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Finding the Gift in Icky Situations

Earlier this year I was in the hospital for a week with a double ear infection and meningitis. (If you're offered the opportunity to do this in the future, I recommend you pass.) As part of my illness, I was away from my two young daughters and my husband for two weeks, I temporarily lost almost 80% of my hearing, I shared a room with a woman who was vomiting regularly, and I had to miss a family beach vacation (and various other unpleasant things).

And while, if I had the chance to go back and not get hospitalized, I would totally choose it, I can see a wide array of gifts that that awful situation gave me.

For example, if I hadn't been away from my girls, I wouldn't feel half as confident that my husband enjoys parenting them as much as I do. I wouldn't ever have volunteered to skip a beach vacation in mid-February and yet by doing so, I gave the three of them a week together that they will remember for years. (When they came home, my youngest daughter was trying to get my attention and called me "Daddy," which has never happened before, and felt like a huge win in shifting to sharing the parenting role.)

And if I hadn't lost my hearing, I would have had to listen to a lot of barfing.

And if I hadn't had to stay on the sofa at my parents' house for a week recovering, I would never have read the four books that I read.

And if I hadn't stayed with my parents, I wouldn't have had the chance to be a grown-up with them without the constant distraction of kids.

And on and on and on.

This skill of finding the good or the gift in an unpleasant situation is one that I'd like to encourage you to develop for your own happiness and well-being.

How to start

It's easier to find the gift in icky situations that are farther in the past, so let's start there. Think back to an unpleasant situation sometime in the last five years. It could be a breakup, or losing a job, or damage to your property, or not getting something that you really wanted. (Don't start with something traumatic -- that's blackbelt-level work and if you're just starting, it will likely be impossible to find the gift.)

Now, think about the things you've gained in the time since that event. Are you somehow wiser? Stronger? More inspired? Would you have any or all of the good things you have now if you hadn't gone through what you went through?

If you're not able to find any upsides, silver linings, or gifts, let's look a little deeper.


If you're not seeing a gift, ask yourself what kind of knowledge you need to gain so that the payoff in the future could be much larger than the pain or cost of the experience. Maybe you need to learn about yourself, or property insurance, or interpersonal relationships, or managerial skills. When you can identify the knowledge you need to gain, you can then go out to look for it.

For example, if my husband hadn't sent me photos and videos of the girls having a good time on their vacation, I would have really struggled to see the gift. But knowing they were happy and well-cared for made it easier for me.


If you think about the ability to see things as a gift as a muscle that you can grow (which it is), then think about the experience as a weight in the gym. How do you need to work with this weight to get the most strength and power? What skills do you need to develop to be more successful?

For example, one problem I was experiencing in the hospital was that I was feeling like a victim a lot -- like everything was happening to me and I had no control over it. (And that can feel really true when you're sick or in pain.) But the truth was that I had control over how I felt about things. I couldn't change whether the nurses came and poked me at 3:30 am EVERY NIGHT but I could decide whether I was going to be angry about it the whole week or not. So for me, the power I had to develop was not listening to the victim voice in my head that was saying "Oh poor me, I'll never get a good night's sleep again."


If neither of the two options above is leading you to see your icky situation as a gift (and remember, I did ask you not to think of a trauma), think about an inspiring action you could commit to now that you wouldn't have otherwise done without the icky situation.

For example, Candice Lighnter is the mother who started MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Forming this organization was a hugely inspirational act that has helped thousands of people and would never have happened without her personal tragedy. Your inspirational act doesn't need to be so huge, but there's also no reason to limit yourself.

Still having trouble seeing the gift? Schedule some time with me and we can look at it together.

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Apr 09
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

'm grateful for the inspiration and insight you offered so I can be prepared for the next icky situation (which will undoubtedly show up) and for helping me look back on g previous ickies and thinking about them more positively.😀

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