Who can tell what is good or bad luck? -- Zen saying
Most of us dream of the day when we won't have any more problems, when everything will be resolved, and our lives will be "complete". But problems are an important and valuable part of our lives, and instead of trying to eliminate them, we should strive to understand exactly what they are.
Nothing happens by chance. We are a part of a universe that is forever giving us definite messages and signals, often in the form of problems. It is not an accident or coincidence that a particular problem is happening to you at any given point in your life; our difficulties are signposts waiting to be read.
Ask yourself: What is the problem I'm experiencing telling me about myself? What is it telling me about my thoughts? Beliefs? Actions? Choices? Lifestyle? What is this problem trying to tell me? Look closely, and see if you can find the real cause. If you always feel sorry for yourself or helpless when a problem comes your way, you'll miss the important messages it brings you.
Become An Alchemist: Turn Everyday Situations into Gold
The medieval alchemist spent his lifetime trying to learn the secrets of turning ordinary base metals into gold. Much time and great fortunes were spent in this pursuit, to no avail. Medieval alchemy failed because its practitioners were looking in the wrong direction.
The real alchemist is one who learns the secret of turning everyday situations into gold, who learns how to make every situation serve him. Problems and difficulties can be used as a springboard to deeper insight, and the real alchemist understands that there are no such things as problems, only opportunities.
No Such Things As Problems, Only Opportunities
Once a person takes on this belief and works at finding the opportunities that are contained within each situation, the experiences that follow this simple change of attitude are quite startling.
Margaret Kelly, a woman who had attended my "Thought Dynamics" seminars, found an opportunity to practice this principle one day at work. She was the director of a huge nursing home and, together with her two assistants, managed the day-to-day affairs of over a thousand patients. If even one of her assistants was off sick, it created havoc, so you can imagine the "problem" she faced one day when both called in sick. She panicked, until she remembered that "there are no such things as problems, there are only opportunities". Where is the opportunity here? Margaret wondered.
Then Margaret realized that she was always working through just her two assistants, and that she didn't really know some of the staff they worked with. She told herself, "I'm going to use this as an opportunity to get to know these other people."
She spent the day talking and working with employees with whom she normally had little contact. She listened to their concerns, and to the difficulties they were having which, in turn, led to a whole new and more effective way of administering certain duties. As Margaret Kelly later told me, "The day turned out to be a wonderful opportunity, and I accomplished so much."
I doubt Margaret Kelly would have been able to turn such a tense situation to her advantage had she dwelt upon her so-called problem. It was changing her attitude from, "I've got a huge problem" to "There are no such things as problems, only opportunities," which had enabled her to try the new course of action, producing such rich results.
Using Lemons to Make Lemonade
Nancy Spencer was facing the biggest problem of her life when I first met her. She had been deserted by her common-law husband and left with three small children. She had no money, no marketable skills, and no immediate prospects. It seemed like an insurmountable problem until Nancy began reminding herself that there are no such things as problems, there are only opportunities. But where? She searched for over a week before she finally found the opportunity she was looking for.
She realized, upon examining herself, that she had always been dependent upon someone -- first her parents, and then her common-law husband. She had always allowed other people to tell her what to do because she had very low self-esteem. Now, in the depths of despair, in a seemingly hopeless situation, she made a promise to herself. Nancy resolved to rise up and become a confident and successful person, for herself and for her children. She would use this crisis as a springboard to become a strong and independent adult.
I was pleased I had the opportunity of teaching Nancy the concepts covered in my book "Mind Power into the 21st Century", for she was an avid student and worked regularly and persistently on her self-image, her beliefs, and her goals. I watched her change before my very eyes, and saw her progress from taking her first menial jobs, to opening her own wholesale flower business.
Today she is a happy, successful, self-confident woman married to a warm and sincere man. They share a wonderful life together -- all because Nancy believed that there are no such things as problems, there are only opportunities.
People Who Turned Happenstance To An Advantage
Become an alchemist in life and make every situation serve you. Remember that many times we complain about events which, in retrospect, were necessary for our growth and development.
One of the great examples of turning happenstance to an advantage came about when researcher Don Stookey accidentally left some treated glass in the furnace so long it turned white. Undaunted, Stookey creatively turned that accident into a benefit by continuing to experiment with the new substance and, when he found it could withstand searing heat, further refined and marketed his mistake as Corning Ware, a product now found in almost every home in North America.
Learn to see your stresses and struggles as challenges and opportunities, not liabilities or handicaps. Consider the story of entrepreneur Kathy Kolbe who was born dyslexic, unable to tell left from right, or read the time on a clock without great difficulty. "My disability is one of the greatest advantages I have," she says, "it helped me become a student of the thinking process."
One day Kolbe took the plunge. With $500 of her savings, she launched a firm called Resources for the Gifted. She compiled a catalogue of available resources for intellectually gifted children and sent it out to 3,500 teachers. At first, orders only trickled in, and even when they began to flow, the first years were hard. She bought a warehouse, and the building caught fire. An employee embezzled money. Kolbe divorced her husband. In spite of everything, she never lost sight of her belief that there are no such things as problems, there are only opportunities. Today she grosses $3.5 million a year, and Resources for the Gifted continues to grow.
American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a paraplegic who had to be helped in and out of his wheelchair, yet he brought America out of the Great Depression, and went down in history as one of the world's most respected and revered leaders.
Bob Hawke rose from the depths of alcoholism to become an important labor leader, and eventually Australia's Prime Minister for four successful terms.
Wilma Rudolph was born poor and black in Depression stricken Tennessee. When she developed polio at the age of ten, life didn't seem very promising to Wilma, yet she surmounted all these problems and went on to win three gold medals in track and field at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Thirty years later, another potential Olympian was facing the crisis of her life. Gail Devers was training to compete at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when she suddenly broke out in sores all over her body. No one seemed to know what it was. Finally, she was diagnosed with Graves Disease, a condition that had doctors threatening to amputate her feet. She was within two days of losing her feet when she finally began improving.
Building on Adversity and Failure to Attain Success
Overcoming this adversity, she went on to win the 100-metre race in Barcelona, and then, with a home crowd of 85,000 cheering her on, she repeated this amazing feat in Atlanta in 1996. "I wouldn't change a thing," said Gail looking back on her ordeal. "It was a blessing. It made me the person I am today. It made me a stronger, better person."
The founding director of a highly successful investment firm shared with me his secret for hiring top performers. "We don't hire any senior people here unless they've had at least one major failure in their life. We find that people become more committed and determined as a result. It makes for a better person."
What opportunities are waiting for you right now in your life? You will never know until you look for them. Very seldom do opportunities stand up and wave a flag at you; they more likely come disguised as problems or failures. But opportunities do exist in abundance for all of us and, if you are willing to open up and explore your "problems" with this new attitude, some exciting surprises await you. Your struggles and stresses are challenges and opportunities. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says, "I believe very much in the struggle."
©1997, 2008. Published by Zoetic Inc., Vancouver BC, Canada.
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About The Author
John Kehoe, author, lecturer and philanthropist, has been teaching people the astounding powers of the mind for over twenty years. He has spoken to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe, and served as a Mind Power consultant to numerous corporate giants, including DeBeers, Mobil Oil, and Dominion Life. John Kehoe's books have become international publishing triumphs, topping bestseller lists around the world. Visit his website at http://www.learnmindpower.com.