Seven years ago, I was experiencing a truly difficult time in my life. I faced problems from every direction: physical, personal, financial and professional. As a result, I was drinking a lot, and of course driving as well. Indeed, when one adopts such a habit, it isn’t long before he gets caught by the police—at least the lucky ones do.
And I was one of the lucky ones.
Of course I didn’t see it that way at the time. After all, things were already rough for me—I was depressed and bitter, and this was the last thing that I needed. I called a friend of mine who was also an attorney in private practice. Upon explaining to him the situation, I will never forget the first words he said to me:
“First of all, you need to understand one thing,” he stated with conviction. “This is not a crisis; this is an inconvenience.”
Of course, he went on to chastise me (and rightfully so) for behaving so foolishly and recklessly—jeopardizing not only my own safety but that of others as well. And while his professional intervention did spare me the full potential legal consequences of my choices, I still faced consequences nonetheless. Further, he helped me manage the process, get through it, and also helped me avoid making the same mistake again.
But I have to say, one of the best things my friend did for me was at that first moment when I called him in a panic. That simple statement helped me keep things in perspective. After all, despite the fact that I had been arrested, lost my license, and would certainly be looking at some fines and other consequences, I was safe and healthy, I had not had an accident and I did not hurt or, heaven forbid, kill anyone as a result of my behavior. I had every reason not to for sorry for myself, but instead drop to my knees and thank God for my blessings.
We all have problems and challenges to overcome…that’s a fact. However, when it comes to how each of us rates these problems in terms of severity or size, it truly is subjective to the individual’s own experience, which makes up his or her frame of reference.
Snow and winter weather is an example to which we can all relate. I live in Columbus, Ohio, where our winters are generally not too severe, but not too mild either. That said, when we get more than a few inches of snow in a single day or evening, it generally throws a lot of our residents into “crisis” mode—and they panic! Suddenly, everything gets canceled and no one wants to go anywhere.
If you live in such an area, have you ever spoken with someone from, say, Minnesota? They look about at everyone making a fuss over a few inches of snow, and laugh. “This is nothing!” they will tell you. “What is all the fuss about? This is not a crisis—it’s an inconvenience—and a minor one at that.”
It’s all about one’s frame of reference. And while I have experienced many times of hardship and adversity in my life, I honestly have to say that it has made me stronger to face challenges that lie ahead. This little bit of wisdom can be found in the Bible, at the beginning of the book of James in the New Testament:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
—James 1:2-4 [NIV]
Read the passage above a couple of times if you are unfamiliar with it. Take into account the opening statement: “Consider it pure joy…?” Can this be true? Are we to really be joyful when problems hit us from all directions? I guess how one interprets this statement again depends on one’s frame of reference. If you are not far along a spiritual path, it may be difficult to swallow or understand.
However, when facing challenges and problems, be them from the world around or issues of a more inward nature, how we perceive those problems is paramount to our success in overcoming—or at best getting through them.
For example, if you are in business for yourself, and you lose a major client or account, how will you react? Will you treat it as though it is the end of the world?
Do that, and I guarantee you: the end of the world is exactly what it will become—at least for you.
So, the next time a problem confronts you, ask yourself: Is this a crisis, or an inconvenience? Most of the time, you may find it the latter, even with financial problems. Most money issues can be resolved. They may take work, sacrifice and some level of discomfort—but you will get through it if you not let the problem become bigger than it is in your own mind.
Learn to do this, and when a real crisis comes your way (and it eventually will), you will have the means to persevere.
Further, do not be surprised if you suddenly feel thankful for all the prior inconveniences in your life.