“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
– Walt Disney
Who among us has not been kicked in the teeth by life? We all have. It’s a wonder we aren’t all wearing dentures. Like a pop-up violent thunderstorm on an otherwise beautiful day, this is how we grow as people. Or, it’s how we fall apart. Finding courage amongst the rubble is the key that unlocks our growth. How we react means everything.
A couple of years ago, my wife Steph and I fell into one of these storms. Some of it was our own doing, and some of it stemmed from having our first child, Matthew. Marriage can be a difficult thing even when things are going good. If you pile on all the responsibilities, short nights, and trying to figure out how to be a parent for the first time, things can seem pretty overwhelming. Both Steph and I were focusing our time and energy on Matthew and not as much on each other. This is natural to do this for first-time parents, but by not devoting enough time on each other, a separation started to form between us. There was a lot of frustration and resentment on both of our parts. It took some serious soul-searching and work on both of our parts to get things back to a state where we could co-exist in a more civil, loving, and less self-centered manner.
This wedge that formed between us could have led to the end of our marriage, but instead, we choose to rise above and learn from our situation and put in the work needed to stay together. We are not fully past it, and we still have days we don’t see eye-to-eye, but we are in a much better place than we were. Marriage is hard, but so worth everything you put into it.
How do we react in life’s hard moments? Here is some advice I would offer anyone facing difficult times.
Find the High Road and Stay There
After the rescue, damage control is the first thing to do in an emergency. If a building is burning, the attempt is made to contain the fire to that one location. Our initial reactions to tough moments are going to determine how much worse it gets. If we lash out in anger and act irrationally, the whole block is going to be set on fire. Breathe. Find the high road and immediately place yourself on it. Experience is a great teacher. If you’ve ever burned a block down figuratively, you know. Only a fool would do that again.
Self-Analyzing and Correcting
This is a critical step in personal growth. It requires honest self-awareness and taking responsibility for our actions. Once the event is contained, it’s time to analyze deeply where and what went wrong. How did our behavior help or hinder the situation? Where were we at fault? Most importantly, what are the valuable lessons we can learn so we can move forward?
Learning How to Forgive
If you’re familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, you know that within it, we ask to be forgiven. We are all good at that. However, the very next sentence, we also pledge to be the one forgiving. Therein lies the key to moving on to happier moments. Holding grudges and seeking revenge are first-rate life destroyers. It’s common sense. The best revenge is living well. That means forgiving, even if it’s only for your own benefit.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
What parent hasn’t uttered this to their children? Do we heed our own advice? We should be loving and friendly to all people. However, the people we surround ourselves with will directly reflect the type of life we are leading. Being a performer of fine art and cultural significance is a wonderful thing. Living drama in real life is a much different story. Separate the two and learn from poor choices.
Finding the Courage to Move Forward
It’s hard. Whenever we are in one of these moments, things seem worse than they are. It feels like the whole world has crashed down. How are we going to keep going? What will we do now? Walt Disney went on to become Walt Disney. Pretty substantial. He had the courage to move to the next. At one of my lowest points in life, my dad told me, “Son, there isn’t much advice I can give you right now. All I can tell you is that you keep moving forward. You wake up. You get dressed. You eat. You go to work. You go to sleep. And repeat. It always gets better, I promise.”
Life is a roller coaster of emotions. There are some euphoric highs, but there are also lows. No one likes to experience the lows, but remember, we learn some of life’s greatest lessons during the difficult times. If we can face our difficult times head on and find the high road, self-analyze, correct, learn how to forgive, choose our friends wisely, and find the courage to move forward, we will find that we almost always end up in a better place than before the storm hit us.
Sometimes a door has to close before another door will open. If difficult times never come, it is very hard to grow and become a better person. I think Walt had it right all along. I think all of us need a kick in the teeth from time to time.