A health crisis. A painful breakup. A job loss. A serious accident. When your world feels like it’s falling apart, how do you react to major setbacks in your life?
It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years since the health crisis happened – the one that left me unable to stand up or walk. This was one of the most profoundly devastating experiences of my life. Yet when people ask me about this experience, I always say it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
No, I am not a masochist. And no, I’m not being sarcastic. I can’t say that losing the ability to walk and being stuck in bed for months was an enjoyable experience – far from it – but it just taught me so much. It changed my outlook on life for the better, as well as changed my direction in life in a huge way.
Often when we’re going through a really difficult time we feel completely devastated and defeated. We can’t see anything beneficial about what’s happening in the moment – what can possibly be good about experiencing so much loss and pain? Though we often don’t recognise it at the time, we are being handed a new path – an opportunity to go in a different direction than the one we’ve been heading down.
As I reflect on this time 2 years prior, read on for my reasons why I believe our setbacks are blessings and essential for us to go through in life!
Setbacks make us grateful.
There was a time in my life several years back when I had very little money. So little in fact that I couldn’t afford to buy groceries after my rent was paid. I used to walk around in the grocery store and see people with their carts filled up with food and think, “My god, they must have so much money to be able to afford that. That is well over $100 worth of food.”
Fast forward several years to an experience I had a few weeks ago. I had stayed late at work and decided to eat out somewhere for dinner to save time instead of going back home to cook. I went to one of my favourite spots and spent close to $20. And while I was sitting there it occurred to me that I spent this money on dinner – one meal – and didn’t even have to think twice about it. This used to be how much money I had to spend on food for a month. That realisation was so powerful and held so much meaning, it brought tears to my eyes and a flood of gratitude for how far I’ve come.
I think about this often – when I’m traveling somewhere, when I’m going out to eat with friends, when I enroll in a class. I’m able to spend money doing the things that bring me joy but it’s not without a massive dose of gratitude and the stark remembrance of a time when I was really struggling. Had I not experienced being without, I don’t think I would be able to fully grasp just how much it means to have basic needs covered in life.
Setbacks make us stronger.
During the first half of my health/feet crisis, I spent much of that time feeling defeated and sorry for myself. Confused, frustrated, depressed, devastated, ashamed… these were emotions that I felt every single day. At some point however, I came to the realisation that none of these feelings were going to ever let up unless I pulled myself out of the bottomless pit that I had sunk into and started working towards something that felt better. Even if I couldn’t walk, maybe ever, I could still find ways to cope with what was happening better. I could find ways to accept and come to terms with it and move forward into a better place.
I could sit here feeling miserable and like a victim… or I could choose to start feeling good by changing my thoughts.
I started writing down reframes on my thoughts and meditating on them throughout the day. I recently found my old journal from two-years ago and I want to share some of these reframes I wrote down to show you how no matter what you’re going through, you can put a spin on it and choose to focus on the hope, the light, the positive. These “even though” statements are taken straight from my journal during the time when I couldn’t walk:
+ Even though my feet are swollen and in pain, I choose to give them my loving attention.
+ Even though I’m completely frustrated with what’s happening now, I choose to be patient and understanding with myself and do something wonderfully constructive for myself TODAY.
+ Even though sometimes I feel hopeless about this, I choose to be surprised by a new possibility for healing.
+ Even though I’m fed up with dealing with this, I choose to be aware of my own strength and stamina and access the inner peaceful core of myself.
+ Even though I dislike having to depend on others to do everything for me now, I choose to focus on an increasing number of small things that I can do for myself VERY WELL.
+ Even though I dislike having to depend on others, I choose to use this situation to learn how to receive from others and from life.
Consistently choosing the better thought in each moment was just one of the many ways that I developed and skyrocketed my inner strength during this time. My meditation practice (which was occasional at best before this experience) completely took off on a new level once I resolved to heal. There was once a time years back when I used to get fidgety when I tried to meditate and was unable to sit still for even a few minutes. Facing the prospect of never walking again forced me to grow and become stronger in so many uncomfortable ways. Now here I was meditating 10 times a day, sitting for periods of 20-30 minutes or more. And relishing every moment!
I set up practices to feel joy and gratitude, bust through fears and worry and doubt – this took so much self-discipline but these are practices that I still have in place to this day. Practices that continue to nourish and sustain me and make me feel so empowered. I know that whatever else happens down the road, I can (I WILL!) get through it and come out for the better.
Setbacks teach a lesson.
In the case with my feet, the life lessons were in spades. Let go, accept, trust, surrender, feel the fear but do it anyway. And also this – listen to the body. The body gives us so many subtle messages throughout the day. They often start softly at first (a slight feeling of unease, a minor headache, a knot in the throat, an ache in the back). These are signs in the body where energy is accumulating and stagnating – where we’re not addressing something or not feeling some painful emotion and so our body takes it on.
I’ve learned that if something shows up in my body, it’s a sign that I have fallen off course somewhere. Maybe I’ve been pushing myself too much, maybe I’ve blocked out a painful emotion, maybe there’s a fear I haven’t addressed or an experience I haven’t completely come to terms with. There is a reason why this is manifesting in the body and it is completely possible to turn this around!
I’ve come to realise that it was essential that I experienced this with my feet. I simply would not have learned what I needed to be in the place I am now otherwise. I wouldn’t have discovered such an incredible inner strength. I now know that what shows up in our lives is often just a mirror for what’s going on in our heads. And we can change the patterns. We can change our thoughts and our reactions. We are never victims to our circumstances; we have more power and choice than we ever usually realise.
What happened in the past has happened. But now we get to choose whether we bring our past into our present. Whether we allow our past to cloud and affect our NOW or whether we decide, in each moment, to choose a new perspective, a better thought, a different reaction.
If there’s one major lesson this setback has taught me, it’s that we are creators.
We have everything we need within us already to change our lives.
Setbacks often lead to outcomes better than we could have ever imagined.
Several years ago I was managing a small yoga studio, a job that I completely adored. Due to some financial reasons, there came a point when they needed to let me go and I found myself quite suddenly without a job. What good can come out of this? Nothing I thought at the time. Here I was suddenly unemployed and heartbroken over leaving. This had not just been an ordinary job to me. I had my heart invested in the biz and truly cared about the staff and the studio succeeding.
Having held a job that I loved so much taught me that it’s possible to have it all. It’s possible to go to work everyday and be in love with what you do, feel fulfilled, feel inspired. And this made me determined to find another job like that – at all costs. This time I knew exactly what I was looking for and I decided I would not settle.
Fast forward a few months and I landed the most incredible “pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming” opportunity at a new studio. My salary tripled, I was working alongside a team of vibrant, positive people, with the chance to develop, run, and lead in a much more creative and fulfilling way than I ever had before. I got to work on the things that I do well in a position that really utilised my talents and skills. I’ve since been able to save up money, to travel, with more free time to do things that I really love. But I never would have even gone looking for this job had I still been employed by the other studio. Do you see how often the seemingly worst things that happen can lead to the best?
I know the same is true with my feet. When I think about what happened with my feet two years ago, I always think, “Thank god this happened to me because it woke me up.” It shifted me off the path I was on which was filled with fear and anxiety about the future and got me living more in the now, prioritising myself and the things that make me come alive. It forced me to deal with and overcome the pain and uncomfortable feelings from the past that were holding me back.
I love myself more fully and completely because of this setback.
I am living a life that I adore (and truthfully am often still amazed at!) because of this setback.
And I feel much more at ease in dealing with whatever difficult situations come up because I trust that whatever is happening is leading me off the wrong path I’ve been heading down and onto a better one. For reasons that I may not be aware of yet, there’s something here that I need to learn and grow from and this challenging situation is going to help facilitate that.
This mindset requires a lot of trust. But I hope this post has inspired you to keep hope and look for the lessons in life. Perhaps you can remember a time when something painful or challenging you experienced ultimately led to something much better. Keep this feeling of trust within you – and please feel free to share your experience below!