Life Lessons: Learning How to Find Meaning in Rough Times
In times like these, hopelessness is increasingly becoming a common feeling. There are tragedies on the news every day and in our lives frequently. The economy. Riots. Pandemics. Discord every where we turn. On top of that, our daily lives can bring challenges and negativity as well.
Every person faces these situations differently, though. For some, comfort is to be found in religion and spirituality; others turn to meditation or therapy. And still others, unfortunately, adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking, drugs, and other risk-taking behaviors to manage their grief, anguish, frustration, or hopelessness.
However, a shift in how we look at hard times can also help in adopting more positive coping mechanisms.
Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.Khalil Gibran
One good way to reinterpret hardships is to find meaning in them.
And how can you do this?
In the face of a negative event, sit back and ask yourself how you can make the event meaningful.
For example, let’s say you were fired or let go from your job, a distressing situation that can leave you feeling afraid, angry, and ashamed. Particularly if you have a family, debt, or live in an uncertain economy where your opportunities to find a new job are slim to none.
Consider asking yourself questions such as:
- Did I really like that job? In many cases, we’re stuck in a job that no longer makes us fulfilled, but we are too scared to quit.
- Is this situation freeing my time for better opportunities? A job you no longer enjoyed could have been a roadblock in your professional development.
- What did I learn from that experience? The skills you learned at that job can be a jumping board to find better opportunities.
- What went wrong? In this case, be honest with yourself — why were you fired? Address the causes non-judgmentally.
- Are there any areas for growth? Regardless of what caused the negative situation, think of how you can use the experience to grow.
By asking yourself these kinds of open-ended questions, you don’t only give meaning to a negative situation. You’re also taking back control of it. And you take control of it by re-framing negative situations as opportunities to grow and thrive in unexplored areas.
It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.William James
That is a lot to swallow and possibly the furthest thought from your mind. Especially right in the moment. But the retraining of the mind is possible. It all starts with practice.
This was not my instinctual reaction either. But being frustrated was not yielding the growth, results, or progress I sought either. Then, reading something in a psychology book opened my mind up to possibilities of positive thinking and cognitive behavioral protocols. Long, BORING story short: your mind is powerful and can be trained. Who better than to train your brain than you?
Next time, I will share a different way to extract a lesson from hard or difficult times. For now, start a journal and track your thought patterns or reactions to negative situations. The power of change is in your hands.