What are you learning?


Waterfall I saw in Jamaica

When I was a kid, challenges annoyed me. I wanted everything to be easy. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. Over time, however, I have discovered that when a challenge presents itself, there’s usually a lesson there. Now, even though I might not always enjoy a challenge, this perspective helps me push through. I thought I’d share my mental process when it comes to challenges in case it might help someone out.

1. Gain perspective

For me, the best way to do this is step back. Step out of my body, my situation, my head for a minute. Sometimes it helps to imagine that my life is on television. When I watch TV I usually have an opinion about what someone should do and it’s usually very logical. Imagining that my life is a TV show helps me gain a perspective that might otherwise be muddled in emotion or the moment.

2. Ask myself “Why is this frustrating me?”

When frustration goes without examination the chance to learn a lesson is lost. Discovering the source of frustration is key to determining what the lesson is. Am I frustrated with the situation or am I frustrated with myself? Sometimes a situation isn’t about what someone else is doing, it’s about what I am NOT doing. There are times when I get frustrated because I am not assertive enough to ask for something like an accommodation for my disability. Instead I get angry that the accommodation hasn’t been made prior to my arrival. (This is sort of the “everyone else should read my mind” line of thinking.)

3. Ask myself “What can I learn here?”

Currently I am dealing with a lot of paperwork associated with my dad’s passing. It is frustrating to me because I feel like it should be easier and I get irritated when I don’t know or can’t find an answer right away. But if I step back and think about it, I can actually learn a lot about how I can prepare my own situation and maybe help out others down the road. I can learn about how to plan my own estate, what tricks and tools I can use, and how I can make sure my loved ones are left with something when I go.

4. Tackle it.

The last step is to accept the lesson on your plate and decide to tackle it. By going through steps 1-3 I usually have a good definition about what I’m going to learn. I can remind myself of this every time frustration arises. A decision to tackle the lesson becomes easier and slowly but surely I will start to learn as I proceed. This is the reward. The best part is that even if a situation has a bunch of possible lessons, as long as you focus on learning one you will probably learn the others as well.

So if your disability is presenting you with some challenges, step back and think about the lessons you might be about to learn. It might make it a little easier to move forward and accept the challenges. Before you know it you’ll have learned a ton of new things about yourself and life.

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