“Everything happens for a reason.”
Even if you firmly believe in this quote, it can still be annoying when people say this in the aftermath of a particularly distressing hardship. When the business you worked so hard to build goes into bankruptcy or you find yourself caught in the trap of a huge conflict you didn’t foresee, the last thing you want to hear is someone smugly tell you that your failure is part of some grand cosmic plan. Surely, some traumatic events happen simply to make us miserable.
Given enough hindsight, though, even the most horrific occurrences can have a silver lining—even if it’s just to teach you not to make the same mistake again. And with maturity, most of us discover that it’s not our successes that define our character and lead to growth; it’s our failures.
That said, it’s critical to point out that surviving failure doesn’t necessarily ensure you’ll become better for having had the experience. Our personal evolution is intimately tied with our reaction to such events. Indeed, the most important thing to keep in mind isn’t that mistakes occur from some larger reason—it’s that there’s absolutely no value in letting anger, fear, and depression keep you from moving on.
“Relax, nothing is under control.” - Anonymous
Whether it’s a car accident that leaves you wheelchair-bound or a recession that causes your business to suffer, you often have little control over what happens in life. However, you do have control over your reaction. Of course, you’ll initially experience some level of grief, anger, and frustration, but once enough time goes by, you face a choice: Am I going to let this make me weaker, or am I going to use it to become stronger?
In such situations, it helps to remember the phrase amor fati (a love of fate). The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche often used this saying to remind us that the best reaction—indeed, the only reaction—when things get ugly is to embrace the experience with a feeling of appreciation. And it’s not about masochism: pain is just part of life and a potential catalyst for learning.
“When you stop expecting and start accepting, life becomes much easier.” - Buddha
When tragedies occur, much of our suffering comes from our dashed expectations. But no matter how carefully we plan, life has a way of doing its own thing. Perhaps our most insidious expectation is that things will always stay the same. However, the very nature of the universe is change, so paradoxically, change is about the only thing we can count on to remain constant.
It’s perfectly fine to have reasonable expectations about your success, especially in business. The trick is to not become so married to a result that you’re devastated when it doesn’t occur. It’s much better to expect the unexpected and fully accept whatever the outcome may be.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to enjoy an outcome or not work to improve it—acceptance simply means that you don’t forcibly resist reality. It’s about embracing every event with amor fati, knowing that life is going to do what life is going to do no matter how you feel about.
“When one door closes, another opens.” - Alexander Graham Bell
Beyond mere acceptance, hardships offer major opportunities for gaining wisdom. By learning to embrace strife and change, you’ll discover a peace of mind in knowing that you’re strong enough to weather whatever storms may come
In the end, you’ll discover that every event, no matter how difficult, can teach us invaluable lessons—but this will only happen if give yourself permission to learn from what life is trying to teach you.
Sometimes, it can be hard to see what life is trying to teach us, because we are simply too close to it and caught up in the emotion of it all. This is one of the ways a trusted advisor can support you. We can help you see what you may not be seeing.
We go far beyond simply advising you on the legal, insurance, financial and tax structures of your business, though we surely do that as well. A Family Business Lawyer® can help prepare your company for the inevitable bumps in the road and help you learn and grow from each and every one.
Moreover, we will be in your corner to guide you if and when something truly unexpected does happen. And knowing this should go a long way toward offering you the confidence to fully embrace whatever life and business has in store for you.
Photo courtesy of Gerd Altmann