A friend of mine presented this topic to me and immediately my mind began to swirl. “What an interesting idea,” I thought. I was delighted to run with it, but running with it actually began not with a walk, but with a stroll.
“Hmmm… use what you’re given.” To make sense of it, I thought about it in terms of my own life. What was I given? To me, the idea of being given something means that — once you receive it — that marks the beginning of the relationship with that particular thing. But when I thought about it in terms of qualities I may have been born with, I couldn’t come up with anything because I don’t remember being born.
However, thinking retrospectively about the significant experiences in my life – the ones that really stand out… the ones that were really impactful — provided the answers about what I was given. The answers revealed themselves as individual puzzle pieces that I was then able to fit together into my self-portrait.
The significant experiences in my life that immediately came to mind were the really tough ones. They were experiences that I considered non-preferred, yet paradoxically enough, they were the experiences that provided me with the most gifts and insight into my own character.
For example, I made a business investment that didn’t pan out. As time (and my disappointment) passed and self-forgiveness kicked in, I came to realize that I actually had courage. I was willing to risk — to take a chance and venture into uncharted territory. This courage allows me to continue to move forward in new ways even when I don’t know what the outcome will be. Moreover, I came to understand that if I’m always learning and growing, perhaps there’s no such thing as a mistake, there’s just learning.
As another example, after I experienced sexual abuse as a child (and believing it was my fault), my self-esteem was so low that I felt that everyone else had a right to be alive except me. But once I healed, and in retrospect, I came to realize that I had a deep capacity to love others. That ability, although framed differently in my mind as a child, helped me survive those non-preferred experiences. The ability to love deeply continues to feed my soul on a daily basis.
And finally, what envelops all of my experiences is the ability to make lemonade out of lemons; to be optimistic enough to think that I can find value in anything, including experiences that are initially non-preferred. Therefore, my courage, ability to love, and optimism are what I was given, and what I use to navigate the adventure of life and make my dreams reality.
In thinking about the idea of using what you’re given, first things first. Have the courage to connect with yourself. Have the willingness to look at your life without judgment. You can achieve this by just describing the events — just the facts – without assigning any meaning to them. What happened is neither good nor bad, it’s just what happened.
Take a look at your own non-preferred situations. How did you survive them? Did you use determination? Courage? Self-restraint? Good instincts? Diplomacy? What about humor or laughter?
Look back at your life. Let your survival tactics reveal to you what you were given. When you discover what you were given, not only will you be able to put together the puzzle pieces in order to see your unique self-portrait, you can also allow them to be your cornerstones as you continue to paint the dynamically evolving masterpiece that is your life.