Dealing With Misfortune


Despite our efforts to dictate the direction our lives take, we are helpless to control many of the turns. As much as we try to understand and control such forces as the national economy, the weather, illness, and the actions of others, these factors continue to remain largely out of our hands. But while we can seldom direct the tides of misfortune, we can control how we react to them. When disaster strikes, we can choose to wallow in self-pity or pick up the pieces and move on. Making the right choices will help ensure that your life story has a happy ending.

Almost any newscast that depicts the victims of some natural disaster features two kinds of survivors. Both types often report the total loss of a home and irreplaceable belongings, but while one type dwells on the misfortune and wonders aloud as to the bleak, uncertain future, the other type is already looking ahead, figuring out how to rebuild and repair. Both types have suffered the same loss, under the same circumstances, but the effect of the disaster on each is dramatically different. It’s a testament to the power of positive thinking that some people can suffer life-threatening illness, torture, imprisonment, or other tragedies only to bounce back and share the lessons that their trials have taught them with others. They not only refuse to succumb to misfortune, they actually find a way to make it enrich their lives.

One characteristic that separates humans from animals is our ability to control our reactions to the events that befall us. Within that freedom to choose often lies the difference between happiness and despair, success and failure and peace of mind and torment. What happens to us in life is far less important than what we think about what’s happened.

Some people who seem to have been born to lose turn out to be the most inspiring examples of the triumph of the human spirit. Although illness as a small child left her deaf, blind, and mute, Helen Keller became a shining example of achievement in the face of adversity. She used her disabilities not as an excuse to be pitied or coddled but as a springboard to incredible success.

On the other side of the coin, the premature deaths of such celebrities as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe prove that success, fame, and wealth do not guarantee happiness.

Though we can’t control the hands we’re dealt in life, we can control how we play the cards. Other people and uncontrollable forces may dictate the tragic and unfair circumstances we find ourselves in, but only we can decide how we’ll allow them to affect our future. Instead of finding ways for misfortune to drag you down, use it to motivate you to greater levels of achievement.