If you haven't read Illusions by Richard Bach, then race out today and buy it! It is a fantastic little handbook on life and contains some great quotes.
The one that caught my eye was "There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in it's hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts". Now, some people may see that as new age mumbo jumbo, and even if you do, it's still a useful alternative way of thinking about problems.
Instead of being destroyed by, or being turned into a permanent pessimist by some problem or a series of problems that occur in your life, try looking at it in this light. Reframe the way you think about the issue at hand. If you have ever had a painting and seen the way different frames or different coloured mounts change the look of the painting, you will understand the value of 'reframing' a situation.
Every time you encounter a problem in life, breathe and step back. Ask yourself, what is the gift in this problem -- it immediately starts you looking at the situation in a different way. I'm sure many people will read this idea and think it's facile and ridiculous. Why? The way we think is often a habit -- our attitudes are just habits of thinking.
So how do you change an attitude? By changing your habitual way of thinking. What is your habitual way of thinking about problems? If it serves you well and minimises the pain you might go through, then stick with it. If not, if you are interested in short circuiting the discomfort then look for the gift. Consciously ask yourself, what is the gift in this problem?
Gifts come in various shapes and forms. Look back over the last few major problems in your life; review the last few years. In retrospect, can you see any gifts? At the time of course, you probably thought your life was over. But two or six or twelve months later, when things are less bleak and you are breathing again, how did you feel? Could you sense relief? Could you see that what happened was probably the best thing that ever happened in your life? Did the truth that what you thought was wonderful was in fact not the best thing for you become evident? That what your friends and family had been saying to you for months had some value!
What did you learn about yourself through that time? Did you gain some insight into your patterns of response to difficulty? Were you being needy in a relationship and that 's why it soured? Were you being too selfish? Not giving enough? Did you shut down instead of communicating your way out of it? Or that you picked the wrong person -- again. Are the issues arising recurring ones? Are you recreating the same situations? What do you need to learn to stop the need to keep having the same experiences?
And what did you learn generally? Did you have to learn patience? Tolerance? Unconditional love? How to communicate more effectively? That there are some things in life you can't control -- no matter how much you'd like to? Did you realize that you actually were more capable than you thought? That you were stronger then you imagined?
What did you learn about others? That the person you thought you knew so well, is apparently a stranger? Not to mention a complete jerk! Or that you will be far more discerning before trusting someone again?
Einstein said "problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them". So they force us to 'flex our mental muscles' and develop our brains, hearts and spirit. We are required to stretch our thinking, to consider new ideas and concepts, to try new behaviours. Life could be very boring if everything was smooth, predictable and easy.
Although, I agree with what I bet you're thinking: I'd be willing to give the smooth, easy path a try too! Never mind, we're talking about life here. There will always be problems and challenges. Instead of letting them get to you, look for the gift instead. Try it, it works!
What gift have you discovered from something in your past?