No matter how much you plan, prepare, and try to live well, hard times in life are inescapable. It may be a job loss, financial strain, family conflict, or relationship issues. It may be an accident or physical injury, or perhaps an emotional injury. It may be the death of a loved one, the death of a beloved pet, or some other type of loss.
Whatever the circumstances, sooner or later, everyone experiences some hardship in life. And while these situations are never pleasant while you're going through them, they're as much a part of life as the good times are. But there is a silver lining: these hard times have the power to change you for the better.
Here are 5 ways the hard times in life help to shape who you are.
1. Hard times build connections and close bonds with others.
The worst of situations have the potential to bring people together, forging powerful bonds between them. When two or more people work together to get through a situation, they come away with a unique, shared experience. This shared experience can unite people who otherwise have nothing in common, and can lead to meaningful connections that last long after the original event has passed.
2. Hard times lead to humility, expanding your capacity for empathy and compassion.
It's easy to dismiss the struggles and hardships that other people face with just a superficial glance. We may wonder why the person is making such a big deal over something we perceive as minor. Or, we may blame someone for their misfortune and fail to recognize the complexity of the situation. When we face our own hard times, we come face-to-face with the fact that we're not perfect and life isn't perfect. We experience firsthand how factors beyond our control can trip us up and knock us down. This can be incredibly humbling, and it allows us to look at others with greater empathy and compassion.
3. Hard times prepare you for future challenges and successes.
Most of us have a vision of who we would like to become and where we would like to get to in life, and oftentimes we want it to happen effortlessly, overnight. But most achievements are much more like the superstar athlete who achieves peak performance in the final game of the season. The athlete's success in that final game doesn't happen spontaneously; it's the result of all the work put in the weeks, months, and years prior. That work includes all the losses the athlete bounced back from and the lessons learned as a result. Similarly, as we bounce back from the hard times in life, we come away better equipped to overcome future challenges, and we're better prepared for future successes.
4. Hard times allow you to build and demonstrate courage.
Courage isn't the absence of fear. It's the act of pushing forward in spite of the fear you're feeling, and in spite of the difficulty that lies ahead of you. Courage isn't required when the waters of life are calm and peaceful. But during the hard times, when you feel burdened, afraid, and stretched to your limit, these are the times when you have an opportunity to build and demonstrate courage.
5. Hard times transform your understanding of the world and of life.
We all arrive at adulthood with beliefs about ourselves, about others, and about how the world works. What we often fail to realize is that those beliefs are largely based around our own limited experience. Hard times push us and stretch us. Hard times expose us to situations and feelings we would prefer not to be exposed to. Hard times cause our personal experience to be changed – broadened, seasoned, matured, and refined. Our understanding of the world and of life is transformed, leaving us deeper, richer, and wiser as a result.
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