Pain is Inevitable but Suffering is Optional

Do you ever feel like there is no end to the problems that you face? Do your challenges seem too great to overcome? Do you ever ask yourself, “What’s the point?” Do you allow your circumstances to govern your life to the point of making you sad, lonely, and depressed?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, welcome to the majority! Most people, at one time or another, feel the same way.

We tend to look at others and think that they have it made – they have it all figured out. What we don’t realize is that those who appear to have “figured it all out” have the same feelings that we do, however, they have made a conscious decision to turn their adversity into a positive experience.

A wise person once said, “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” We all face adversity; it’s what you do with it that matters.

I once had the pleasure of interviewing baseball great, Jim Abbott. Jim pitched a no-hitter with the New York Yankees, won the gold medal game at the 1988 Olympics, entered the starting rotation of the California Angels – without spending one day in the minor leagues, and finished third in voting for the Cy Young Award. Jim was born with one hand.

Jim spent much of his life with his missing hand tucked in his front pocket. Like the rest of us he felt insecure and self-conscious. But he chose a career with a uniform that didn’t have a front pocket. He chose to put his pain aside and travel a different path.

It wasn’t always easy for him. Just like everyone else he had doubts and fears. Even with all his accomplishments, when he was standing on the pitcher’s mound making history, his insecurities crept in his thoughts. But he never let those insecurities stop him, he never gave up. And now he serves as an inspiration to many, children especially, proving that anything in life is possible. His challenge has become a gift.

Will you let your challenge become a gift? Will you look for the lessons in your adversity?

If you’ve lost a job, try to figure out what happened. Is there anything you could have done differently? Is it time for a career change? If you’re facing an illness, look for reasons why it may have happened. Can you change your lifestyle or diet? If you have relationship problems, what can you change about the way you interact with others? Is the person an emotional drain in your life? If you’re in debt, can you improve on your budgeting skills or become more financially prudent?

Adversity is guidance. Sometimes it comes into your life to tell you it’s time to change; sometimes to teach you a lesson. Always remember that anything can be overcome with the right attitude. Look to others for strength and inspiration. Rather than getting bogged down with your own problems, pay attention to people who happily survive and even prosper despite all of the odds.

As Jim Abbott said, “When something is taken away once, it is given back twice!” Look for what is given back to you!

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