Finding The Upside When Life Is Upside Down

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve had a few rocky years. I suspect a lot of readers are nodding in agreement; you may have weathered a few tough ones, as well. One element of life we can certainly take for granted is that we’re going to hit roadblocks on our journey. And when riding a rough patch, it can be impossible to see how anything about the situation could ever turn out well. Am I right?

Finding the upside whn life is upside down

Image by Ibrahim Iujaz

Well, it’s true at first, anyway. But when I look back, I recognize events threaded through the past I initially judged as “bad,” which turned out to be good … maybe even the best possible outcome. We’ve all found ourselves at one time or another in possession of a true gift that came disguised as something awful.

That’s why we have to train ourselves to look for the upside every time our life is upside down.

For example, can you can remember a time a Good Samaritan helped you out when you were in need? Perhaps someone came along during a difficult stretch and restored your faith, and it changed the course of your life for the better. Chances are in hindsight you see how an awful breakup taught you something you critically needed to learn.

There are upsides to nearly every down, if we’re willing to look for them.

Reality check #1: Yes, you can look for a silver lining
If we want to have, do, or become more than we are, we must cultivate the ability to navigate loss, fear, and challenge, and not only find the strength to continue, but have faith that something great will come.

It’s the “every cloud has a silver lining” approach. We need to learn to search for the opportunity in every setback.

Reality check #2: Our choices affect the outcome
We have the ability to adjust the way we respond to obstacles and setbacks. Believe it or not, we judge the meaning of many uncomfortable situations and experiences. We decide if something is good or bad and react negatively or positively.

We have the power to choose how we proceed in most situations, and our decisions affect the outcome. When obstacles arise, we can decide the situation is hopeless and wallow in our misery. We can give up on our dreams because we believe that success is impossible under the circumstances.

Or, we can remember that anything is possible, and resolve to strengthen and renew our commitment to succeed. Whatever the choice, it will determine our chances, the course of action, and the results. The difference between success and failure may have little to do with what is actually happening and everything to do with our assessment and response.

Empire State Pigeon

Image by ZeroOne

Reality check #3: Change your perspective and the result may also change
“When you change the way you look at things, the way things look starts to change.”

So step back and change perspectives. View the scenario from a different angle; shift your decision about its merit. What if there is another way to consider the situation? What if we decide to define the event in a way that provides the best opportunity for success? We might explore new possibilities we never would have considered if the obstacle hadn’t thrown itself in our path.

The takeaway? The quality and direction of our lives is determined just as much by how we react to what happens as it is by what actually happens. That’s great news, because it means we have control over how we perceive every person, event, and circumstance that comes our way.

It’s about re-training our habitual patterns of thought. Try this: Every time something seems “bad,” forget the disappointment and list benefits that could result. And yes, again, when in the middle of something awful, it’s hard to imagine how it could ever turn out to be good in any way. Just try.

It requires trust. We have to have conviction. Faith and fear cannot exist together. Be patient, keep an open heart, and hold on to the belief that only good will come.

Winston Churchill’s advice was to turn stumbling blocks into strengths and stepping stones. He said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Our reaction to setbacks is what defines us as individuals who either persevere and succeed, or give up and fail.

Writing prompt/Exercise:
There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. ~ Richard Bach, Illusions

• List the five worst things that have happened to you in the past. Now list at least one good thing that came of each.
• List the five worst situations in your current life. Now list five possible positive outcomes.
• List five difficult circumstances you may face that have’nt happened yet. Now list five worst-case scenarios for each potential event. Shift your perspective and act as if each situation you wrote about was good, not bad. Now list five potential fabulous outcomes for each one.
• Take it one step farther and make a list of people who could help make the best-case outcomes happen. List what you need to learn, who you need to reach out to, and what you need to acquire or let go of to help these scenarios become reality.
• Write a set of action steps that will get you there. Add these as possibilities to your daily action step commitments.

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Images: Ibrahim Iujaz, ZeroOne

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