One of the things that helps us avoid bashing ourselves and getting bogged down by life’s challenges is to have a learning mindset. To look at everything (or at least most things) as a lesson to be learned. For instance, just yesterday, I read this excellent piece by Todd Henry. In it he recounts all the frustrating things that happened after he gave a talk in Colorado: dealing with a delayed flight, missing his connecting flight home, having to stay at a hotel overnight, missing the hotel shuttle, only eating breakfast all day.
However, with the help of his wife, Henry had a realization. He writes: “Because I was so used to things being relatively easy, I’d allowed my expectations to rise to unhealthy levels. I almost allowed a few first-world inconveniences to ruin what was, in the big picture, a great day.”
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
He turned a seemingly bad day into an important conversation about expectations on his blog. He learned a lesson, and I did, too.
Of course, some events might be too painful and emotionally charged to explore. That’s OK. Maybe you can return to them later. Maybe you can’t.
But with most things, we can try to look for the lesson. To explore and examine a deeper meaning. To gain understanding. To find a way for us to grow and blossom.
You can even make a list of your current challenges and think about the lessons you can learn. Or every night you can review your day and when something frustrating (or wonderful) happens, you can ask yourself: What can I learn here? What is this moment trying to teach me?
For instance, let’s say you revealed too much on social media. You regret being so vulnerable. Instead of berating yourself, you use this to spark a dialogue with yourself about how you use social media. How do you feel when you post something on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? How do you want to use these sites? Do you want to use them at all? How do these sites affect your life, your thinking, your feelings, your behavior?
In another example, let’s say lately you’ve been really hungry (or uncomfortably full) by the end of the night. A lot. Again, instead of bashing and judging yourself, you explore what events led to you not eating enough or eating too much. You decide to pay closer attention to your body’s hunger and satiety cues. Maybe you realize you need some support in this area. So you check out a book on intuitive eating or one on healthy ways to cope with emotions. Maybe you realize that something deeper is going on, so you consider seeing a therapist or joining a program.
Again, you might look for lessons in small annoyances and frustrations. You might look for lessons as you’re trying to embrace and appreciate your body and yourself — and the challenges you’re meeting along the way. You might look for lessons in moments of overwhelm. You might look for lessons in your interactions with others, such as your kids, your spouse, your close friends. You might look for lessons in mistakes, “failures,” accomplishments and successes.
These are other questions you can explore for finding lessons:
- How can I use what happened to support myself?
- How can I use it to support others?
- What can I learn from today?
- What can this teach me about myself?
- What can this teach me about my needs, wants or dreams?
- What can this teach me about moving forward?
- How can I move forward?
- How can I use this challenge to create a meaningful life?
- Let’s say this event is part of a plot in a novel I’m writing; how would my protagonist navigate the trials?
- Let’s say my best friend is going through the same thing; how do I advise them?
- What might I be missing here?
- What aspects of this have been helpful or effective?
- What worked well? Why?
- What didn’t work? Why?
- How can I start a conversation about this?
- How can I use what happened to inspire or empower me?
- How can I look at this in a way that’ll serve me?
- How can I use this to become enlightened and informed?
Life is hard. And our perspective and approach can make it even harder. Or we can remind ourselves that many events, situations, circumstances and challenges are opportunities for us to learn, grow and blossom. And then we can explore exactly how. We can dig deeper. We can look for patterns and connections and meaning. We can look for the lesson, even if sometimes, it’s buried far — very far — underneath.