How do you usually respond to bad life experiences? Keep in mind every one of us is struggling with something in our life. How we handle those unpleasant life experiences will define who we become. When tragedies occur in our life, we still have work to do; we still have roles to fill as husbands, parents, employers or employees, and friends to serve; we still have responsibilities to fulfill. The stuff that makes up life never stops even when tragedy confronts us.
What we know about bad experiences is that everyone has them, no one likes them, and very few people turn bad experiences into positive experiences. The difficulties we face in life change us; the question is will we move forward or backward; will the experience limit us or present us with an opportunity to grow. Most successful people will point to the most difficult times in their life as the key turning points which moved them forward. If you are dedicated to your personal growth, you must be committed to managing your bad experiences into success. When we manage a bad experience well, we become a better version of our self.
Some of us manage negative experiences positively, while others struggle. What separates those people who thrive from bad experiences from those who merely survive? John Maxwell in his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, suggests you embrace the following actions:
1) Choose a positive attitude. The ultimate outcome of anyone’s life is how they decide to look at what life presents them: Do they decide to be optimistic or pessimistic, cheerful or grouchy, trusting or suspicious, generous and kind or self-centered. If you can maintain a positive outlook, flourishing in the joy and abundance of the present moment, you will place yourself in the best position to turn a bad experience into positive personal growth. Remember, you cannot control much of what happens to you, however, you can control your attitude. And as you choose to rise above your circumstances, refusing to allow negative events to undermine who you become, search for something positive to learn from your tragedy; become aware of how bad experiences have the power to shape your life into becoming a stronger and better version of yourself.
2) Embrace your problem to develop your creativity. The people who make the most of bad experiences are the ones who find creative solutions. They see possibilities within their problems. When you feel the pain of a tragedy, use your creativity to search for the opportunity to turn it into a positive experience. Divert the energy that comes from anger and use it to solve problems, learn lessons, and uncover hidden positive outcomes.
3) Search for the learning experience. Where there is no struggle, there is little personal growth. Facing difficulties is inevitable, learning from them and turning them into positive experiences is always optional. The learning experiences from any tragedy will present themself if you are willing to look for them.
4) Make good changes. Bad experiences can force us to face changes we need to make in our lives. When bad experiences create strong emotional feelings in us, we either face the painful feelings or we try to escape. In these situations we need to train ourselves to face the difficulty of self-discipline, moving toward positive change rather than the alternative choice – self-pity and regret. When you are willing to face the anxiety of new and unknown experiences, it will take you to a new level of personal growth. The next time you find yourself in the midst of a bad experience, remind yourself that you are on the edge of an opportunity to change and grow. Whether you do will depend upon how you react to your experience and willingness to make positive changes.
5) Be willing to accept responsibility for your life. Remember, your bad experiences do not define you; they are outside you and should not negatively impact your self-worth. Julius Segal, in Winning Life’s Toughest Battles, indicates that people who overcome life tragedies avoid the label of “victim” and take responsibility for the quality of their life; they keep growing regardless of the pain. They do not say “why me”, and wallow in self-pity but rather remain positive and continue to move forward with their life in a productive manner. It can be difficult to see the opportunities in the midst of pain; but they are always present if you are willing to search for them. Keep in mind, it is impossible to grow personally when you do not take responsibility for yourself.