The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.
Take a moment and think about your life – what were the most transforming moments? What particular circumstances in your life have shaped you in a positive way? Are there moments you wish you could erase?
There are so many things that shape who we are – people we meet, accomplishes we make, places we travel, new experiences we have, books we read. And yet, there are some moments in our lives, so full of heartache and pain, where we find ourselves stumbling to make sense of the world. I would wager that these difficult and confusing seasons play a massive role in expanding who we are as people. Defining us and setting us on a new and better path.
Tragedy and difficult circumstances have a way of making one step back and look squarely at life. When your whole world feels shaken, and you don’t know up from down, you are forced to think about life in a way that you don’t when everything is going according to plan.
The saying is so familiar, it has become cliché ‘When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”
It sounds cute and slightly Pollyannaish but the reality is, when life deals us difficult circumstances, we have a choice in how we will react. In truth, it is our reaction that shapes us, more than the circumstance. A simple example is a traffic jam. One driver may become livid and angry, and the rest of his day is destroyed because he is late for work, where another driver, in the same traffic jam with the same delay may happily read a book or sing along to the music on the radio. The same circumstance has occurred, but the effect it has on the individual is really up to the individual.
I read an article not long ago that outlined an interview where people were asked to define the best, and most transforming moments of their lives. One would expect such answers as “The day I got married”, “When I won the lottery”, etc. When in actuality, heart-wrenching circumstances such as divorce or losing a loved one were often listed as the most transforming. Difficult circumstances have a way of pushing us into a new phase of self-discovery, pushing us to look carefully at our lives – who we are and who we want to be.
Being Canadian, I can’t help but think of Terry Fox. Terry Fox was diagnosed with cancer in his knee and ended up having his leg amputated. Being an athlete, this was clearly devastating. The night before his surgery, he read about Dick Traum, who was the first amputee to run the New York Marathon. Terry Fox was frustrated with the lack of funding available for cancer research, and in his heart he devised a secret plan to run the length of Canada, in hopes to raise cancer awareness. In 1979 he ran his first marathon with one leg, running through incredible physical pain and mental anguish. He came in last place, but was greeted at the finishing line with tears and applause.
It was at this point that he shared his dream with his mom, expecting her enthusiastic support. Instead, she discouraged him. Terry responded “I thought you would be one of the first people to believe in me” and instead she was the first to let him down. Yet he followed his dream. The story of his run is both inspiring and tear-jerking, but suffice it to say he was forced to abandon his run, after 143 days and 5,373km (3,339 miles), when cancer took over his lungs. At his death, it was said, “We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity”
Each of us has within us the ability to triumph over adversity. To dream, and dream big, and then to pursue those dreams no matter what obstacles stand in our way. To use difficult times as a crossroad, to reassess where we are and where we want to be in life.
If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
– Mary Engelbreit