Life is always full of challenging and difficult situations. In business, no matter how much positive thinking you do, you will always have big problems sometimes. There are things you cannot control– such as the global economy– that can cause a lot of problems for your business.
In our personal lives, difficult and complex situations will always happen too. We can get sick… or people we love might get sick. Relationships change. People die. One day, we die.
We cannot avoid all of these situations. And often, we cannot control them.
Sometimes people believe that “the secret” of positive thinking will help them avoid all big problems and have good luck all the time. This is not true. We all know it’s not true, because you only need to look at your own life to see that difficult situations always keep coming, no matter how you think.
The secret is NOT to avoid difficult situations– the secret is HOW you react to difficult situations. Most people face these situations by complaining, or becoming depressed, or quitting, or getting angry. When you do this, of course, you only make the situation worse… and it’s easy to then become a pessimistic defeated person.
We can’t choose all of the events in our lives, but we CAN choose how we handle them.
As many of you know, Tomoe and I recently became divorced. We aren’t going to discuss the details of why… except to say that there was no hurtfulness or anger between us. There were just some things we could not solve, even though we wanted to. That happens in life… in relationships, in business, in all aspects of life.
The question is, what do you do about it? How you face difficult and painful situations is probably more important than what you do when everything is easy and wonderful.
It’s easy to be positive and strong and kind when everything is the way you want it to be. But what about when things don’t happen as you want?
What I have found in my life is this: when painful things happen we always feel bad, of course. But if we can nonetheless stay positive and find learning, growth, and opportunity during these times our lives can become magnificent. In the future, we will often look back to these events and be thankful for the difficulty and pain, because they pushed us to grow.
Here’s a small example from my life: I was teaching at a university in Thailand and I enjoyed my job. The students were great. However, at that time I was trying a lot of new teaching methods. The students LOVED the new methods,… but one day my boss found out that I was not following the standard textbook and methods. He also found out that I was giving a lot of my students good grades. The boss had a meeting with me and he told me I had to use only the textbook… and had to lower my students’ grades.
He said if I didn’t, I would lose my job. I thought about it and then said, “No”. I quit and lost the job. At the time, it seemed like a horrible situation. I was stressed about money. I was stressed about finding another job. I felt really terrible.
BUT, I decided to remain positive and focus on opportunities. This event, in fact, made me realize that I had to start my own company… so I could be free to teach as I wanted. I realized I could never serve my students if I had a boss telling me what to do.
It was painful then, but now I am soooo grateful for that event. That painful event is one reason I eventually started Effortless English. Today, I am much much happier as a teacher. I’m helping so many more students. My teaching methods are much more powerful. Today, I am extremely grateful for that painful event.
If it had not happened, perhaps I would still be teaching at schools… secure but bored. Instead, I am living my dream.
Whenever I face very difficult situations, I remember this story.
I remember that the ultimate meditation or prayer is not to pray for luck or for help,… nor to ask for anything. Rather, the ultimate expression of faith is to simply and always be grateful.. and to find gratitude in all situations.
And so in these times, I focus on my favorite zen saying/meditation/prayer, and I say it often:
“Thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever”