Over the next few months we will be discussing the 15 laws of growth from John Maxwells book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. We will discuss one law per week and sum it up at the end with a complete call to action.
Every problem introduces a person to himself. – John McDonnell
On September 11, 2001 Cheryl McGuinnesses husband, Tom, was one of the pilots for American Airlines Flight 11, which was the first plane to fly into the World Trade Center. Her world was instantly turned upside down. Cheryl was now now a single mother of two teenagers and had to completely reinvent the way she lived, all while dealing with the grief of losing her husband in such a tragic way.
Like many hero’s from that day, Cheryl refused to be a victim. She took control of the situation and worked through her grief. She became a highly sought after public speaker and she wrote a best selling book, Beauty Beyond the Ashes. In the book, Cheryl sums up dealing with tragedy in the following quote:
As unfair, unreasonable, and impossible as it seems, we still have work to do after a tragedy occurs. We still have roles to fill. We still have responsibilities to family and others. The stuff of life may pause for a while, but it doesn’t stop. Fair or not, that’s reality.
All of us deal with pain in our lives. Luckily, most of us will never deal with something as traumatic as losing our spouse in a plain hijacking, but that doesn’t make our pain any less real. Pain is such a big part of our lives, in fact, that Maxwell labels it the eighth law of growth. Although pain is never fun or easy when you are going through it, it almost always gives us an opportunity to grow significantly through it.
Turn Pain into Gain
Pain is inevitable. No matter how hard you try to avoid bad things in life, they still have a way of finding you. In order to grow, we must find ways to turn the pain into gain. Maxwell offers five tips for doing this:
1. Choose a positive life stance
Your life stance is your overall frame of reference. It is the attitudes and beliefs you hold about yourself, others and the world in general. In short, it is the way you look at things: are you an optimist or a pessimist?
Life is not the way it is supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference. – Virginia Satir
Though pain and failure are difficult for anyone to deal with, those with a positive life stance tend to find opportunities in adversity. Those with a negative life stance see only the adversity. Maxwell says that for the most part, we get what we expect out of life. Do you expect to grow in your pain, or do you expect it to keep you down?
2. Embrace and develop your creativity
Maxwell tells the story here of a chicken farmer whose land floods nearly every spring. Every spring the rains would come, the flooding would start and he would be in a race against time to move his chickens to higher ground. Sometimes he was successful, sometimes he lost hundreds of chickens to the floods.
After a particularly bad spring in which he lost a significant portion of his chickens, he complained to his wife that he had no options. He couldn’t afford to buy a new place and certainly no one would buy his current place. He asked his wife what she thought he should do. She simply replied “buy ducks”.
If we can’t avoid bad experiences, we must figure out ways to get through them. It is often in these moments of pain and failure that we are most creative. When we can’t escape flood waters and our chickens keep drowning, we have to replace them with ducks.
In life it is not the cards you are dealt, but how you play the hand. Get creative to overcome the pain or failures you experience.
3. Embrace the value of bad experiences
You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of actually getting somewhere. – Charles F. Kettering
Those who go out and make things happen will inevitably experience more failures than those who sit around letting life pass them by. When these failures occur, you have two choices; learn from them or let them stop you.
Find the value in the pain and failures you experience.
4. Make good changes after learning from bad experiences
Simply finding value in your experiences isn’t enough. You have to make changes based on what you learned.
Each bad experience will offer you two forms of pain. You can either have the pain required in learning and growing from your failures, or you can have the pain of regret from quitting after failure. The first pain is temporary, the second is permanent.
In order to grown from the pain you experience, you must take action in implementing positive changes from the lessons learned.
5. Take responsibility for your life
Who do you believe is responsible for your life? Where is your locus of control? In order to grow, you must believe that you are ultimately in charge of your life.
Sure, there will be countless things that happen to you that you have no control over, but it is how you respond to those things that matter. When you experience pain or failure, it is your responsibility to learn from it, make the necessary changes and ultimately grow from it.
Fight or Flight
You are going to experience plenty of moments of pain in your life, there is no getting around it. Some of us will experience worse pain than others. But regardless of what you have went through, or are currently going through, you have the choice to fight through it, learn from it and grow, or to run away from it, to let the pain or failure define you.
No one likes experiencing pain, but how we respond to that pain will determine how much we grow.