Faith is reacting positively to a negative situation.
—Dr. Robert Schuller
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.
—Charles R. Swindoll
When something seems to be going wrong, instead of complaining or letting it get you down, seek My help and try to find a personal solution for it. That doesn’t mean figuring out how to change things so that they always go your way. It means finding a way to be cheerful even if they don’t. Learn to make the best of any situation—“making lemonade out of the lemon.”
It makes Me especially happy when you have a positive reaction to something that didn’t turn out quite as you would have liked. When something is tough for you, but you smile through your disappointment, it shows that you trust Me. Faith and trust please Me, and I will bless you accordingly.
—Jesus, speaking in prophecy
If there’s one thing that unites us all, it’s that we all suffer. We all triumph. We face obstacles in our lives and encounter things that throw us off our course and challenge our inner strength. That’s life, with the lesson often seen in retrospect. Without the difficult times, there would be no great times. Everything would just seem flat and uneventful, plain and boring.
There would be no impactful change without struggle. The beauty of life is overcoming what we think we cannot. Our self-esteem grows and we find strength in ourselves that we never knew existed.
This very point had me thinking about various struggles that I’ve been through in my life. I remember focusing mostly on the negative aspects of the situation. How bad I felt, how crappy the situation was, and how much I didn’t think things would ever change. Blah, blah, blah. It’s a vicious cycle.
But what if we focus on how our struggles change us and our lives for the better?
Would it be possible to improve negative situations if we thought about how we might benefit from them?
When I was unhappy with my research career, all I could think about was how much I screwed up my life. I went to university for seven years training as a researcher only to discover that I basically loathed it. So many days I would curse myself for making such a huge mistake in my life and going down the wrong path.
My negative thoughts were so powerful, I almost convinced myself that it was better to just live the rest of my life unfulfilled than face the alternative (change). I told myself that I could do what I wanted when I retired. I was 25 years old at the time!
That’s when I realized that I could rot in my own negativity or I could see things in a different light. Instead of cursing myself and “mistakes” (I’d rather call them “learning experiences”), I searched for lessons and meaning.
What was my unhappiness trying to tell me?
How was this discomfort nudging me to make a change in my life?
Without taking the wrong career path, I wouldn’t have found the happiness I have with my career today. I started this blog as a hobby while I worked as a researcher. It was something I could work on during my own free time and it brought me so much happiness that I spent most of my free time working on it. What started as a distraction from my real life became the thing that gave me life.
Little did I know, this hobby would not only serve as the catalyst for eventually leaving my unfulfilling career and starting my own business, but it would also lead me to discover my real passions in life.
Most surprisingly of all, I now see struggles in a new light. Instead of cursing an uncomfortable time, I see it as a message to change. Whether I listen or not is up to me.
Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right.
—Philippians 4:8 TLB
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
—Habakkuk 3:17–19 NLT
Life is seldom problem free, and it seems that many of our problems involve the people closest to us—family members, co-workers, neighbors, and others with whom we interact on a regular basis. Even if those people aren’t the cause of our problems, they are affected by our reactions to them. If we are in the habit of reacting negatively, that can sour life and relationships faster than almost anything else.
One of the secrets to both happiness and success with people is to not allow the relatively small problems and irritations of daily life to cast large shadows. Helen Keller hit on that truth when she said, “Keep your eyes to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” The apostle Paul was more specific when he said, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)
For the next couple of weeks, why not take a few minutes each night to reflect on your day? What were the high points and low points? Did you thank God for the highs? How could you have reacted better to the lows by looking on the bright side? There’s something to be gained from even the worst situations if you look for it. By recasting the events of your day in a more positive light, you condition yourself to react more positively in the future.
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