A few days ago my second daughter Kassandra was playing fetch in the backyard with our dog Brody. She threw the ball for him and his leash wrapped around her ankle and took off a chunk of skin. As you would expect, it started to bleed and she was in a lot of pain. It was an unexpected lesson, but you know that next time she’s out playing fetch with him, she’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I got to thinking about lessons, sometimes painful, that we learn on our life’s journey. I’m guilty of having this vision that everything is comfy and happy and warm (think of kitty cats, fuzzy blankies and rainbows). We all the know the reality of life is not usually like that. And sometimes nothing like at all. Over the last couple years, everyone has faced unexpected challenges, most of them completely out of our control. So what do you do with those challenges? I’d love to say I always see them as an opportunity to grow and learn. I don’t see them that way in the moment. But when I look back on these difficult seasons, there is always some part of me that has been honed and refined because of the pain.
Here are a few unexpected lessons learned from hardships and adversity:
1. Compassion & Sensitivity – A significant dose of humility usually comes with hardship. It’s never easy to confront the truth that you aren’t perfect, invincible, or immune to difficult or even terrible things. But going through hardship can open your eyes to the hardships of others. Receiving support and help from others may motivate you to give support more readily.
2. Self-Knowledge & Perspective – Hardships force you to come face-to-face with who you are. Lessons learned from hardships often reveal limitations, patterns, beliefs, and skills you didn’t see or appreciate before. This shift, which increases self-awareness, is powerful. You have the chance to make new choices based on what matters; how you act, think, and feel; and what you can and can’t do.
3. Limits of Control – As much as you might want to chart your own path, hardship is a powerful reminder of the limits of your own control. By acknowledging and embracing those limits on your power, you can put down some of the weight you’re carrying and accept that some things aren’t up to you.
4. Flexibility – Surviving hardship and willing yourself to move forward builds added strength to tackle new challenges and face future failures. Flexibility allows you to be resilient and durable as things change. It teaches you to be open to learning and agile as you figure out what to do next.
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