“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache
carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” ~ 
Napoleon Hill

Can you find the opportunity in adversity and failure?

Perceived failure, challenging situations, difficult relationships, and adverse events are an inevitable part of every life. In the thick of a dark time, it’s common for one to feel that the adversity they face is ultimately harmful to them.

It’s understandable. Rarely does one desire to lose a job, end a marriage, file bankruptcy, close a failing business, or say goodbye to someone they love. The consequences of these events range from deep emotional upset and pain to financial ruin and social stigma.

If you’re here–and we all are sooner or later–it’s vitally important to take care of yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It is just as important to take intelligent remedial actions wherever possible. Whatever you do, do not freeze, or give into the paralyzing effects of feeling defeated. If this sounds like you, you must talk with someone who wants you to do well–a friend, therapist, counselor, spiritual adviser, etc.–immediately.

Whatever has occurred, the opportunity for a fulfilling, meaningful, and enjoyable life remains. Your work is to shelter, mitigate the damage, and heal so that you can move forward.

At some point in your journey through adversity and perceived failure, you’ll reach a place of perspective–a place of altitude–where you can look at the situation and ask a question that, if you rise to, will change you forever:

What qualities, traits, strengths, or attributes would I need to master this challenge and come out of it feeling whole, strong, and empowered?

The answer is the purpose behind the adverse event. Life happens for you, not to you (Byron Katie). It happens to call you to express the greatness within so that you can discover your own magnificence. It’s a divine conspiracy. While I much prefer to learn through joy, without the gifts of life’s darkest times, I wouldn’t be who I am or be able to do what I do, today.

For example, as a child and a teen, I felt I was a child of a lesser God. I tried to be small in the world and didn’t think I was worthy of much. I got into a relationship at 17 and abdicated nearly all self-reliance. A year later, the man I’d devoted myself to was imprisoned and within weeks I discovered I was pregnant. I had no education, resources, or money.  It was the perfect storm and today its purpose was clear: to call forth self-reliance, self-worth, self-determination, self-love, forgiveness, and infinite motivation. It also called me to a spiritual path. Without this seeming disaster, I shudder to think of who, or where, I might be today.

My friend filed bankruptcy in 2008 after a failed marriage, career turmoil, social ostracism, and complete financial destruction. It was a harrowing experience, both emotionally and in the world. She was stigmatized for divorcing her intolerable husband–something completely unacceptable in her religious family. She couldn’t qualify for a home to rent for her family. She felt spent, worn out and unattractive. Her greatest fear of being homeless with children loomed. It was difficult to fathom how this chain of painful events could in any way be happening for her. It seemed far more likely that fate hated her. Yet, this wave of despair and desolation called her to:

-express herself as a capable woman,

-to face her fear of being alone,

-to learn to forgive herself and everyone else,

-to trust that life is for her,

–to believe in herself,

-to let go and walk away from what wasn’t working,

-to surrender victimhood, and

-to claim her power and place in the world–without regard to what others thought.

It was beyond challenging and the subsequent seeming failures were many, but can you see the difference in life satisfaction a woman who has the qualities above will have and one who does not?

It turns out that life after adversity and failure is infinitely better for her than it was before. Just yesterday, she told me that she broke the $200k mark in her business’ income for the first 2 quarters of 2013. She found the opportunities in adversity and failure and used them to create a beautiful new life.

Another good example of the opportunities buried in adversity and failure comes again from my life. (I like to use my own stories because I know them down to the fibers.) After my time as a welfare-mom, I went out into the world and created a fairy-tale ending to my modern-day Cinderella story. I started a business, graduated from law school, built my dream home, married my prince, had a daughter, and we were riding off into the sunset when BOOM! my life exploded along with an aneurysm in my beloved’s brain.

It was a soul-ripping experience and it called on me to express a strength, fortitude, faith, integrity, tenacity, and surrender, that I’d never known. To survive, let alone come through this one better and not bitter, demanded that I dive into my deepest self and let go of everything superfluous–concern for the opinion of others, superficiality, the need to please, my ego and my fear.

Everything fell apart, I lost friends, family, gave up the career I was building, endured two lawsuits, and had two designated sob-zones–my bathtub and the backseat of my car. These were the contractions that delivered a new more mature, centered, confident, and authentic me and the new me got to build a new life–myway.

Was it worth it? Yes. Would I wish it on another, or wish for me or my ex to go through it again? Never, but I don’t get to rewrite history. I can, however, spin adversity and failure into priceless treasures. So can you.

Take a look at the worst events in your life and ask the question above. Life was calling you. Did you answer?

Please share the story with someone who’s going through a hard time.

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