From Obstacles to Opportunities

Editor’s Note: Quint Studer is the author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America.” He will speak in Elkins on March 5. The Inter-Mountain will publish a column by Studer each Saturday leading up to his local appearance.

In the book The Road Less Traveled, author M. Scott Peck wrote that life is difficult, and once we understand that, it’s not as difficult.

Another saying that resonates with me is that our serenity is directly proportional to our expectations.

This week I’d like to focus on the same line of logic: how obstacles can become opportunities.

In my own life, and I bet in yours, there have been setbacks, obstacles, and disappointments. In the heat of those things, we know it’s very hard to be grateful. However, the way you handle yourself makes a great difference. We often have less influence on the occurrence than we do the way we respond. No one gets through life undefeated.

I would like to share some examples from my own life. First, I have a speech impediment. I went to speech pathology when I was young. That is where I had to deal with my failure to pronounce certain words. This meant repeating words I had trouble with over and over until I could either pronounce those words or come up with substitutes. Today, I realize I learned resilience from that experience.

Second, I have a hearing impairment. I am deaf in one ear with limited hearing in the other. This made me better at focusing and listening. I did not get many jobs I applied for. When I was working in Wisconsin, I was turned down for two jobs before I eventually got a job in Chicago.

After three years in Chicago, I thought I was ready for the next career step. Others felt differently. I did not get a job that I wanted that would have kept my family in Chicago, but did get a job in Pensacola. It ended up turning out great; yet, until I had been in the new job awhile, until my family had adjusted, the disappointment of not getting other jobs was there. Expectations had gotten in my way again. When this happens, one can see themselves as a victim and wallow in the valley of self-pity.

Some tips:

1. While it’s nice to have high goals, be careful about expectations. In the long run, we usually get what we need–not what we want–and then realize what we got was what we wanted. We just did not know it at the time.

2. With any setback, yes, take time to grieve or be sad, but give yourself permission to be human and heal.

3. Take it as an opportunity to learn. A friend of mine recently got let go from his company during an ownership change. After some time, he reached out to get feedback to understand what he could have done better. Often, we miss the warning signs.

4. Learn from others. At a conference when I was speaking to people training to be healthcare administrators, I listed every job I had applied for but did not receive. We can fall into the trap of thinking we are the only ones who experience setbacks and disappointments. We can learn from how others handle such experiences.

5. I like the saying God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. However, don’t you wish He did not have such high expectations of what you can handle?

6. Even in the toughest of times, take time to make a gratitude list. I guarantee once you are done, you will feel better.