For those of you who don’t know, aside from having this wonderful blog full of ideas and advice, I also have a community outreach website for Soaring Higher, the spiritual and mental side of my project to promote health, wellness and personal success.  Recently, the site received a post which I would like to share here as well, as I believe it is an important story and life lesson we could all stand to learn from.

“A couple of months ago I lost my job. This job was my only source of income which maintained my independence and allowed me to pay for college, my own apartment and transportation, among many other obligations. When I reached out to my family for slight assistance, which I rarely do, they claimed they were not able to help and began to ignore my phone calls completely. I turned to my professed friends, whom I have helped on numerous occasions, only to have no one willing to provide me assistance yet again. Even my boyfriend at that time would not, at the very least, offer me $10 to borrow so that I would not be on the streets homeless and starving. It felt like I could not get a good grip on life and there was no one there to catch me.

In that situation it was effortless for me to contemplate and question, “Why me?” I would constantly dwell on the negative aspects of my situation not realizing those negative feelings were not beneficial at all for my betterment. Distressing with myself and others only created a vicious cycle of negative judgment and actions. I had to realize to be grateful during hard times because adverse situations come to teach us a lesson in life. A nonconstructive occurrence teaches us humility, humbleness, and compassion for others. How can we attain compassion for others who have fallen on hard times when we ourselves have never known what if feels like to owe over $500 in overdue bills with only $15 in our pockets? How can we give respect to others who finally have reached success after years of dedication when we ourselves have never lost our employment unexpectedly? How can we find strength if we never had to struggle?

I strongly believe that nothing in life occurs by coincidences. When I lost my job, it was meant to happen at that time. When my so-called friends abandoned me, it was meant for me to see how my friendships were misleading. This epiphany enabled me to comprehend that if it were not for these occurrences I would not have known for the need to change friends. If I didn’t lose that job at that time, I would not have been able to attain the two occupations where I am currently employed. Everything we experience transpires for a reason. Although we may not know the reason, our experiences-good and bad- lead to other experiences and situations which improve our spirituality and personality. So when you come along jagged rocks amid your path in life, don’t get mad: get grateful. Be grateful that you were able to gain strength by overcoming that obstacle.”

~ Krystal, Cleveland OH

I believe many of us have experienced something similar to Krystal’s situation at some point in our lives.  Down and out on luck with nowhere to turn we felt hopeless and angry, angry with ourselves and those around us.  At that point, we have two options- continue the negative thinking and begin the blame game or take stock of the situation and ask some serious questions, analyze them and most importantly learn.

Ask yourself

How did I get here? What decisions did I make that perhaps I should have not? Was there a flaw in my thinking, perhaps I was too quick on the draw or procrastinated too long instead of taking action? Have previous pitfalls been a result of similar mistakes?

Who was there to help me?  In my darkest hour, who was I able to rely on? Take note of this not so you can lean on them again when the situation arises but to make sure you repay them in kind.  Similarly, make note of the people that perhaps do not deserve your love and affection and you would be better off without.  Your time and emotions are precious, save them for people who matter.

What is my new plan of action? Doing nothing is unlikely to bring about any positive change.  Be productive and realize you are the only person who can take the initiative of your own life and happiness.  Make a list of possible solutions and ACT on them! Time spent lamenting is time wasted. Time spent doing the same actions that got you in the mess in the first place are even a bigger waste.

Imagine you are driving through a winter storm.  This isn’t the first storm of the season and you have had previous problems on the roads already.  As the snow begins coming down harder your windshield is icing up faster that your blades can work. Your tires are bald and the lack of traction leaves you at the mercy of the road. You click for your windshield fluid but realize that it is empty, empty just like it was during the last snow storm and the one before that as well.  You haven’t bothered topping it off and your procrastination has again come back to bite you.

As you hit a particularly icy patch on the road,  your car begins to spin out of control.  You try to grab firm control of the wheel but your inevitable crash course has already been set in motion. Pushing the brakes does no good as your tires no longer have any grip on the road. You slip and slide and find yourself and your car in a ditch on the side of the road, sitting in half a foot of snow.  

Recovering from the initial shock you sit there and wait, surely someone noticed you spiral out of control and will come by to see if you’re OK.  The problem is that you weren’t the only one out there driving in hazardous conditions.  Everyone else is battling the elements as well, careful to follow the barely visible tire track path and get their van full of kids or an ailing parent back to the safety of their home.  And while they sympathize with your situation, they are risking their safety and those of their loved ones by pulling over and offering assistance.

Realizing you ‘re going to need to call for help you dial your insurance or Triple A provider but they’re too busy or out of the area and cannot come to you aid.  You call your brother/uncle/ best friend who lives down the street but they do not feel like leaving their home/the dinner is on the stove/ they’re waiting for the 50% off sale online to start and cannot, absolutely  cannot live without a new pair of strappy sandals.

Now you’re getting angry, revving up the gas pedal and hoping you will be able to get out of the ditch.  Nothing.  You hit the gas again, shooting more snow in the air and further burying your vehicle.  One last final attempt and now you have sealed your fate to sit in the ditch until the storm clears and an emergency crew comes to your rescue.

Hopeless, angry and defeated with nowhere to turn you can a) sit there and get angry, curse the gods and other vehicles passing you by or b)assess the situation, how you got there, what you can learn from it and what positive actions can be taken right now.

1.Realize you should have filled up your windshield fluid and gotten new tires.  Instead of putting it off, doing this simple task could have allowed you to have a clear view of the road and firm control over the terrain, perhaps allowing you to navigate the road better and miss the icy spot that all the other cars seem to be passing with more grace.

2. Change your insurance/Triple A provider.  Why be their customer and pay them money when they are not there to assist you?

3. Remember their reactions the next time your brother/uncle/best friend asks for help.

4. Accept that actions spurred by negative emotion are of no benefit (revving up that gas when you know very well it will do you no good)

5. In the future plan ahead when leaving in a storm, grab a shovel and be ready to spring to action immediately after a crisis, it’s a lot easier to dig yourself out while the hole is still fresh and new accumulation hasn’t set in.

6.Finally, remember your misery and  the  next time you see a stranded vehicle, don’t simply think “Glad it wasn’t me” and drive but, but pull over and offer assistance.

Yes, it’s an unpleasant experience that can set back your day, or longer in the case of a lost job or other more unfortunate circumstances.  But I encourage you, as Krystal did, to move forward and look at your situation from a different perspective.  Instead of taking it for face value, see the situation as an opportunity to learn a lesson.  Ask yourself ” What can I use form this to empower myself?”  Instead of being angry, hurt or resentful try to be thankful, grateful and appreciated the opportunity to grow.  I know you’re thinking, “Eric, how can I be thankful when I’m sitting in a ditch with snow piling on my car?”  Be thankful you didn’t hit a pole and wreck your car or hit another car in the process.  Be thankful your car has heat and you’re not a homeless person suffering through the cold in an alley.  Be grateful you made it through alive.

If we accept every negative as an opportunity to be more positive in the future, the sting of defeat won’t hurt as bad.  If you are quick to react instead of further dwelling on your misfortune, you will waste less time on the negative and more on creating a positive turnaround or a new beginning.  By realizing what got you in the mess in the first place you can prevent the same misfortune from happening again. Most importantly, taking things in stride will allow you to have a a healthier and more stable inner spirit, one that will be successful in breeding positivity which you can in turn see materialize in the outside world.

Stay positive, stay grateful and please, for goodness’  sake, top off your windshield fluid!