someone rejects us we want to lash out at them or spend time hating them or getting even.

When we try to solve what we see as problems with external solutions we engage in futility.

Think about the common cold, for example. We’ve heard many times that there is no cure and yet we spend millions on cold cures. Along with prescribing a cure the doctor advises drink liquids and get plenty rest.

When the cold runs its course it goes away. All the cure activities we engaged in for several days just kept us busy masking the symptoms, but didn’t cure the cold. It was a matter of time.

We have a choice about how we view everything that happens in our lives.Tweet: We have a choice about how we view everything in our lives. [Quick tip]

Is This a Major Setback or Divine Setup?

When we aren’t selected in a job interview we may decide it’s a setback, when in fact it may be a divine setup for a better job.

When we miss a plane, we may decide it’s a setback causing us to delay a vacation or be late for a meeting. In fact, it may be a divine setup sparing our lives from a plane crash or making us available for a more positive event.

The next time something happens that you would normally see as a setback, pause to look at it another way.

Chances are it’s not the end of the world. Consider that a Higher Power is at work putting you in a situation that will lead to a better direction than you expected.

The next time you perceive something as a setback, pause for a moment. Look for the lesson, the blessing, or the seed of a surprising benefit of your setback.Tweet: The next time you perceive something as a setback, pause for a moment. Look for the lesson... [Quick tip]

Feeling Stuck Right Now?

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Get Your Head Out of the Sand

ostrichWhen things are rough in your life there is a great temptation to stick your head in the sand practicing big-time denial.

I caution you not to do that because a very vulnerable part of your body is exposed, inviting even more hardship.  If you take your head out of the sand, you’ll not only get air and be able to breathe, but you will be able to see solutions as they appear.

I speak from experience.

When I returned to graduate school to take advantage of a grant I was required to go to school full time. That meant leaving my full-time junior high teaching job. (I had just gotten a raise too.)  I applied for a leave but the school district was unwilling to approve it, so I retired.

At the time we had two daughters, 5 and 2 in private school. My husband’s salary would become our full support. We knew we were taking a risk going from two salaries to one. In spite of a pile of bills we decided I couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity to earn my Ph.D. from the largess of grant. So, I enrolled at USC and began my studies.

The grant paid my tuition, gave a generous monthly book allowance and provided a starting monthly stipend of $250. We kept our girls in a private Montessori school to the tune of $100 each per month and spent the remaining $50 on gas for one of our two cars.

During the four years it took me to finish school, I had a third child, my son (on purpose,) and experienced many financial ups and downs. Every time it seemed that we had made it through another month, something seemed to break down.

First, was the second car, so we had to share a car. In Los Angeles that was doable when my husband’s job was nearby. I could drop him at work and the girls at school on my way to classes. But when his job transferred him to Long Beach, the opposite direction from where the rest of us were going everyday, somebody would have to take the bus.

No more carpooling. We decided he would drop the girls off and drive to work then pick them up afterwards. We were blessed to have a babysitter who came to my house to keep our young son. By now the granting institution had increased my monthly stipend to $450. Now I could pay the babysitter.

I would catch the bus to and from school.

The second major break down occurred when we had exactly $115 left in our checking account after paying all our bills. This was in the mid-70’s so I was pretty happy with this balance.

It almost seemed on cue that the water heater went from a leak to a flood. The cost to replace it: $115.

I had to laugh at this even then and moreso now.

I felt like Job in the Bible.

One thing that kept us going was the realization that we were making this sacrifice for a very important goal: completing my doctorate.

Another thing that sustained us was our strong faith in God. During this time our spiritual muscles strengthened as we dealt with other tough challenges while taking good care of our kids.

We discovered that facing our problems head on enabled us to see solutions, not always perfect ones, but perfectly good for the time.

In our once overflowing refrigerator, freezer and kitchen cabinets, we had just the basics. My mother and babysitter feared that we were starving, but we weren’t. My oldest daughter jokes to this day that I made every recipe on the Biscuit box. She was right. With a little syrup or margarine or ground beef and cheese we could have a meal. Nobody went hungry. Nothing was wasted.

We became so frugal that after I finished my degree and took a university position, my kids didn’t believe me during a trip to the grocery store when I told them they could choose a name brand cereal.

Many people are either facing tough times or anticipating tough times. Keeping your head in the sand will not change the problems. As a matter of fact, delay usually just makes things worst.

Coming up for air will give you clarity and enable you to see solutions.

So, if you’re guilty of hiding your head during hard times and exposing your rear, get your head out of the sand now. Better times await you.

(originally posted 3-31-09)