What’s your struggle? As we go about the business of everyday life, it’s easy to become discouraged by our own struggles and to overlook the struggles of others. We don’t view struggles as a gift. For better or for worse, however, they will come to us all, sooner or later. And when they come, our outlook and takeaways make all the difference in the world. Today’s Provision encourages us to view struggles as opportunities for learning and growth rather than as meaningless accidents or terrible punishments. That can be difficult, but it’s worth rising to the occasion. Read on to learn why and how.
It’s easy to look at the disease that has attacked my brain as a terrible, no-good affliction. On one level it is, of course, just that. Who wants to end up in a coma, almost die, and then come back with a dysfunctional memory? I can answer that question without hesitation or doubt. No one! But on another level, as I have been sharing with you through Provisions over the course of the past year, the experience has proven to be something of a gift. It has changed my character – that was inevitable – but many of the changes have been for the better. And that has come as something of a surprise.
That would not have been my guess before this all happened, even though I have always understood that there are gifts to be found in adversity. That is, in fact, the title of a good book on the subject by Norman Rosenthal. I like the subtitle as well: The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections. Those gifts are there, but we have to hold that perspective and we have to look for them if we want to find them. Rosenthal’s book is helping me to do that and I am thankful for the ways in which I am changing and growing through this experience.
Before all this happened, I did not see things in quite the same way. I thought it was better to go through life with a minimum of adversity and a maximum of ease. My mother and father raised me that way. Thanks to them, I grew up with good health and strong family ties. I also grew up with the desire to help others in need. They taught me the importance of donating money and of working to relieve the difficulties and adversities that many people live with all the time. I believe that’s a good thing to do and I would encourage you to step up to that calling and to put on that mantle as best you are able.
The experiences of the last 15 months, however, have taught me that avoiding life’s “difficulties, setbacks, and imperfections”, as Rosenthal characterizes them, is not only impossible it may also be undesirable. Such terrible experiences – as long as we survive them – can evolve into wonderful blessings that present us with unique opportunities for learning, growth, connection, and change. That has been my experience over the past year, as I have worked through my own struggles, and I expect that this will continue to be my experience, from here on out, for the rest of my life.
Struggling through difficulties and terrible experiences can do that to a person. What doesn’t kill us may not always make us stronger, but it can certainly always make us wiser. For that to happen, however, we have to embrace the possibility and explore the dimensionality of those experiences as to what they have to teach us. Instead of asking “Why me?” it is better to ask “Now what?” And that is the shift I have been striving to make through my healing process.
A friend recently told me the story of his brother who worked as a caddy at a golf course. Because his brother was relatively small, he was often passed over by the players in favor of bigger, stronger-looking caddies. But after asserting repeatedly that he was able to handle the job, one player finally consented to let him carry a full golf bag, with all the trimmings, for two rounds of golf. That’s 36 holes and a lot mileage, especially with a heavy golf bag on your shoulder.
At the end of the day, my friend’s brother was talking to the guy who shined players’ shoes at the course, the “bootblack”, who mentioned to him that he had been keeping an eye on a slot machine that stood along one of the walls. In case you do not know about slot machines, they are one of many ways to gamble. You put in a coin, pull the handle, and if the cards line up properly on the dial, you win. When they don’t line up, you lose.
“That machine hasn’t hit all day,” the bootblack observed, “I think it’s about ready to hit.” Thinking he might be able to increase his winnings for the day, my friend’s brother decided to give it a try. He turned in his earnings for coins and he started gambling. Insert coin. Pull handle. Lose money. Over and over again it went. With every pull, he said to himself, “Certainly, it’s going to hit on the next pull.” But it never did hit and he lost all the money he had earned for the day.
It was then and there that my friend’s brother made a decision. “I am leaving you,” he said, “and I am never coming back.” He gave up gambling for good, then and there, because he learned things the hard way – from a painful experience. And he ended up all the better.
My health crisis has been a much more difficult experience than losing money at a slot machine, but my friend’s story applies as much to me as it does to you and to anyone else. We all have our struggles. There’s no way to avoid them. The question is how we handle them when they come our way and how we relate to others who are struggling along their way.
I see two shifts happening in myself at this point in time. First, I am talking less about my own struggle when I engage with others. The story’s been told and it’s time to move on, even if the healing is not complete. Second, I am taking more of an interest in listening to and helping out with the struggles of others. I have always been a compassionate person, but now that compassion is more tangible, deeply-felt, and prone to move me to action. If I see someone suffering, I will go out of my way to see if there is anything I can do to help. That may not always be a wise thing to do with a complete stranger, but my intentions are honorable and it has not yet gotten me into trouble. Simply put, I want to make sure they are OK and to help if I can.
Profoundly put, I have become a more compassionate person. The Latin root meaning of the word “compassion” is to “suffer with”. Well, it’s hard to really suffer with people until one has really suffered oneself. Until August 30 of 2012, my sufferings had been rather mild. Since that time, my sufferings have been both unique and many. I don’t recommend this to anyone. But having survived, and having gotten this far, I am becoming more and more thankful for the life-lessons that are coming my way. I have become quieter, slower, as well as more humble, reflective, and interested in the sufferings of others.
So I would encourage you to look at your own struggles through that lens. There’s no point in struggling for struggling’s sake – that’s the definition of masochism. But when struggles come our way – and they will come to us all, sooner or later – the key is to handle them well and to build on them so as to make for a better life in the future. My friend’s brother learned that lesson at the golf course in relatively painless fashion. I am learning that now, even more profoundly than before, as I struggle my way back from this terrible affliction. And I would challenge you to approach and learn from your own challenges in the same way.
Coaching Inquiries: What’s your struggle? What’s your relationship to that struggle? Do you resent and reject that struggle, as though it should not be happening? Or do you accept and embrace that struggle as an opportunity for learning, growth, and change? Who could help you make the shift from one frame to another? What’s keeping you from reaching out now to make it so?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
As someone almost single-handedly keeping Walgreens profitable, I empathize with you in the struggle to recover from prescription drug addiction. And yet in many ways various drugs help me function more effectively. So…. Is this part of God’s design of creation? In any way we keep lifting you up in prayer, partially in gratitude for your faithful discipleship. Grace and peace! I hope all is well.
Thank you for your Provisions and blog, I feel like it it keeps us connected. You seem to be dealing with sadness/anger/frustration/disappointment and perhaps yearning for a sense of peace. I admire your courage and willingness to share your experience. It gives me and, I suspect, many of your followers the courage to keep moving on. I came across some interesting information on EEG’s and decreasing seizures. If you are interested, you can learn more about it in the research section at: EEGInfo.com. I pray that you continue to heal. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Thanks for sharing so provokingly. It feels to me that God is with you wrestling against a form of evil and wounded creation rather than wrestling against you I do not know how the devil works but my experience and reading of scripture says Jesus realizes that evil spirits need to be cast out. I rejoice that you are finding so much to learn and benefit from through your illness and healing. God can bring great good out of even the worst circumstances but I don’t think God desires brokenness and dysfunction. I’m sending you lots of prayer and love.
It was good to hear your voice again in your Provision yesterday. I did not know you had returned from Mayo clinic. You may or may not remember me. We met several times at Robert’s “Beauty of the Needs” workshops, you and I did coaching and you helped my come up with my business name. So I have known you for awhile and have always appreciated your great good humor and excellent capacity for candor.
Right after you came out of your coma I left for Afghanistan to work on a military base. I have been here for 13 months now and am leaving at the end of the month. This has been an environment not that different from that of a prison. An environment that clarifies my thinking by keeping both life and death very present in awareness. Much like your seizures. I have had many, many weird experiences here as I have flown throughout the country in helicopters many times a month to different bases. Not only have I witnessed a great deal, I have also been the recipient of assault, both physical and sexual. So now it is time to go home. At the end of the month I am leaving.
What I wanted to say mostly to you was this…….our brains while very clever, smart, educated, enticing etc., yours particularly, is not our heart or our soul and perhaps these gifts of experiences we have received have served to teach us that. That is some crazy story about Jacob and what struck me was I could not understand it with my mind.
His heart and soul knew who he was with and what to ask for, a blessing straight from God. Suffering , the wound on his hip lets him and us know there is suffering involved. He saw God and recognized Him. I was so happy you ended with gratefulness and devotion, I think it is something we both have longed for in our own ways to know God and to truly love, we had no idea what we would encounter. Pretty darn amazing, my friend. Be of good courage — we will be well because we are learning how to be love. My best and much love.
I just wanted to thank you for your Provision today. This is the third time in 3 weeks someone has mentioned this passage to me so I think I need to listen! Like you, I’ve been going through some stuff but nowhere near what you’ve been experiencing. I recognize I’ve been wrestling with God over a number of long-standing issues in my life, including my faith, identity, marriage, which resulted in taking some time off work for the past 5 weeks and beginning taking antidepressant medication. I am grateful to say I think I’m beginning to come out of the ‘fog’ I’ve been in and am returning to work tomorrow, clear about some things that need to change. I continue to pray for your complete recovery – you are a blessing to many.
I like the concept of “wrestling with God” (rather than submit to and fear God as most organized religions insist) but to me the question is less does a God power exist but rather why does He/She/It insist on constantly throwing us punches and pinning us to ground until we yell uncle, or worse take away our lives, health, happiness for no apparent or logical reason. However I suppose the fact that you seem to have gained perspective and greater understanding and appreciation of life from your own wrestling experience does count for something. Thanks for your message.
It was good to hear your voice coming through so strong and clear in your last Provision. We are in Ojai, CA. 90 min north of LA and it’s a small town feeling here. My son got into a boarding school called Thacher. Very cool, they ride horses every day, camp a lot and have a strong peer culture.
I thought of you yesterday as my husband and I did the Santa Barbara half marathon. Remembering how you and I did one together in VA. And how I was thinking I could be walk/running this and be done faster! We finished at a 10:30 pace and with you we were at 10. Hope you are well, and so glad you are recovering!
Good Provision. Sorry to hear about the rough road of conflict. I know you’ll be able to travel it. Your story about Jacob resonated with us on a couple of levels. You are always in our prayers.
Wow, now you’re a professional wrestler! You never stop reinventing yourself, do you? Sorry to hear about your mother and I appreciate the lessons you transfer to everybody about your brain disease, and your coping abilities. Big hug from here in Israel.
We greatly appreciate your prayers, kind thoughts, as well as your memories of being in Saigon. The streets here are certainly indelible. So far, the storm has not hit VN, but as with most tropical storms and typhoons, they hit the Central directly (Danang, Hue, Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, etc.). It is a blessing that Saigon just gets heavy rain and moderate flooding for about 2 straight days, but loss of life and heavy damage to buildings is fortunately unusual.
This has been an especially bad year with several bad storms that have hit the Central causing much damage, but fortunately not much loss of life. We hope all is well with you and that your recovery is progressing. You remain in our prayers and hope we can see you again soon.
My beloved husband has also been dealt a nasty blow. He means the world to me. I cherish him every day and I am often amazed at how he has dealt with this so gracefully. It’s only the last 6 months that I see it’s getting to be too much for one man to take. We are seeking counseling, but so far they offer rudimentary coping skills while we need more than what we already know / do.
I’ve literally had people suggest I leave him because he couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t work. My brother, under the guise of a lunch invitation to ‘brainstorm ideas’ came back with a letter telling me that my husband should be able to work and I should be working too – (regardless of his never caring enough to ask me what kind of work I do and what I’ve been doing or working towards for 5 years). That’s not right at this time.
I’m so stunned at times by how much we as humans are able to cope with, overcome, and rise to be inspiring others around us. In the meantime, I thank God every day for my loving husband. I thank God every day for another day. And though there are times I wonder how this could happen to such a caring, loving man – or to me – I usually just keep seeking solutions. As you surely do, too. So, in short, my reply to your last Provision: “Well said!”
May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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