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How the chaos in your life builds character

How the chaos in your life builds character

chaos

    What if you discovered that having an easy life was actually bad for you? What if you realized that facing hardship and enduring tragedy was actually good for you? In fact it really is. It is how you choose to look at your experiences that influences what they can do for you.

    The chaos in your life builds character.

    We will endure tragedy and hardship in our lives at one point or another; it is the human experience to go through pain and upheaval because being alive is all about change. We come out of these life experiences with new found strength and vision. Many have testified to this. Our instinct is to avoid making bad choices or engaging in risky behavior in order to protect ourselves and prevent tribulation. Our survival depends on it. As parents, we certainly try to protect our children from danger and hurt and we don’t want to see anyone we care about, whether they are family or friends, or complete strangers, in pain or peril. However the older we get, the more we realize that life is full of twists and turns and it is inevitable that we will face misfortune in our lives.

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    It is important to harness the power of upheaval and understand that some good can come of very bad situations.

    The most important life lessons come when we are faced with situations that we are ill equipped to deal with. We feel helpless and shocked, sad and angry. It may be the illness or death of a loved one, losing a job, a relationship; or having a transgression committed against us in some way. It may be something that is very commonplace, but to us feels like despair that we’ve never experienced before. Or it may be something catastrophic like a natural disaster, poverty, famine or war.

    One of the first realizations we must awaken to is that we are not the first to feel this way and we will not be the last. While our experiences and feelings are valid and unique to us; in the grand scheme of things, there are people who have endured far worse and survived. We are not alone.

    The human condition is all about living through constant change. It is also about realizing that all we have is the present moment.

    Popular author Eckhart Tolle has written extensively about the power of the present moment. He says:

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    Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

    This idea forces us to concentrate on what we are actually experiencing. The past is an illusion of memory and the present an illusion of hope or fear. The only reality is right now. In this context, while we may be in the midst of chaos or pain, we can realize that each moment is fleeting and will pass and we have the power to determine if the moment improves or the situation worsens. Even when we are powerless to make things go our way, accepting this inevitability and ‘waiting it out’ gives us the foresight and lucidity to merely observe what we are experiencing and extract the skills and lessons that will influence us to our advantage.

    Chaos in your life builds character because it makes you feel alive. The diversity of emotions you withstand when your life becomes unstable compels you to have a range of responses that you may not have had the opportunity to explore when things were going well. You gain problem solving skills, resilience, patience and ingenuity. If you manage your grief and anger, your fear and confusion by focusing on the present; centering yourself and allowing yourself to feel without letting those feelings dictate your actions; reason and pragmatism will surface and give you strength to move on to the next moment a stronger and more capable person.

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    The antithesis to this is avoiding tragedy or disappointment as an act of self preservation. An easy life provides no challenge and can become boring. Unfortunately it is only a matter of time that the inevitability of life’s hardships comes knocking on our door.

    You may inadvertently create or look for chaos in order to feel alive. Some people climb mountains or travel to remote parts of the world; they take on difficult and challenging tasks to feel alive. When we are born to a privileged life there is nothing more admirable than exposing ourselves to how others live and sharing our wealth and security. You may want to volunteer in a disaster zone or do aid work in a war torn country. You don’t even have to go abroad. Some people volunteer and contribute within their own communities in order to develop their empathy and go some way towards understanding what it means to suffer loss, to experience hardship and to fight injustice; even when their own lives are charmed. This is a positive way to invite chaos into your life in order to learn.

    It is important to understand that the ups and downs of life are necessary for our character to evolve and for us to experience growth through catharsis. This means that we undergo some sort of transformation, a cleansing or purification by means of suffering and change. We purge our emotions through a disastrous occurrence and ultimately find restoration and resolution at the conclusion.

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    When we don’t honor the validity and benefit of catharsis in our lives we may invite chaos subconsciously; often through indulgences and risk taking behavior that appears innocent and safe, but may lead us down a dangerous road. Any type of excess can be damaging in our lives and that makes it even more important to stay in control when our lives seem to be going off the rails.

    Understanding that life’s challenges are what makes us who we are gives us the strength and purpose to be prepared for anything. Our personality and character evolves through each cathartic experience and with practice we find the optimism to face misfortune head on.

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    Diane Koopman

    Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

    Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

    1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

    Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

    There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

    Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

    2. Pace Yourself

    Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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    Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

    Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

    3. You Can’t Please Everyone

    “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

    You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

    Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

    4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

    Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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    We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

    Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

    5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

    “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

    No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

    We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

    6. It’s Not All About You

    You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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    It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

    7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

    No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

    We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

    Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

    8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

    That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

    Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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    Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

    9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

    Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

    The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

    10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

    We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

    When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

    Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

    This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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    Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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