Life Is a Self-Designed, Personal Growth Seminar

Photo: Rebecca Morgan, Ayutthaya, Thailand


Our lives have incredible highs and some heartbreaking lows. The former are exhilarating. In the moment you think, “How can life get any better?”

The lows often involve blaming ourselves, feeling stupid, and being embarrassed for our part in the mishap. Or you condemn others, thinking they caused this setback.

The difference between those who rebound quickly and those who linger in their negativity is their perspective. Wallowers stay stuck in victimhood, never reflecting on the lesson the experience has for them.

The sooner you can shift from anger or sadness to introspection, the happier you will be. Every disappointment has a gift for you, if you are willing to look for it. This is not always easy. The more time distancing you from the event, the easier it gets. However, if you can train yourself to look for the lesson as soon after the event as possible, the less suffering you’ll have.

It took me many years to learn to speedily find value in disappointments. Sometimes it still takes me longer than I’d like. When I’ve shifted my perspective quickly, the wiser and more at peace I’ve become.

When I’m able to look for the lessons, I’m reminded of the many personal growth workshops I’ve attended. These are typically full of exercises confronting your thinking and behavior, then teaching you new perspectives so you can shift your paradigm. You become a “participant observer” to your life — able to reflect on your behaviors soon after the event.

This is especially helpful if you are trying to change a habit. For example, I would get attention by cutting humor targeting those around me. Others would laugh, including, sometimes, the target of my “teasing.” However, I noticed that when others would tease me similarly, putting me down for laughs, it didn’t feel good. It felt hurtful. I realized I was doing this to others. I asked myself, “Do I want to destroy my relationships, or strengthen them? The answer was easy — to make them stronger.

I observed that I had caused or contributed to the vast majority of mishaps in my life. Not all, of course, but a great percentage of them. I then realized that I was designing a personal growth seminar — my life. I would keep having similar disappointments until I learned the lesson and didn’t repeat the same behavior. The sooner I had the epiphany, the sooner I’d integrate the insight. It would reduce my suffering, and make me a better person.

Reflect on some of the setbacks in your life. Have you unearthed the lesson? Or are you still blaming yourself or others, not acknowledging the hand you had in creating it. If the event was beyond your control or not, what did you learn about yourself that you can carry forward? If nothing else, you can learn to forgive yourself and others quickly.

Thinking of your life as a self-designed, personal growth seminar gives you more power, as you see that you have more control than you might think. Instead of blame, you shift to asking, “What lesson do I need to learn from this?” That’s a place of peace.

Seek lessons from each experience.