AN OLD RADIO SHOW called Amos 'n' Andy
had on it the following conversation: Amos asked the Kingfish
why he had such good judgment.
The Kingfish replied, "Well, good
judgment comes from experience."
"Then," asked Amos, "where
does experience come from?"
"From bad judgment," answered
There's always something to learn from
misfortune. And that's what this article is about: Dealing with
adversity and setbacks. Dealing with events you didn't want to
The Kingfish point out one way you can
always look at a setback as a good thing: You can learn something
from it. At the very least, something you can learn is how to
avoid having the same setback twice. But if you use your imagination,
you can do better than that. Before you even see how something
turns out, you can find ways of looking at an event that make
you feel good about it, even when it is obviously bad.
I'll give you some examples in a minute,
but I want you to see that if a "bad" thing has already
happened, there's no point in thinking of it as bad. Thinking
it's bad doesn't help you to correct the problem, if it can be
corrected. And if it can't be corrected, it still doesn't
help you to think of it as a bad thing. People can learn and
remember just fine when they feel good. You don't have to feel
bad to learn from your mistakes. In fact, people tend to learn
better in a positive frame of mind than a negative one.
So there is no good reason to ever hold
onto the judgment of a situation or event in your life as bad,
awful, terrible, tragic, unfortunate, or lousy. It doesn't do
you any good to consider an event that has already happened to
You can find a way to look at anything
that happens to you as good, and people who are habitually successful
and happy do exactly that. You notice I said "anything that
happens to you." If someone you loves dies, do not
try to see it as good. You probably wouldn't anyway, but this
is a disclaimer to let you know I'm not a nut case.
But the truth is, when someone who has
had a terrible accident says, "I'm glad it happened to me;
it made me aware that my priorities were wrong," they are
probably telling the truth. And people who find meaning and value
in even "bad" things in their lives are happier and
more successful than those who just think it was a terrible misfortune.
And it's not a matter of chance which way they look at it. It's
up to each person how they will look at their circumstances.
We have the choice, and we will live with the feelings that spring
out of the choice we make.
If we take the easy way and choose to look
at a "bad" thing as bad, we will get the results
of the easy way: Bad feelings. But if we use our heads with a
little more vigor, if we make the effort to look for what's good
about it, if we choose to find a way to look at it as a positive
thing, we will get the results of that choice too: It will be
easier to wake up in the morning, we will be nicer to the people
we love, we will take advantage of what we do have in our lives,
and we will feel better in general.
You can ask yourself, How can I look
at this as a good thing? Or you can simply assert to yourself,
This is good! and then ask yourself why it's good.
Declare it's good, and then allow your mind to find how you're
right. Either way works well.
Try it right now. Think of something in
your life that you consider "bad." It could be a condition
you've lived with for some time, or something that happened recently
you don't like and wished hadn't happened.
I'll go along with you. I was a little
curt with my sister-in-law, and now she's not talking to me.
Obviously that's bad. Any idiot can see it's bad. Only a starry-eyed
goober would say that's good. But I'm going to try to see what's
good about it. And come along with me, bringing the thing you
think is bad with you. How can you look at it as a good thing?
How can I see it as good that I
have this situation with my sister-in-law? Well, I can see right
off the bat, I get to use it as an example in my book. Not only
that, but it may be an opportunity to apply some of the other
principles in my toolbox
and might give me some good examples for those also.
How else? Hmm. Well, I really haven't gotten
to know my sister-in-law very well as of yet, mainly because
we live in different cities. And I know that sometimes in working
out a conflict, people get to know each other a lot better, and
there's no reason to think this won't happen with us. I can see
it as good because it is an opportunity for us to get to know
each other better, and at a deeper, less superficially social
How else can I look at it as a good thing?
What about you? Have you found ways to look at yours is
a good thing? Be creative. Look at it from outside your own perspective.
If a professor of psychology knew about your situation, assume
she could see it as good. How would she explain her position
If everything is easy, I have no opportunity
to apply what I've learned. In applying what I've learned, I
learn it better. In handling a difficult situation, I can take
knowledge and turn it into skill. From this perspective, anything
difficult is good. Friedrich Nietzsche said, "That which
does not kill me makes me strong." Although that statement
isn't strictly true, the attitude is a good perspective to adopt
when difficulties come your way.
I tell you truthfully, if you make these
a part of your thinking, you'll be unsuppressible, unstoppable,
and you will feel pretty good almost all the time. No kidding.
The way you think makes a difference. And each principle is like
another plug in the bottom of your bucket. Less and less of your
happiness leaks out as more and more of these principles become
a part of your thinking.
I know that some of them were a part of
your thinking before you found this web site, although you probably
don't have them worded exactly this way. I haven't put in principles
like I can change my own life for the better because you
already think that way or you wouldn't be reading this article.
You already think in a healthier way than many people who wouldn't
bother looking at this site because they think I'm just the
way I am and I can never change.
You also already know that even if you
are doing better than most, you can always get better. And each
new principle, repeated
many times, is a solid step in that direction. This one (How
can I look at this as a good thing?) is extremely useful.
This is a principle of thought.
Keep in mind that thinking is most creative when it is a dialogue
specifically, asking and answering questions. That's how
to do your most productive creative thinking: Ask yourself a
question and then try to answer it. For example, Sylvia has just
been fired. She is on her way home from her ex-job. But she asks
herself, almost with bitter sarcasm at first, "How can I
look at this as a good thing?"
Sometimes when your body is filled with
a negative emotion, a question like this won't have a good effect
right away. Don't give up. Ask it again. And again.
"This isn't a good thing,"
thinks Sylvia, "not a good thing at all. 'But how can I
look at this as a good thing?'" She just needs to
keep asking. She needs to awaken the part of her brain that answers
And it is awake! "Maybe I'll get a
better job," she says to herself without much conviction.
Ask it again! Keep asking the question.
Sylvia does, and her mind turns more and more to the question,
and it stops mulling her misfortune and stops moaning about how
wronged she has been, and turns slowly toward the question. Then
her mind kicks in and starts bringing up answers, slowly at first,
and then faster and faster.
"There were a lot of things I didn't
like about that job. Now I have an opportunity to start over.
It's a good thing I got fired. I should have moved on from there
long ago, but I guess I was just being lazy. This could be the
best thing that could have happened to me."
And so on. Once the mind gets going, it
can really come up with some good stuff.
How can I look at this as a good thing?