Society has taught us to look at life—and the experiences we’ve had—more through the lens of negativity, doubt, and regret than positivity and confidence.
Without a conscious effort to shift your thinking, it can become your default view of the world. The more challenges you encounter, the more you zoom in on the negative. It's this conditioning that causes mounting dissatisfaction as the years go on.
An attachment to our experiences is what keeps us stuck in repetitive cycles of believing that we’re meant to suffer the consequences of living in a cruel world. We’ve all been there at some point. You’re likely to be there again unless you take a more positive, proactive approach to how you view your circumstances.
A tremendously liberating gift awaits those who are willing to look upon past challenges as opportunities for growth.
Perception Is Everything
Our suffering is caused by how we perceive and interpret events and circumstances that occur in our lives. There are plenty of moments we can point to that probably haven’t been so positive, some that were quite unpleasant, and others that, at the time, felt unbearable.
However, we always have a choice in how we interpret our experiences. We can choose to look back on past challenges through the narrow lens of defeat and resentment, or we can choose to open our hearts and take a deeper, more inquisitive approach by asking ourselves, “What is the gift or the lesson of this experience? How can I choose to perceive it differently so that I may benefit from the learning?”
Take, for instance, the relationship that you so desperately wanted to work out when you were a teenager or young adult. At the time, you probably couldn't imagine life without them. And yet, now you might look back on your first love and thank the universe that it didn’t work out because if it had, you wouldn’t be in your current relationship. Or, maybe you had a job that you loved that came with a boss who was abusive. You had to leave—or maybe you were even let go—and it felt awful. Later, you found a job that was even more incredible than the last and you probably thought "Oh, thank goodness I got out of that last place!"
There are endless examples of how—at the time—we see ourselves as a victim of our circumstances. And yet, once there’s some time and distance from that experience, you're able to see how much you learned and how it has shaped and molded you into a better, wiser person.
Cultivating your ability to look upon both past and present challenges as opportunities for learning can be liberating and help you better adapt to change. It's through this practice that you can work with life's ebbs and flows, rather than swimming upstream against them.
5 Steps to Transform Challenges Into Gifts
Here are some simple steps you can take to start to transform your past—and present—challenges into positive learning experiences or liberating gifts:
- Ask yourself what just happened without judgment or creating any story around it. Stick to the facts.
- Identify the emotions that are arising within you and refrain from blaming another person or circumstance.
- Look at the big picture and ask yourself if the situation realistically serves your highest purpose. Consider your highest vision for this part of your life. Does the way you’re choosing to interpret your experience serve your highest purpose?
- Identify the lesson by looking for what could possibly be right about this situation, even though it is causing you pain right now.
- Once you’ve pinpointed the lesson or the gift, you can consciously choose to interpret the circumstances through the lens of positivity. Identify a new way you can view the situation that supports and empowers you.
As you practice these steps, you’ll see how it's possible to shift from despair into a state of being where a whole new reality emerges. This is how you consciously co-create the life you want to be living. You’ll soon feel lighter and more positive, and may even inspire those around you as you navigate life's challenges with integrity and grace.