How many times have you had a experience that seemed to be a disappointment at the time and that, months or years later, turned out to be a blessing in disguise?

I think all of us could think of many such instances.

Looking back at such experiences we often realize they weren’t nearly as bad as they seemed.  In fact, sometimes they even turned out to have a lot of benefits.  Yet at the time they seemed like disasters.

What if we didn’t have to wait for months or years to see the value in such experiences?  What if it were possible to view such events at the time as neutral or even positive instead of negative?

Well, in fact, that is possible.

A couple of examples

Two friends of mine recently had experiences that seemed like tragedies at the time but that turned out to be just the opposite in the long run.

One friend noticed a pain in his throat one day.  After several doctor visits and many tests, he was told he had throat cancer. Obviously, he took this diagnosis as bad news.  In fact, it seemed like a catastrophe.  But while undergoing treatment for a potentially life-threatening illness, he was forced to take a close look at his life and what he had been putting off doing.  As a result he made some major changes in his life and considered his diagnosis a valuable wake-up call.  He realized that the rest of his life would be happier and more productive as a result of the diagnosis.  Eventually he was cured.

(When I showed this blog post to my wife Shelly to read before posting it, she said that people might ask: But what if he had died from the throat cancer.  I responded: Whatever the result in the future, the event of receiving a diagnosis had no inherent meaning.  Shelly then related a story she read in Stephen M. R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust: Someone was given three months to live.  He said that he either could live the last days of his life as fully as possible, enjoying every moment, or he could live them as a victim, feeling fear and anger each day.  In other words, even a death sentence has no inherent meaning.)

Another friend was having a stormy romantic relationship.  He felt that he loved her, but they argued a lot and he wasn’t really happy in the relationship.  They broke up a couple of times and he felt devastated each time.  Finally they broke up for good.  He considered the breakup a disaster. A few months later he met another woman.  This relationship has worked so well that they are getting married in a few months.  If he had stayed in the relationship he had tried so hard to hold on to, he never would have met the wonderful woman he is about to marry.

Were the throat cancer diagnosis and the romantic breakup positive or negative events?  Both seemed negative at the time but turned out to be positive.

Events have no inherent meaning

Here’s the point.  Were the events really negative at the time and then they turned out to be positive?  No.  I would contend that the events had no inherent meaning.  They were given a negative meaning at the time and a positive meaning months later.  But, in fact, the events always were meaningless.  “Negative” is an appraisal, not an inherent aspect of events.

This is easy to get in retrospect, but it seems very difficult at the time.  In fact, however, it is not difficult.  It is relatively easy to become aware that we are giving negative meaning to meaningless events, which are resulting in negative emotions.  It also is easy to learn to dissolve that meaning along with the emotions they cause at the time and not have to wait until months later when we finally get additional evidence.

Dissolve the meaning

Just make a clear distinction between events, for example, a medical diagnosis or a romantic breakup, and the meaning you have given them, for example, a disaster, and the meaning will dissolve.

Remember the famous Mark Twain quote, “I have spent most of my time worrying about things that have never happened.”  Seeming “disasters” at the time rarely turn out to be disasters.  When you stop experiencing events as disasters you will stop being a victim.  Instead you will experience a calmness and serenity you won’t believe possible.

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