Growing up is a process. Have you ever grown up in some significant way when everything was easy?
There’s the cliché that says, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I don’t believe that’s always true. Sometimes trauma can stunt our growth: child abuse, rape, severe poverty, and others. There are probably many variables that determine how one responds: genetics, time, age, support, personality, and much more.
I DO know that the times when I’ve grown the most have definitely been some of the most difficult. That doesn’t mean to say I’ve grown from every problem! But if I hadn’t had real almost-overwhelming challenges at times I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Sometimes I feel like Einstein when a fire destroyed much of his work. Far from feeling devastated, he is reported to have said, “Now we can start over!”
So what can we do to turn a problem, a tragedy, a loss, a trauma into a growth experience? These tips can help make the difference in growing up.
- Be patient. Our human body, mind, and spirit can only take so much! We have very real limits. And when we get thrown a serious curve ball we need some time to stop and regroup. No one can tell you how long to be still, but give yourself permission to be hurt or tired or angry or traumatized for a while.
- Choose your perspective. If you allow yourself to respond unconsciously, trauma or trouble can well push you into isolation, depression, or worse. Make a conscious choice to look forward. Choose what to do, even if it’s only to find out more about what you CAN do. Choose hope!
- Get some support. It’s likely no one else can understand how big the problem feels to you. But it’s also true that there ARE other people who can help. You can find them! Online support groups, a community of faith, social support services: go looking, and reach out.
- Stretch yourself. This may be the most important tip of all. Consciously decide to do something that feels too hard. Make it something small, like speaking up when you’re afraid to, or asking someone to join you for coffee, or saying NO when you would normally say yes. Relish the feeling of accomplishment when you do something new, and then try it again.
- Never give up. Your first tries at growing in a new life area will feel very uncomfortable. That’s good! It means you’re on the right track. Keep at it.
I can look back and see some very significant areas where I have turned trouble into growth. I had a traumatic childhood and learned to be a very happy, productive adult. I grew from someone scared to speak my mind into a host on a national radio program. From being isolated and troubled I learned how to relish relationships with people.
We don’t grow automatically. It takes a conscious choice.
Your turn: Does trouble always result in growth for you? What have you found that helps you grow? Leave a comment below.
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