Q. My life never seems to go the way I want it to go. I move from one underpaid job to another and from one crisis to another. Six months ago I had a car accident and I was down sized from my job. Now I work for a company which may go out of business soon. My apartment was also flooded in the recent torrential rain fall. I know everyone’s dealing with the threat of terrorism but I was in crisis even before that. Why does all this disaster follow me around?
A. Life is sending you many “wake up calls” rather than “disasters.” Wake up calls happen to all of us. Accidents, flooded apartments, job problems or changes upset us. However, we don’t have to let these shape our lives. Someone has said, it’s not what happens to us but how we react to it that matters. Scott Peck, well known psychiatrist and author, says that life on earth is a celestial boot camp. Troubles can help us grow.
In order to have the life you want you need a clear idea of what you want. You also must take risks to make this happen. Most of us avoid change. We muddle along in a job that isn’t satisfying and give little thought to where we want to go in life. It’s almost as though we’re sleep walking through life.
Crisis points in our life can force us out of our ruts. The Chinese character for crisis also means opportunity. When a job change is inevitable or an auto accident shakes our world we might look on these as wake up calls. Rather than seeing only the negative side to difficulties we can see them as an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to change the direction of our lives.To use problems as opportunities do the following:
1. Don’t get mad and don’t get even. Don’t blame others for the things that happen to you. Instead, take an honest look at yourself and the part you play in the way your life has gone. You may have come from a dysfunctional family but now you’re responsible for your life and you don’t have to let what’s happened in the past contaminate the future. Blaming others prevents us from growing. Anger, resentment and self pity keep us stuck. Get counseling if these are big issues for you.
2. Listen to each wake-up call “Life” sends you. Wake up calls are events that shake us up, that force us to change our lives in some way. A wake up call may even challenge our beliefs and values. When major changes are complicating or disrupting our lives we’re more open to growth because we’re forced out of our ruts.
3. Take a risk as you plan your future life. Apply for jobs that pay you well. Take courses to up grade your skills. Do something new that feels risky. We may have difficulty sleeping and have physical symptoms. Change is scary. But this is how we grow. Your fear and other distressful feelings will not last. Too often we settle for a mediocre life instead of pursuing our dreams.
4. Discover meaning and purpose in your life. What gives your life meaning? What is your purpose in life? Faith in God will help you through a difficult transition and will give your life meaning. Focusing on your purpose in life will clarify your direction and goals.
5. Seek counseling when faced with a major loss that is overwhelming or when making a very difficult transition. It’s a sign of strength not weakness to acknowledge the need for help.
“Consider it all joy, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1: 2-3