Turning Bad Experiences Into Growth Encounters

We want to look at how to turn a bad experience into a growth encounter.
Someone once said, “Experience isn’t really the best teacher but it sure does serve as the best excuse for not trying to do the same silly thing again.” If you want your bad experiences to keep you not only from doing the same silly things but to also lead to significant personal growth and maturity, I would suggest you consider embracing the following five actions…
1> Choose a positive life stance
“Life stance” is a term used to describe people’s overall frame of reference – the set of attitudes, assumptions, and expectations people hold about themselves, other people, and the world in general. It comprises, for instance, people’s attitudes towards money, assumptions about their health, and expectations for their children’s future. The product of any person’s life stance is their overall way of looking at things: whether they tend to be optimistic or pessimistic, cheerful or gloomy, trusting or suspicious, friendly or reserved, brave or timid, generous or stingy, giving or selfish. If you can maintain a positive life stance, you put yourself in the best position to manage bad experience and turn them into positive growth encounters.

Family therapy pioneer and author Virginia Satir observed, “Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” You cannot control much of what happens to you in life. However, you can control your attitude. And you can choose to rise above your circumstances and refuse to allow negative experiences to undermine who you are and what you believe.
You need to adopt a positive life stance because it gives you the best chance to succeed while putting you in the best position to help others succeed. To develop this daily mind-set you need to focus and think…
Life is filled with good and bad
Some of the good and bad I can’t control – that’s life
Some of the good and bad will find me
If I have a positive life stance the good and bad will become better
If I have a negative life stance the good and bad will become worse
Therefore I choose a positive life stance
To a large degree in life, you get what you expect – not always, but most of the time. So why would I want to expect the worst?
2> Embrace and develop your creativity
There’s a story about a chicken farmer whose land was flooded nearly every spring. He didn’t want to give up his farm and move, but when the water backed up onto his land and flooded his chicken coops, it was always a struggle to get his chickens to higher ground. Some years he couldn’t move fast enough and hundreds of his chickens drowned.
After the worse spring he had ever experienced and losing his entire flock, he came into the farmhouse and told his wife, “I’ve had it. I can’t afford to buy another place. I can’t sell this one. I don’t know what to do.”
His wife replied, “Buy ducks.”
The people who make the most out of bad experiences are the ones who find creative way to meet them, like the farmer’s wife in the story. They see possibilities within their problems.
Author Neale Donald Walsh asserted, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I believe that creativity begins at the end of your comfort zone as well. When you meet the pain of bad experiences, creativity gives you the opportunity to turn the pain into gain. The secret to doing that is to use the energy that comes from either adrenaline or anger and use it to solve problems and learn lessons.
When you have had a bad experience, instead of letting it discourage you or make you angry, try to find a way to let it prompt your creativity.
We are looking at how to turn a bad experience into a growth encounter.
1> Choose a positive life stance
2> Embrace and develop your creativity
3> Embrace the value of bad experiences
President John F. Kennedy was once asked how he became a war hero. With his customary dry wit he responded, “It was easy. Someone sunk my boat.” It is always easier to see something positive in a negative experience long after it happens. It is difficult to meet the negative experience in the moment with a positive mind-set. However, if you can do that, you will always be able to learn something from it.
Inventor Charles F. Kettering, who was the head of research at General Motors, said, “You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.” In other words, where there is no struggle, there is no progress. Facing difficulties is inevitable. Learning for them is optional. Whether you learn is based on if you understand that difficulties present opportunities to learn and treat them accordingly.
4> Make good changes after learning from bad experiences
It has been said, “Not every thing that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Often it takes a bad experience for us to face the changes we need to make in our lives. Often a bad experience introduces us to a “teachable moment.” And that bad experience gives us an opportunity to turn our lives around. A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.
Most people don’t think their way to positive change – they feel their way. In the book, The Heart of Change, we read, “Changing behaviour is less a matter of giving people analysis to influence their thoughts than helping them to see a truth to influence their feelings. Both thinking and feeling are essential, and both are found in successful organizations, but the heart of change is in the emotions.”
When bad experience create strong feelings in us, we either face the feelings and try to change or we try to escape. It’s the old fight-or-flight instinct. We need to train ourselves to fight for positive changes. How do we do that? By remembering that our choices will lead to either the pain of self-discipline or the pain or regret. I would rather live with the pain of self-discipline and reap the positive rewards than live with the pain of regret, which is something that can create a deep and continual ache within us.
The next time you find yourself in the midst of a bad experience, remind yourself that you are on the cusp of an opportunity to change and grow. Whether you do will depend on how you react to your experience, and the changes you make as a result. Allow your emotions to be the catalyst for change, think through how to change to make sure you are making good choices, and then take action.
5> Take responsibility for your life
You need to recognize that your circumstances don’t define you. They are outside of you and need not negatively impact your values and standards. At the same time, you must take responsibility for your life and the choices you make. It has been stated that people who overcome bad experiences avoid the label of “victim” and take responsibility for moving forward. They don’t say, “What happened to me is the worst thing in the world, and I’ll never be free from it.” They say, “What happened to me was pretty bad, but other people are worse off, and I won’t give up.” They do not wallow in self-pity or ask, “Why me?” And that’s a good thing, because it’s one short step from “why me?” to”woe is me.”
It is nearly impossible to grow in any significant way when you don’t take responsibility for yourself and your life. No matter what you have gone through in your life – or what you are currently going through – you have the opportunity to grow from it. It’s sometimes very difficult to see the opportunity in the midst of the pain, but it is there. You must be willing to not only look for it, but pursue it. As you do, perhaps the words of William Penn, English philosopher and founder of the Pennsylvania province, will encourage you: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”