4 Ways To Turn Bad Experiences Into Personal Growth
There's no doubt about it - what's happening in our world today is not a good experience. I don't think anyone would look at our current situation or look back a few months from today only to say, "oh yeah, that was fun."
We're collectively facing a hard and stressful time. A time of fear, uncertainty, loneliness, and grief.
So, let me ask you this. How do you usually respond to bad experiences? Do you explode in anger? Do you shink into yourself emotionally? Do you hide your head in the said and try to ignore reality? Do you try to detach yourself as much as possible?
I love the quote by John McDonnell,
"Every problem introduces a person to himself." What a powerful observation.
Any time we face hard situations, we get to know ourselves a little bit better.
Pain can stop us in our tracks, which is something it would've done to me if this happened to me even 7 years ago. Pain froze me in fear. For some though pain can cause them to react in ways that they might regret later on.
The bottom line is, what we do with the experiences we go through will shape who we become.
Here's what I know about bad experiences, we all have them. However, what separates people who thrive from those who merely survive, is how they face the problems in the midst of bad experiences.
In the next few minutes, I'd like to offer up a few lessons I learned that helped me turn my bad experiences into personal growth opportunities. Because here's the reality, life's difficulties do not leave us the same. They change us. The only question is, in which direction will we be moved: upward or downward? When we encounter bad situations will we become better or bitter? I can tell you one thing, most successful and resilient people will point to hard times in their lives as key milestones in their journey of development and growth.
If like me, you are dedicated to continual growth than the steps I'll be sharing with you in the rest of this article will be very beneficial to you.
So, keep reading, my friend!
1. Choose A Life-Giving Attitude
We all hold our own sets of attitudes, assumptions, and expectations. About ourselves, other people, and the world around us. The quality of our experiences is the result of the overall way of how we look at things. Whether we tend to be optimistic or pessimistic, cheerful or gloomy, trusting or suspicious, brave or timid, giving or selfish, and so and so forth. When we are able to intentionally lean into a more positive outlook, we put ourselves in the best position to manage bad experiences and turn them into growth.
Family therapy pioneer Virginia Satir once said, "Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way we cope with it is what makes the difference."
How true! You cannot control much of what happens to you in life. However, the one thing you can control is your attitude.
I'm not gonna lie, this was a tough skill to develop in my own life. I feel as though if I give into my natural instincts I tend to have a more skeptical outlook on life. But being relentless in cultivating a more positive attitude in my life has helped me to grow into a more resilient and committed individual more than anything else.
I developed this mindset by reminding myself daily that:
- Life is filled with both good and bad.
- Some of the good and bad I cannot control - that's just part of life.
- Some of the good and bad will find me.
- Some days are better than others and some are worse.
- If I have a negative mindset the bad will become worse and the good might be a bit dimmer.
- Since I cannot change most of my circumstances I might as well learn to find the good even in the tough times.
Here's one thing I learned. To a large degree, you get what you expect. Not all the time but much of the time!
2. Welcome The Lessons Bad Experiences Offer
President John F. Kennedy was once asked about how he became a war hero. With a dry sarcastic wit, he said, "It was quite easy. Somebody sunk my boat."
It's always easier to see something positive in a negative situation long after the experience, right?
It is definitely hard to see the negative experiences in the moment and to approach it with a positive mindset. But if you can do that, you will always find something to learn from it. Here's one truth I learned in my own life, and correct me if I'm wrong.
Where there is no struggle there is also no progress.
Facing hard times is unavoidable. Learning from those hard times is optional.
3. Make Positive Changes Afterward
Novelist James Baldwin once commented, "Not every thing that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Often it takes a tough experience for us to face the changes we need to make in our lives. I know this was true when it came to changing the way I was thinking and living my life 10 years ago. The realization that my extreme struggle and depression could destroy my life and the lives of those I loved the most got my attention. It made me face fact that I not only needed to change but I need help in making that a reality.
You could definitely say I reached a teachable moment. But I still had a choice, even at that moment. I could choose to face reality or to hide my head in the sand.
Bad experiences give us opportunities to turn our lives around. John Maxwell says that a "bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn."
The next time you find yourself in the midst of a tough situation, remind yourself that you are on the verge of an opportunity to change and grow.
4. Take responsibility For Your Part
While many of the situations we face are outside of our control we also need to remember that in every situation there is a part that we play. We must take personal responsibility for our lives and the choices we make. Psychiatrist Frederic Flach, in his book Resilience, says that people who overcome hard experiences avoid the label of "victim" and take responsibility for moving forward.
Their attitude is, "What happened to me was pretty bad, but other people are worse off, and I won't give up." They do not wallow in self-pity saying, "Why me?" or "Woe me."
As soon as you start viewing yourself as a victim you start giving away your control. Take it from someone who's faced a lot of challenges in her life, no matter what you have gone through or go through in life, you have the opportunity to grow from it. The choice is yours.
In some circumstances, it's very hard to see the good or the opportunity for growth, but it is there. Like the quote says, 'what you focus on expands.' This statement is true for growing through tough times as well.
Now, I'd love to hear from you! In tough times and through bad experiences what helps you to cultivate a more positive attitude? Tell me in the comments below. I'd love to know.
And don't forget to grab the FREE "Think Bigger" guide HERE. This simple guide will help you upgrade your thinking so you can get unstuck and start soaring again towards your goals and dreams, one step at a time.
Keep showing up and keep shining bright. Your voice and message are needed in the world.
Cheering you on,
Don't forget to listen to the latest CAPTIVATE episode with amazing guests and passionate female thought leaders sharing their inspiring stories.
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