A silver lining can even be found in a cyclone. I know because the good people of Cairns in the far north of Australia showed me. The year was 2001 and sheltering beneath a table in my lounge room I experienced the full force of Cyclone Steve, a category 2 cyclone packing winds of 90 miles per hour. Following the cyclone Cairns’ residents were without power and water for four days. FOUR DAYS. The rivers either side of the town burst their banks flooding the highways cutting off Cairns from the outside world. Some of the streets resembled scenes from a post-apocalyptic film with razed trees, uplifted roofs, and fallen power lines. People had good reason to feel down on their luck and wallow in self-pity.
And what did they do? They made the best of it. In small communities everywhere people organized themselves into small groups and they got busy helping each other. Yards were cleared of branches with chainsaws and lopping shears, broken windows were covered with sheets of plastic, and streams of thick mud were mopped up. For four days almost every street put on a barbecue with loaves of bread and sausages. There was lots of consoling, lots of encouragement, and lots and lots of laughter. In the face of hardship locals in this part of the world look out for one another and, together with an indomitable sense of humour and levity, a strong resilient community spirit is forged. They really are masters at finding a silver lining in the darkest cloud.
Choose to find a benefit in any setback
Wouldn’t you like to be able to bounce back from any daily setbacks you experience? When a motorist crashed into the back of my car recently I asked myself the question, “What will this force me to do that I might not otherwise do?” Over the following three weeks I rediscovered the public transport system, made some new friends, rode my bicycle a lot more improving my fitness, and my car received a lovely new paint job.
The key is to accept that the event happened and then focus on dealing with it in a productive way. There are many ways that you might benefit from problems in your own life. Here are some examples:
- Being passed over for a promotion might signal a need to reassess your qualifications and leadership skills.
- Being involved in a car crash could be an opportunity to learn better defensive driving skills or practice more compassion for others.
- Missing the bus to work could give you a chance to meet new friends and enjoy a moment of stillness.
- Hurting your back while playing with your kids might be a reminder to warm up, do regular exercise and flexibility work, and adopt better postural habits.
- Losing your Smartphone could be a reminder to back up your contacts on your laptop and to be more present-minded when using your phone.
- Getting a stomach ulcer (which happened to me) might be a signal that you need to re-examine your lifestyle.
- Destructive patterns in your life such as repeated relationship break-ups might suggest that you need some counselling to explore your values and improve your ability to express your emotions.
So whenever you suffer a setback in your life, instead of thinking of all the ways you will be disadvantaged, ask yourself how the situation could work to your advantage.
Your challenge is to find a benefit in any setbacks you experience this week. When you do hit a bump in the road – whether it be avoiding an erratic driver on the way to work, missing out on a promotion to a colleague, dropping a dumbbell on your foot at the gym, having a heated discussion with your partner, or misplacing your handbag or wallet – accept that it happened and then look for a benefit that is in line with your values and which encourages you to refocus on your future goals and dreams.
Describe any setbacks you experienced as well as the benefits you found
Describe a setback you experienced recently and the benefit you derived from it.
Please leave your comment below.
(Selected comments will appear anonymously in my upcoming book The Happiness Challenge.)