What separates people who thrive and those who merely survive? I believe it is how they face their problems. When bad things happen we need to use these experiences as stepping stones for growth, learning, and success. I have never known anyone who said, “I love problems.” But, I have known many who have admitted that their greatest gains came in the middle of their pain.
Here is what I have learned about bad experiences:
1> Everyone has them
Life is filled with ups and downs. The problem is that what most of us want is ups and ups. That’s not possible in real life. I think it is pretty obvious that nobody gets to escape bad experiences. I heard a new statement the other day, “Some days you’re the pigeon; some days you’re the statue!”
We can do everything in our power to avoid negative experiences, but they have a way of finding us. I love the quote, “I try to take life one day at a time, but lately several days have attacked me at once.” No matter who you are, where you live, what you do, or what your background is, you will have to deal with bad experiences. As television host and author Dennis Wholey observed, “Expecting the world to treat you fairly just because you’re a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to charge you because you’re a vegetarian.”
You have to have realistic expectations when it comes to pain and problems. You can’t avoid them.
2> No one likes them
Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman described that it was like for him and some fellow actors in the early days of their careers when they were struggling:
“If anyone had told us that we would have been successful, we would have laughed in their face. We were anything but successful actors in those days. I was a waiter. Gene Hackman was a mover and Robert Duvall worked at the post office. We didn’t dream of being rich and famous; we dreamed of finding a job. It was a time of terrible rejection, and we hated being rejected. It got to the point that we use to leave our 8×10’s (picture) at the door of casting agents, knock and run, just so we wouldn’t have to be rejected face-to-face again. It was so discouraging that I seriously considered quitting and becoming an acting teacher at a university.”
No one likes it when they’re in the middle of a bad experience. It’s usually just painful. But if they manage the experience well, then they enjoy talking about it afterwards. It becomes a great war story.
3> Few people make bad experiences positive experiences
Life’s difficulties do not allow us to stay the same. They move us. The question is, in which direction will we be moved: forward or backward? When we have bad experiences, do we become better or bitter? Will those experiences limit us or lead us to grow? As Warren G. Lester remarked, “Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well.”
When tough times come, many people don’t respond well. Some seem to have the motto that can be seen on bumper stickers: “When the going gets tough, it’s time to take a nap.” What a shame. Learning from painful experiences is essential for anyone who wants to grow. Most successful people will point to the hard times in their lives as key points in their journey of development. If you are dedicated to growth, then you must become committed to managing your bad experiences well.