A good friend of mine was recently given an amazing opportunity that will change her life and open up a world of possibilities she’d never imagined for herself. However, this wonderful thing wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t gone through a very stressful period of uncertainty last year. She didn’t know it back then, but her tumultuous life drama initiated a series of events leading her to the chance of a lifetime.
Hearing her great news made me think about life’s hurdles. So often, the road to good things is riddled with problematic potholes. We muddle through them, rarely giving them any credit for improving our lives, but if we stop and look back, we can acknowledge the positive impact they had on us. We wouldn’t remove those struggles even if we could, because in taking away the bad stuff, we’d lose the good stuff, too. This advantage of hindsight can help us understand the value of life’s bullshit. It’s just a lot harder to see it when we’re knee-deep in the muck of it, right?
Yet, that’s where the magic of true happiness lies – embracing the bullshit.
An example of this is a man I met in Nicaragua last year. Mario had been diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, and as the pain in his leg increased, he could no longer work on his family’s farm. While he waited months for the surgery that would remove the tumor and safe his life, Mario had the remarkable ability to see the value of this frightening situation.
“I knew God gave me this tumor for a reason,” he told me. “I knew I must create something good from it. So, I focus on learning English.” Mario poured his energy into learning the language that brings new opportunities to Nicaraguans. After his surgery, he started a new job as an English-speaking tour guide, and now makes four times as much money for his family. “I can tell you, my life is so much better because of the cancer. Without it I do not have my English, and I do not have this work I love so much. My tumor…it was a true blessing for me.”
Imagine the power we’d gain over our lives if we viewed each hurdle as an opportunity for growth. What if every time we came up against something frustrating or heartbreaking, we asked the question “How is this going to serve me?” When we take on this positive outlook, life changes for the better. Mario is a perfect example of this. The cancer didn’t create the improvement in Mario’s life. He did. But, he had to get past his fear and frustration in order to look for the opportunity he’d been given.
Carl Jung told us that what we resist not only persists, but it grows. We give it more negative power when we condemn it. As we embrace the idea that those unwanted experiences are there to improve our lives in some way, we turn our focus away from what we don’t want and toward what we do want. When we look for the positive outcome in a bad situation, ultimately, we’ll find it. We just have to make the choice to seek it out. To create it for ourselves, like Mario did.
So, the next time you’re faced with an undesirable situation, challenge yourself to look for the good it will bring. These are the buried treasures of our life, but we won’t find them unless we grab a shovel and start digging. Sometimes our most precious jewels are buried under the bullshit.