One summer evening a long while ago, I saw a woman with her three-year-old daughter. The little girl was skipping along ecstatically. She was holding on to a string that was attached to a huge, red helium balloon. All of a sudden, a sharp gust of wind pulled the balloon from the little girl’s hand. I braced myself for tantrums and hysterics.
But, no! As the little girl turned to watch her balloon go skyward, she gleefully shouted out, “Wow!”
I was floored.
I didn’t realize it at that moment, but that little girl taught me something.
Later that day, I received a phone call from a person with news of an unexpected problem. I felt like responding with “Oh no, what should we do?” But remembering that little girl, I found myself saying, “Wow, that’s interesting! How can I help you?”
Then I read NLP maestro Anthony Robbin’s Awaken the Giant Within. I realized how our words shape our thoughts and color our perceptions. A joyful event can be sucked of its brightness merely by changing a few words that describe it just as a setback can be made lighter by changing the words that describe it. I knew then, that I must change the words I habitually use.
There have been times when I have greeted unexpected setbacks- my own and other people’s- with words that are determinedly non- gloomy. Some of the expressions I have used are:
1. Oh that’s just great! What shall do I do now?
2. Super! So what do we do now?
3. That’s awkward! How do we resolve this one?
4. How inconvenient! I wonder what we can do now?
5. Oh God! This is too hilarious for words!
6. Lovely timing, isn’t it? How do we deal with this?
One thing’s for sure – life’s always going to keep us off balance with its unexpected problems. That’s a given. What’s not preordained is our response. We can choose to be frustrated, fascinated or amused.
I read somewhere that there is a gap between stimulus and response. This sliver of time is our window of opportunity. If we can but control our thinking in this gap, we can control our response.
It is not the event/ setback that generates our dismay. Every setback or perceived impediment is not necessarily bad news. Blessings have a way of disguising themselves as disasters much as the fairies of our childhood stories were wont to disguise themselves as evil witches. Armed with a long range perspective and a resolve to find it, a blessing can be found hidden beneath the cloak of any adversity. The setback is merely the outer envelope… a tad soiled and battered. Inside, the good news will always be shining bright and beautiful.
It has taken me a long time to be able to look at a challenge as a lesson I needed. To be frank, I’m still not always excited to be enduring the pain and frustration that negative circumstances usually cause. Some days I’d like to “play hookey” and skip the lesson. But that doesn’t work. Because then the lesson is repeated, again and again, until I learn it.
As I look back at my life, it is easy to see that the times when my understanding grew to new levels were the times that followed negative circumstances. The greatest growth you’re going to have is going to come from the negative circumstance you have today that sometimes seems too overwhelming, encompassing, pervasive.
Let a person rejoice when he is confronted with obstacles, for it means that he has reached the end of some particular line of indifference or folly, and is now called upon to summon up all his energy and intelligence in order to extricate himself, and to find a better way; that the powers within him are crying out for greater freedom, for enlarged exercise and scope.
No situation can be difficult of itself; it is the lack of insight into its intricacies, and the want of wisdom in dealing with it, which give rise to the difficulty. Immeasurable, therefore, is the gain of a difficulty transcended.
~ James Allen in Byways of Blessedness
I have finally learned, that instead of fighting a challenge with laments and low- spirits, I need to jump in and gain the insight and wisdom to handle it. Then it would be gone, and I would be ready for the next lesson- stronger in spirit and wisdom!
It is the Law that any difficulties that can come to you at any time, no matter what they are, must be exactly what you need most at the moment, to enable you to take the next step forward by overcoming them. The only real misfortune, the only real tragedy, comes when we suffer without learning the lesson.
~ Emmet Fox
Next time one of life’s unexpected gusts snatches away your balloon, clap your hands and say “Wow!”